Taking calculated risks and chances

taking-calculated-risks-leapTaking calculated risks

We were building an online repository of development artifacts (code, requirements, test scripts). It was a hosted system and integrated with several tool vendors so that you could not only “harvest” your artifacts from previous projects, but you could also redeploy them on new ones.

It's a story you've heard and maybe experienced yourselves countless times…

Our company decided to pay for a booth and run presentations at one of the larger software development conferences on the West Coast. I got on the little stage and did the demo – 5-10 times a day, to whoever would come listen and watch. And then people would walk over and talk to our team.

And that's when our CEO did it – he sold our pre-alpha, barely-working product for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It was a risk. But it was a risk that he was willing to take.

You gotta take risks, right?

People like to think entrepreneurs are risk-takers but that's not the whole story. It's not that they like to take risks, but rather, that they understand that sometimes they have to take a risk.

But taking a strategic risk doesn't make a person risky. In fact, most of the entrepreneurs I know or have worked with don't take risks casually. They do their homework.

The path to success

When our CEO sold our non-complete, barely-working, hosted solution to a client, it was a risk. But it was a calculated risk. And when he did it, he was following a path I've since taken at work and in life ever since. The path is pretty simple actually. It goes like this:

hard work – hard work – hard work – leap (repeat x times)

It's all about hard work

“Chance favors the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur said it first. But I've heard it from more than one entrepreneur. They work hard, keep their eyes open, and then take the leap when they see it.

So let me ask you something. You already know where I'm headed. But I'm going to ask you anyway.

Which part do you struggle with more? The hard work or the leap?

For us, we sold the product. But we sold it to a bank – the slowest adopters of technology I've ever experienced. There was more than enough time to finish the v.1 of the product before we deployed it.

And that sale, with a company of their status, opened other doors. And that set of successes created the next opportunity for us – to sell the company.

So what's your next step?

Is it to get up off the couch and start working hard? Is it to take some of your TV time and start putting it to more practical use that will pay dividends?

Or is it to keep an eye out for opportunities where you can take a leap? You won't ever feel like the leap is a sure thing. That's the whole risk element of the leap. And you won't always make the jump. But the more you jump, the better you'll get at determining which leaps are worth it.

Either way, there's no reason to embrace the warm comfort of your existing routine. Throw it off and act!

Below is a video snippet of my interview for a friend's upcoming book for freelancers. If you're interested in all the details, sign up here.