Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

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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Don't Avoid Risk--Embrace It

Whether you're running a large company or a small business from you home, you are constantly faced with opportunities and challenges, all of which involve risk.

Are you a risk avoider who is afraid to take those chances? Do you realize they may be "great opportunity misers?"

No one likes going out on a limb and putting his job or business at risk. But that certainly may turn you into a "great opportunity miser" because the safest bets rarely lead to success.

Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge notes some reasons business people take the "safe road" and miss real success.

Excuse # 1: "The timing isn't right." Put off a decision involving risk because it may be safer another time is being a "prisoner of hope", says Panaggio. "Besides forgoing an opportunity for success because they are waiting for ideal conditions, many leaders fail to solve problems or correct mistakes because, in their minds, the timing wasn't right. And when you're bootstrapping a business, a mistake can be even more costly than not leveraging a chance for advancement."

Excuse # 2: "I tried that once, and it didn't work." According to Panaggio, small business owners in reference to marketing most often utter those words. Perhaps that one-time marketing failure convinced you not to try again." Yes, marketing is far from certain," Panaggio acknowledges. "It can be expensive, and it's hard to accurately predict what customers will respond to. But without proactive long-term and consistent marketing, businesses die. Avoiding investing in marketing-or even cutting back on it-because one campaign didn't produce the desired results is a risk you can't afford to take."

Excuse # 3: "If I just had XYZ gadget..." "If I just had faster computers, my team could respond to customer emails on a more timely basis." "If I just had the latest supply chain management software, my company could fulfill orders more quickly." When you're an entrepreneur, there are a million "If I just had..."s, and often, they center around technology. Remember, though, you can spend forever waiting on the next best thing-and often, says Panaggio, that "next best thing" isn't as necessary as you thought.

Excuse # 4: "I'm still working on the plan." Let's say that you want to move to the next level, whatever that happens to be for your business. So you begin planning, preparing for every possible scenario. You define contingencies with backup plans full of redundancies. You sometimes wonder how anyone could fail with a plan that covers all possibilities and that offers each a solution. But here's what you're not taking into account: While your perfect plan might prevent you from failing, it will also hold you back from succeeding if it's never executed.

Excuse # 5: "It's a good idea, but circumstances have changed." "I was ready to pull the trigger, but then the market changed and I had to reassess." "I had to set back the original product launch date because I was just too busy to get everything ready." "Preliminary research showed that this idea might not be as lucrative as we thought, so we scrapped it altogether and went back to the drawing board." Sound familiar? If so, you may be moving the target.

Excuse # 6: "I'll get to it eventually." There's no shortage of delaying tactics that can be used as a buffer between you and risk. As an entrepreneur, you have to stop telling yourself the lie that you'll 'get to it eventually.' If you immerse yourself in busywork in order to avoid the true priorities, your business won't last long enough for you to tackle them at some undefined point down the road."

Excuse # 7: "Nothing's broken; why fix it?" "When nothing is actively going down the toilet, it's easy to tell yourself that things are fine, that the future is rosy, and that you don't need to put yourself out there to improve," observes Panaggio. "However, that kind of thinking is a good way to be left behind or to become irrelevant. Customers don't always leave because they had a bad experience with your company...the reason is often that they simply had a better one with someone else. Remember, risks need to be taken when business is good and bad if you want to stay cutting-edge and competitive." ###

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