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Taking Risks is Risky Business

Having built over 20 start-ups in my life, I am no stranger to risk. You might even say we are kindred spirits. I’ve taken leaps that probably shock some people. Over time, however, my risk taking style has evolved.
Written Jun 10, 2011, read 5676 times since then.
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Having built over 20 start-ups in my life, I am no stranger to risk. You might even say we are kindred spirits. From renting out Seattle’s football stadium to leasing the biggest space in Pike Place Market with no experience to leasing 10,000 square feet of warehouse space to make muffins for espresso stands to bringing CRAVE guides to Vancouver hoping that someone would help me sell them, I’ve taken leaps that probably shock some people. Over time, however, my risk taking style has evolved.

It was much easier for me to take risks when I was younger and more naive. I think the less you know about business, the easier it is to jump in headfirst and figure it all out as you go.  I am the kind of risk taker that loves to come up with an idea and gets the ball rolling practically the next day.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it either needs to be tweaked or abandoned altogether.

As I get older and (hopefully) wiser, I find that I am slower to take risks.  I guess I have so many experiences under my belt that it has created a bit more fear.  When I was 18, I opened a furniture store because my boyfriend was a custom woodworker and I thought, “why not open a retail store and fill it up with contemporary furnishings to compliment his pieces?”.  I didn’t even think twice about signing a five year lease.  It turned out just fine and the only reason I moved on is that I got bored.  Several years and many signed leases later I was sitting in front of another 5 year lease for a fitness business without fear.  Soon after I opened the doors I realized I did not have the patience for inspiring people to get fit.  I since have discovered you can actually get out of a lease.  I am pretty sure (but never say never) that I will not sign another lease again.

Some risks I take end up okay, some turn out really well, and others don’t work at all.  Something I’ve learned is that the worst time to make a decision is when you are in a desperate situation.

I’ve been in the food business for almost 30 years and have taken varying degrees of risks with each project or new division of the company throughout that time.  One time, when I was really low on cash and didn’t know how I was going to make the next payroll, an opportunity came my way to sell strawberry shortcake on a national tour with rock star Peter Gabriel.  It would start in New York and travel across the country to San Francisco.  In retrospect, this is a risk that I wish I hadn’t taken. What can I say? At the time, I thought it would be quick cash!  I sent my staff on the road in a 15 foot truck full of strawberries from Seattle to New York and flew in additional staff to man the concession stand.  The wind got knocked out of me by the time they hit Chicago and I had lost money in each city.  The event coordinator kept telling us to hang on, that in the next city we would hit gold.

We couldn’t keep losing, so I pulled out.  Huge bummer!  Not only did I have to borrow money to pay the payroll but I was deeper into debt than before because my quick cash scheme tanked. This was a case where doing NOTHING would have gotten me further ahead.

Since then, I resolved to think through decisions more thoroughly and talk them over with my husband and other mentors to see if I’m on the right track. I have my mental checklist of what constitutes a valid risk, which has helped me immensely. Being headstrong as I am, I might still move forward with something if I’ve got a fire in my belly.

I took time this last year to write down all the mistakes made and lessons learned from my numerous businesses, including that jaunt across the country with a rock band.  The book will be out soon.  I wish I’d done it much sooner so I didn’t have to continue to learn the same lessons over and over again. Seeing it all in writing has helped me come up with some real key messages that I’ve been using in my decision-making ever since. I’m not saying that I will never again make a mistake, but now I’m much more aware of consequences based on decisions made.

For me, having the courage to do nothing was a hard lesson learned. Sometimes you just have to say no, and I  think we are programmed to say yes way more than no.  There’s hope and excitement  in saying yes and going for it. And who knows? Maybe you can do it all and go for everything you dream, but probably not all at the same time.  Saying no now doesn’t mean you can’t try it down the road when the timing is better. I guess what I’m saying is to beware before you dare, but definitely dare if you can!

Having been through it all, I feel a bit schizo about risk taking. I still think you should go for your ideas and take big risks.  I also believe in listening to your gut and taking some baby steps before you leap. What I know for certain is that it’s crucial to use your personal experiences (and mine!) as a risk-taking guide and learn from your mistakes as quickly as possible.

What is your risk taking style?

Startup Junkie 
Seattle, Washington 
Melody Biringer

Melody Biringer is an unabashed start-up junkie. Her current entrepreneurial love-child is the CRAVE company, connecting women business owners with the people and resources they need to boost their businesses.

Check out this published work by Melody Biringer
Craving Success

Craving Success

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Published by: The CRAVE Company
ISBN: 978-0-9832047-2-5
Amazon: $19.95

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Learn more about the author, Melody Biringer.

