093: When to Start a New Venture | Interview with Howard Ward [Podcast]

This is a guest post from Howard Ward. Howard writes a blog about turning critical thinking into critical doing called “The Critical Doer” and you can follow at criticaldoer.com

For anyone looking to start a new career or a new business, what you want to do and how to do it are not the most difficult decisions in putting your dream in motion. In reality, the most difficult decision is when to begin and the answer generally revolves around one thing…risk.

Opportunity knocks

Opportunity Knocks “Creative Commons” (edited) by lobnaSaleh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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For the purpose of this discussion, risk will be defined as the difference between two points that exist in any decision…known and unknown. Most people understand this concept, and even follow the natural extension of the thought that risk mitigation is the process of critical thinking that shrinks the difference between known and unknown.Where many struggle however, is the point in the process where a decision is made on an acceptable level of risk where action can begin. It is human nature to want to drive risk to zero. In reality, nothing will ever happen if you feel compelled to drive risk to zero. The following graphic illustrates the relationship between risk and opportunity:

Risk vs Opportunity

As you can see, when risk is zero…so is opportunity. As willingness to accept risk increases, so does opportunity but you’re also keenly aware that potential for negative outcomes increases as well. If you ever want to move beyond thought and get to action, you must decide on an optimum level of risk. From the optimum point, you must establish a range of acceptable risk that will drive your decision to open the door when opportunity knocks…once. Here are some ways you can attack risk and drive it to an acceptable range where action can begin in order to capitalize on an opportunity that will bring you fulfillment:
  1. Prepare before you begin. For a major undertaking, ensure you are physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially prepared. Any new venture will bring challenges. They’re difficult enough when you’re prepared…they’re likely insurmountable if you’re not.
  2. Get the facts straight. Numbers, not adjectives, are the basis of a business plan. It’s likely someone is already doing something similar to what you’re considering…you’ll be surprised how willing they are to mentor you if asked. Read books and take classes to expand your knowledge base…you know what you know, but not everything there is to know.
  3. Build a network. Careers and businesses are about people as much as products. Get involved with folks who can share knowledge, make contacts, provide mentoring, or heaven forbid, even become customers!
  4. Commit to action in the acceptable range of risk. Many good deals are completely lost by sacrificing acceptable for optimum risk. Strive for the optimum point of risk to begin, but if you’re in danger of losing an opportunity while risk is in the acceptable range…pull the trigger and never look back.
  5. Plan for success. You probably already know to plan for failure, but you’d be surprised how many ventures ultimately fail because they had no plan to capitalize on their initial success. Ensure you are equally as prepared to build on success as you are prepared to deal with failure. Additionally, when your only contingency is for failure, you are handicapping yourself as humans tend to self-fulfill expectations. Expect to succeed, have a plan for it, and make your self-fulfilling prophecy a positive one.
Managing risk is a part of life. You can either manage it, or it will manage you…and the opportunities for fulfillment will be marginal. There is a measure of science for calculating risk and shrinking it to a manageable level. The acceptable range however, is a personal decision that you must make in order to have a point for launching into a sea of opportunity…or continue treading water where you are. I encourage you to take the last step to decide the timing to pursue your opportunity of a lifetime and boldly answer the door when opportunity knocks.
You can find more about Howard Ward at criticaldoer.com.
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