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Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Are You Ready for Risk?

YOU PROBABLY CAN GO THROUGH LIFE BEING very careful and avoiding risk wherever you can.

But if you really want to be a success in business you're going to have to bite the bullet, face and take some risks along the way.

That's the view of Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge.

There will be times when you must make a choice: take the risk and perhaps lose everything, or take the risk and perhaps win everything, he claims.

  "Risk is eternally linked to opportunity," says Panaggio, "There is nothing wrong with taking the safe way out-millions make that choice-but successful entrepreneurs are a different breed. They are professional risk takers and they need to be willing to strap on that parachute every day.

          "Though we typically associate risk with the initial leap-of-faith decision to start a business, to achieve real success, one must consistently embrace risk every day, and not just on the business's first day," he clarifies.

  "A willingness to take risks separates leaders from the rank and file," says Panaggio. "If you lose the spirit of risk, the business begins to decay. From startup through the last sale, the spirit of risk is the unexpected edge for every business."

         Below are Panaggio's overviews of the risks you must accept if you want to build and run a sustainable, profitable business.

Be the pig. "Are you a chicken or a pig?" Panaggio writes that he frequently heard one of his business partners, Phil Turk, ask this odd question. One day, Panaggio asked him what it meant. Phil explained, "Think about a bacon and egg breakfast. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed."
The life of an entrepreneur is not glamorous; it can be stressful and it swallows up your personal time. Once you decide to jump, if you want any chance for success, you need to go all in just like the pig."

Finance the dream yourself. Giving up your hard-earned money is the ultimate risk. To pour life savings into an entrepreneurial pursuit is like walking the tightrope without the benefit of a safety net. It takes courage. Even though the commitment is substantial, it's necessary to motivate you to keep pushing forward. Money buys resources, technology, and manpower-all critical elements in helping a new business succeed.
"If all capital investment is from your coffers, and not from outside sources, then you are truly committed," notes Panaggio. "Of course, you might have to find a source for additional financial support, which means either giving up a piece of your dream in the form of a partnership, or taking on debt responsibility.

Sacrifice your most precious possession: time. When you pursue a new enterprise, one resource that cannot be reimbursed, borrowed, or saved in an account for later use is time. Time is the most perishable resource of all. Time is finite; it's more precious than money and more costly to waste.
"Losing time is the risk you take going in," says Panaggio. "How you invest your time is a test of your resourcefulness. Where is the best use of one's time? How much time must you invest? Too little means less than a full effort. If there is too much, then other life segments suffer. The good news is eventually you will learn to navigate these challenges."
Don't be a non-decider. In business, you need to decide over and over again. The first decision you make is to jump in and pursue an entrepreneurial dream, but decisions don't end there. And every time you make a decision, there's a risk: These are the risks of failure, not being accepted, and making wrong choices. Don't let that stop you, urges Panaggio.
"By making decisions, whether right or wrong, you are progressing and moving from where you were to something different," he says. "When making no decisions, nothing happens. You're in stagnation, and your business will suffer. Despite this, there are people who refuse to make decisions. You can't be an entrepreneur and avoid decision-making. You make your move and then embrace the risks that come with that move."

Change or die. Businesses are like sharks: They have to keep moving, or they will die. The rule is simple: Businesses must progress, and progress requires change. In the business world, fear of change probably is the single biggest obstacle businesses need to overcome to meet the evolving marketplace challenges. What makes embracing change even more difficult is that a business must be willing to simultaneously change internally and externally to keep progressing and remain competitive.

Forget the "If I had..." excuse. Some entrepreneurs are like a little boy standing with his nose pressed to the candy store window, hoping and thinking, If I had a couple of pennies, then I could buy some candy and everything would be great. Sub in new technology, a bigger store, a larger advertising budget, and on and on, for those two pennies and you do struggling entrepreneurs everywhere make excuses. For example, if I had the latest CRM software, then everything would be great. Then, I could really grow my business.

Expect to fail. Starting and building a business is like being a child learning to ride a bike.
 To master the skill of riding a bike as well as learning to be a successful business leader, you must first embrace the risk of failure and expect to fail. It is rare that someone can expect to accomplish either of these skills without a fall or two, and just as a child gets back up from a fall when learning to ride a bike, you have to be resilient to the pain and embarrassment of failing and keep pushing ahead. What both child and entrepreneur must realize is that failure is not defeat but a signal that a change is necessary.
Spend money on marketing. Marketing is key to building a successful business. But it is also something that many entrepreneurs are loath to spend their money on. Instead, they offer these handy excuses: "I tried it once and didn't get any response, and so I stopped." Or, "There's just no money for marketing this quarter. Maybe I'll try something next quarter." It's no doubt that it is hard to know what consumers think and what their day-to-day needs are, but a business void of a long-term and consistent marketing effort is doomed.

Get up close and personal with customers. Shortsighted business leaders assume that customers have unreasonable expectations or their demands will increase once you open the door of a relationship. After all, what if you start talking to them and they start wanting better pricing, extended credit, or other special considerations.
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