Does your executive board need an Entrepreneurial approach to business?

There has been much discussion around transformative innovation that explores new horizons and potentially disrupts business models, and whether this requires an entrepreneur mindset on the Board of Directors.

Recently, I was asked by Freeths LLP, an award winning and large UK legal firm, to share insights on ‘how to infuse boards with entrepreneurial spirit’ – an article that was included in their prodigious Winter 2018 edition of their Platinum Magazine.
The Freeths Platinum Magazine is sent to their top and private clients. You can read it online HERE (page 15).

This subject is increasing in board discussions and agendas, which has prompted me to continue the subject discussion, to take a deeper dive across the positives and repercussions of adapting and entrepreneurial approach to business.

If you are leading a start-up business or involved in a scale up business with potential for high growth, one of the most valuable things you should do early on is to set up an board of advisors.
Scaling an enterprise is hard work, and you only stand to benefit from drawing on perspectives, experience, and networks that augment your own.
A group of advisors committed to your success not only provides a sounding board to test and strengthen your ideas, it gives you access to important competencies and resources.

But many entrepreneurs, especially those in the early stages, find the task of building an advisory board daunting.

Whose strengths would complement their own and counter their weaknesses?

Who might bring an insight to the table that would otherwise be missed?

It can feel like an exercise in knowing what you do not know. Moreover, most people who have not formalised such a board before have not given much thought to what it takes to keep one running effectively.

Board members tend to have immense experience in at least one of these three areas: financial expertise, industry-specific knowledge, or operational management.
Over the past couple of decades, though, companies have become more interested in diversifying their boardroom both in race and gender as well as in expertise.

Today, you’ll find individuals with backgrounds in marketing, IT, and human resources in addition to the “classic” board member tracks.

The latest trend, however, is adding someone with an entrepreneurial background to your team of directors.

Boards are constantly being pulled between short term goal-oriented oversight and long term, strategically focused planning.
Entrepreneurs are generally going to default to strategic thinking and will help pull your board out of conversations that should be left to your company’s C-suite.

Entrepreneurs are often “visionaries” in the business world and offer a complementary element to boards that already favour members who are well-versed in risk management or short term, operational guidance.

This is not to say that an entrepreneur will always be right about their theories or suggestions, but their presence alone will force more conservative members to tackle some out-of-the-box thinking.

The boardroom is not generally thought of as the ‘nerve centre’ of entrepreneurism within a company, particularly a company trading on the stock exchange.
The role of a typical director is often more about audit, risk reviews and compliance, and directors may see ‘entrepreneurship’ as a risk element.

Often this means keeping one or even both eyes on the rear-view mirror, and yet maybe the biggest threat is ahead and not yet fully visible in the headlights.

Most directors have little experience or understanding of the risks posed by disrupters and technological changes. With many directors on stock exchange companies being recruited from large and established companies, few of them can boast about any entrepreneurial experience. This raises a number of questions:

Do boards need to be more entrepreneurial to detect and counter modern-day risks?

Could a board that is more diverse in terms of experience, age or culture help address this?

We live in a fast paced and rapidly changing world. Even just a decade ago, changes to markets and business challenges were slower paced. However, since the dawn of global connectivity, big data and the maturing of the World Wide Web, companies are encountering threats at a much faster pace and competition is global.

Companies face modern-day risks associated with the ‘Sharing Economy’, cybercrime or even the IoT (Internet of Things).
The threat posed by disrupters can be catastrophic and quickly bring down what was a very successful company.
The board needs to anticipate changes and be innovative in relation to these modern day risks; that is, it has to become more entrepreneurial.

Yet, though the environment in which companies now operate is constantly changing, the behaviours of directors and the majority of boards are not.

Boards spend significant time on compliance and on examining historical data on company performance and comparisons to budgets, yet the strategic role sometimes remains an annual event completed, printed and filed away for 12 months.
Directors spend limited time considering strategy at a typical board meeting, and may regard innovation as a change of state and, therefore, a risk factor.

Directors have a duty of care to their shareholders and are responsible for determining the company’s growth and survival strategies. But do boards spend enough time discussing competition, or new developments in technology, or even possible changes to regulations that may in the future impact the business?

For many boards, these areas are never discussed.

In the business world, will we ever forget Kodak and its devastating collapse, after being a highly successful business that neglected the need to change when digital photography was first introduced.
The irony is that the technology was originally developed by Kodak in 1975 and was effectively discarded because Kodak feared it threatened its photographic film business.
The digital and, at the time, much smaller companies took it on, and everything else is now history.
Although this is a classic example and a tragic one for Kodak’s shareholders and staff, there are many other examples and are likely to be increasingly many more to come.