Comment on this article

  • Writing & Publishing Coach, Business & Marketing Consultant 
Bellevue, Washington 
Deborah Drake
    Posted by Deborah Drake, Bellevue, Washington | Jun 13, 2011

    Melody,

    The phrase "live and learn" strikes me as apropos to who you always are...and as for your style of risk taking, it seems grounded in a deep belief in your abilities and intuition (at least most of the time.)

    Your story as shared is what will inspire those who hesitate a little too long to take action, I would think.

    I can say that I have had more than one good idea that I watched someone else take action around. And over the years my willingness to take risks has increased tenfold.

    I look forward to reading your book.

    When I truly made the choice to be my own boss, it amazed me how things lined up. The people I would meet, the opportunities that presented themselves AND ultimately I had to be the one who was the most committed to my leap.

    Great article and reminder to strive to trust oneself and verify with trusted advisors.

    Thank you!

    Deborah

    Authentic Writing Provokes

  • Owner, GarageCleaners 
Vancouver, Washington 
Mark Farrell
    Posted by Mark Farrell, Vancouver, Washington | Jun 13, 2011

    Great info, lots of people are afraid to take risks now days. This motivates a lot of people to get over their fears.

    Thank you, Mark

  • Marketer and Copywriter 
Aurora, Illinois 
Matt  Brennan
    Posted by Matt Brennan, Aurora, Illinois | Jun 13, 2011

    Great, useful article. I think you definitely have to be willing to jump out of your comfort zone to make a business work. It helps to see how others make the leap!

  • project & event pro with a client focused disposition 
Seattle, Washington 
Jason W Adolf
    Posted by Jason W Adolf, Seattle, Washington | Jun 14, 2011

    fantastic article Melody, thank you for your information!

  • Startup Junkie 
Seattle, Washington 
Melody Biringer
    Posted by Melody Biringer, Seattle, Washington | Jun 15, 2011

    thanks for your comments deborah, mark, matt and jason! power on...

  • solution provider 
Mumbai, Maharashtra India 
Samir Tamhane
    Posted by Samir Tamhane, Mumbai, Maharashtra India | Jun 16, 2011

    There use to be a story in our school days, a story of trader and his camel. Trader loved his camel. One day while traveling in desert he felt need to take rest. So he erected his tent for a siesta. But there came sand storm. As trader loved his camel, he though he c'd give his camel some part of his shelter so he allowed his camel to enter his tent. But camel started accommodating himself to comforts under the tent, which eventually got destroyed and trader lost his shelter. Morale of story is take only which can be accommodated and withstand your house. That is precisely in business as well. You can take risk, but with due diligence & well calculated otherwise its foolish suicide and no one else to blame

    Medoldy, Good subject picked up!!!

    Tke care Samir

  • Startup Junkie 
Seattle, Washington 
Melody Biringer
    Posted by Melody Biringer, Seattle, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    like the camel story samir, thanks for sharing

  • Owner 
Seattle, Washington 
Patricia Belyea
    Posted by Patricia Belyea, Seattle, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    Melody,

    I'm with you on this one. I have been self-employed since I was 23, so I've been on the wild ride of making impetuous choices. All in all, I believe that saying yes is better than saying no.

    Kudos for writing a book. If it's as feisty as you are, it will be a great read.

  • Startup Junkie 
Seattle, Washington 
Melody Biringer
    Posted by Melody Biringer, Seattle, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    thanks patricia

  • Business Etiquette Consultant, Speaker, Trainer and Columnist 
Seattle, Washington 
Arden Clise
    Posted by Arden Clise, Seattle, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    Melody, really fun article. I have to agree with pretty much everyone else that risk taking is necessary as a business owner. Risks are, well, risky. But none of the innovative companies and products would have been created without someone being willing to take a risk. Just as you have done time after time.

    Who wouldn't jump to do a stint with Peter Gabriel? I think even the most risk adverse person would have had a hard time saying no to that one.

    I look forward to your book and meeting someday.

  • Holistic Business Coach 
Portland, Oregon 
Taylor Ellwood
    Posted by Taylor Ellwood, Portland, Oregon | Jun 16, 2011

    Melody,

    Good article. I tend to take a calculated risk approach to business and life, but I've also just run off the cliff sometimes and hoped the parachute would work. It always does...It really comes down to realizing you can take risks and get through life just fine as long as you are willing to be flexible.

  • Jewelry Designer 
Seattle, Washington 
Pam Taylor
    Posted by Pam Taylor, Seattle, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    Great article!! Nice to hear the experiences of a tried and true risk taker.

