At some point, owners of businesses face the question of business risk. Risk is inherent in almost everything we do in this world in which we live. Those seeking small business advice will do well to consider business risk and its effect, because in addressing our potential to fail we can minimize the likelihood of such failure. However, stalling over the presence of risk can be as deadly as ignoring risks. It is the balanced approach that wins.
Ecclesiastes of the Bible says: “He who watches the wind will not sow, and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.”
Business Risk and Wisdom
The immensely wise author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, understood well the creation of enterprise. He evidenced matchless wisdom and intelligence, and his kingdom was known around the world for unprecedented extravagance and grandeur. He had built bigger, better, and farther than anyone before his time. Kings and queens travelled across the globe to witness the magnitude of his great wealth and what he had accomplished with it.
But even amidst all his success, Solomon still could apply his mind to the simplest, core truths. And there, in the eleventh chapter, he did exactly that when he spoke of sowing and reaping, the most basic of life supporting work: the planting of seed and the harvesting of its fruit.
Business Risk and Farming
In the agrarian culture in which he lived, Solomon wisely took his readers back to the core enterprise in alluding to farming. And in his simple illustration he spoke of a monumental truth that could be aptly applied to all business over the entire world: If you consider the risks too heavily, you will never enjoy the benefits of taking on those risks.
When a farmer went out to sow his seed, and he needed his limited supply of seed to land on the fertile soil, wind was not a welcome helper. The wind would blow the seed around, causing some to fall on rocky or hard or fallow ground. Likewise, the darkened clouds promised trouble when he was headed out to harvest his crops. The downpour would make it difficult to access the ripe plants, it would make the pathways treacherous, and dampness on his bagged produce could introduce mold.
The farmer knew these risks. He understood the problems. But those risks could not keep him from his necessary work, and the resulting problems could not keep him from bringing food home to his family.
Business Risk and Success
I believe the risk principle Solomon spoke of is appropriate for all business people in every business endeavor. Whether one builds a skyscraper in the metropolis or sets up a flower stand on a country road, there will be risks. The evaluation of those risks and the approach to those risks is often what separates the doers from the wishers.
Anyone can plan to sell a product. Anyone can plan to build a building. Anyone can prepare to begin a new venture. But only the successful entrepreneurs turn the plan, with the risks, into action.
This principle of taking calculated business risks is one which, I believe, if learned well, can benefit business owners in many ways. Business risk is inherent. It is unavoidable. And it must be evaluated and qualified. But if risk creates fear and anxiety and unproductiveness, and it kills opportunity in the mind of the entrepreneur, it becomes the enemy. The bold and adventurous entrepreneur sees the risks, and takes precautions, but he doesn’t let the possibility of failure quash his passion. Risk strengthens his passion, because he then becomes more creative, more aggressive, and more prepared.
A cursory look into the lives of successful entrepreneurs of the past reveal a consistent habit of overcoming risks. The risks of failure didn’t stop Thomas Edison; they drove him on. The risks of failure didn’t stop Henry Ford; they drove him on. The risks of failure didn’t stop Madam CJ Walker; they drove her on.
The business pioneers of yesterday and today share a common quality of overcoming the risks inherent in their business. And they do it by a proper approach of evaluating the risks, qualifying the risks, and taking them head on.
The successful entrepreneurs are not the ones who stare at the clouds, or put their finger to the wind…
They bring an umbrella.