Friday, May 31, 2013

The Risk Factor: Heed the Message

The business world values risk. Enough so to encourage failure. Pick up any related literature and you're bound to come across advice on the benefits of taking risks, even when they lead to failure. 

We read this a lot when the discussion centers on business ownership. Hopeful entrepreneurs are baited with famous quotes and examples of noted figures, historical and present, who not only took risks but failed several times before reaching their intended goals. I'm fine with that whole notion. Whether we refer to it as experience or failure or stroke of bad luck, it's all an inevitable part of the human growing process. No one has ever had it easy, although some have a knack for making their accomplishments appear effortless. But at a time when economic and political failures have led us to a growth paralysis, we need to step back and analyze the message. 

We can look to Wall Street for many examples of risk and failure. Remember Enron, the 2008 real estate mess, Bernie Maddoff, the big banks that just couldn't fail? They all took risks, big ones. And in retrospect we can argue they were stupid ones. That was not the case when these risk takers were growing and strengthening the economy with them. In fact, they had the majority of stakeholders rooting for them. They were even lauded for their boldness. Until they fell and fell hard. It was then that the fans stopped and reflected. On what? The merits of risk. 

I'm not suggesting that risk should ever be discouraged, or that its champions should ever be silenced. Only that we should heed the message and critically analyze its potential interpretation. We can't afford another economic nightmare or additional debt. And there is plenty of unsolicited advice out there.  What potential business owners need is good leadership and sound direction that will eventually lead to real growth. 

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