  • Printing 
Seattle, Washington 
Kathryn Hack
    Posted by Kathryn Hack, Seattle, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    Melody, I enjoyed your article and always admire those who share failure as well as success. If we don't take risks, we will never learn from them nor will we celebrate a good outcome with the same intensity. I think we walk a fine line when wisdom sets in, knowing we should take risk but now it is a calculated one. It does rob us of some fun, being so wise, but what stories you have to tell!

  • QuickBooks And Xero Outsourced Contractors Bookkeeping Services 
Lynnwood, Washington 
Randal DeHart, PMP, QPA
    Posted by Randal DeHart, PMP, QPA, Lynnwood, Washington | Jun 16, 2011

    Melody,

    Your article is an inspiration to al business owners. Thank you

    Warm Regards,

    Randal

  • Wedding Officiant 
Seattle, Washington 
Elaine Way
    Posted by Elaine Way, Seattle, Washington | Jun 17, 2011

    Hi Melody. Your article really resonated with me because I am a HUGE risk taker. I have had 6 businesses in the past 7 years...still working 3 -- the other 3 I got bored with (like you) or gave up because of circumstances. I am now in a business I love and I'm constantly learning ways to improve it. The one thing I have learned about being a business owner is that businesses are not created overnight. It takes time to nurture them to fruition and even then you are not done. You are never done "growing" a successful business. To me, that is the best part of being a successful small business owner -- there is always something to learn. The fact that I can network with a colleague at a Starbuck's for an hour and come back home jazzed to work on my business from a different angle is like a drug to me. It's my passion for my work that keeps me in the risk-taking business. So far it's worked for me. It's not for everyone. Heck, I was a nervous wreck with the first business I started. But here I am -- 7 years later -- still an entrepreneur and still thinking outside of the box about ways I can improve my business and still open to starting another one.

    Elaine Way

    206-406-7919

  • Internet Marketing 
Beaverton, Oregon 
Gary Scott
    Posted by Gary Scott, Beaverton, Oregon | Jun 17, 2011

    Interesting article but I have to think that without risk businesses wouldn't grow. The point is to take a calculated risk that has been thought through and hopefully has an exit strategy if things go south.

  • Voice Actor and Writer 
Seattle, Washington 
Kris Keppeler
    Posted by Kris Keppeler, Seattle, Washington | Jun 18, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your story. Its very interesting and inspiring.

  • Startup Junkie 
Seattle, Washington 
Melody Biringer
    Posted by Melody Biringer, Seattle, Washington | Jun 18, 2011

    hi arden, yes traveling with a rock star doesn't sound like a risk...hee taylor it is amazing how things fall into place when you take that jump kathryn, i do like to fail faster now a days hi startup junkie elaine we do thrive off the adrenaline! and gary, so true that everything is a risk. i am not so good at thinking through and through before leaping but do like to fail fast!

  • Clinical Hypnotherapist 
Tarzana, California 
Susan French
    Posted by Susan French, Tarzana, California | Jun 23, 2011

    Samir's comment reminded me of an old "spiritual" saying that I heard years ago. It was presented as wisdom that might accompany the ideas of "manifesting" success.

    These are ideas that I believe in completely and have used for many years. The Secret was certainly not original, even though it sold a lot of books.

    These words are never far from my tongue in discussions such as these:

    "Allah be praised but first you tie your camel."

    I fall into the risk-taking profile also, but, over time, I've learned to "tie my camel" first...lol.

    And, as George Bernard Shaw said: "youth is wasted on the young."

    Good article!

    Susan French http://www.hypno4success.com

  • solution provider 
Mumbai, Maharashtra India 
Samir Tamhane
    Posted by Samir Tamhane, Mumbai, Maharashtra India | Jun 23, 2011

    @ susan.. Absolutely right,

    In India we have stories of "Panchatantra" tought/ read ..these stories have a bottomline message that brings wisdom right in childhood abt important aspects of life. . they always have morale of story which is a learning point and these stories expand your horizons.. If you are interested.. pls visit:

    http://www.indianhindunames.com/panchatantra-stories.htm

    have a good day!!! rds, samir

  • Clinical Hypnotherapist 
Tarzana, California 
Susan French
    Posted by Susan French, Tarzana, California | Jun 28, 2011

    Thanks Samir. I went to the link you posted. They look great. Since I frequently post a quote and then my thoughts about the quote and how others can benefit from it in daily life, this looks like a great source.

    Perhaps you might want to sign up to receive my blog. bit.ly/edFzX2 The sign up is to the right.

    All are welcome of course...lol.

    Susan http://www.hypno4success.com

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Dec 23, 2011

    Loved your article, inspiring to all us business owners! Taking risks in business is the key factor to success!

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