The new disruptive technologies of the Sharing Economy such as Uber and Airbnb are having a significant impact on the market value of companies in transport and hospitality.
We should also consider the changes that have occurred in print media, including the retrenchment of many journalists because of the impact of digital media and resulting decline in advertising revenue.

Also consider the decline of Blockbuster video and the rise of Netflix. These types of disruptions in other industries could have staggering implications across many markets.

In the area of banking and finance, for example, people are starting to collaborate to exchange money and bi-pass the banks’ foreign exchange departments with the high rise of high growth and disruptive fintech companies.

Directors need to better understand threats and also assess more innovative growth strategies if their companies are to compete in the rapidly changing world in which we live in.

This means a different set of skills are needed at board level, in addition to the more traditional skills.
Business survival requires boards and directors to be more agile and predictive, particularly in relation to disrupters that could be catastrophic for their business.

Technological advances and customer behaviour can turn the business fortunes of companies around very quickly. For the modern-day director, it is necessary to be constantly aware of the external environment so that potential disrupters can be quickly detected and countered.

As a result, more effort is needed to create an entrepreneurial approach at the director level through properly managed processes and structures. This may include extending the current standard board committee structure to include a standalone innovation committee, providing leadership in innovation, and to bringing in a structured process to manage and assess opportunities and threats.

Many classic-minded board members are extremely risk averse and for good reason!

They are tasked with a great amount of responsibility to shareholders and to the overall success of an organisation.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead them to fear failure in such a way that it stifles success.

Many successful entrepreneurs are known for embracing small failures in order to reach large triumphs.

This attitude in support of both flexibility and evolution brings a unique and forward-thinking element to any boardroom

For the modern day director, it is necessary to be constantly aware of the external environment so that potential disrupters can be quickly detected and countered.
As a result, more effort is needed to create an entrepreneurial approach at the director level through properly managed processes and structures.

This may include extending the current standard board committee structure to include a standalone innovation committee, providing leadership in innovation, and to bringing in a structured process to manage and assess opportunities and threats.

With the growing need for businesses to fend off disruptions, as well as to create their own disruptions, it is time to consider how board meetings can evolve so that instead of spending so much time on backward looking and historical data, boards do a little bit of creative forecasting and consider the future of the business and the market.

Some suggestions are:
• Create an Innovation Committee. Increasing the time spent considering innovation will make an enormous difference to many companies.
• Spend some time discussing ‘what if’ scenarios to facilitate innovation discussions.
• Develop an opportunity management focus at the board level, instead of just a risk management focus.
• Place on the board’s agenda an item for competitive trends and behaviours and possible disruptions to the business model. Look to other industries for examples of how disruptions have been addressed.
• Encourage management to look to untapped knowledge in the staff pool (e.g. users of the ‘sharing economy’ might have a good understanding of disrupters).
• When it comes to funding a company, maybe consider other innovative methods to raise funds.

The future is bright for those who direct their focus to the headlights and away from the rear-view mirror. Being forewarned of an impending risk or threat may provide the opportunity to develop strategies and so mitigate that threat before its impact is catastrophic.

Keeping an eye on what is coming may help enable your company to be the disrupter, not the disrupted. Maybe we all need to reflect on that ‘Kodak Moment’ to see how quickly things can change.

Final thought, to achieve substantial and continued growth in the 21st century, companies will have to look beyond improving the existing business model or simply launching new products. These actions just will not generate enough growth anymore.

Growth will come from more ambidextrous organisations that excel at improving their established business model (exploitation) and excel at inventing tomorrow’s growth engines at the same time (exploration).

As Peter Drucker once said discussing Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Practice and Principles:

 “This defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship – the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”

Peter Drucker


Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board

Roger Phare

In the small business world, there is a lot of talk about whether a company should have a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board), and if yes, what the composition of such a group should be. In my time in the small and medium enterprise (SME) world, I have been exposed to and worked with hundreds of companies, a small percentage of which have had a Board of Advisors. Whether having such an advisory group makes sense depends a lot on the business and more importantly, the CEO and senior management team of the business.

In my opinion and I state this with wisdom, one of the smartest growth initiatives a business owner can implement is an advisory board: a hand-selected group of advisors that believe in your leadership, are aligned with your culture and mission, and are committed to your success.

The vast majority of business owners who implement an advisory board fail to see a strong return on investment because they have not followed guidelines to recruiting the right advisors, and have not set them up for success.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Roger Phare, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Advisory Board concept, a trend that reflects the changing nature of modern organisational leadership and governance. Thinking further on this, the obvious question is why? What has changed in public and private Boardrooms to see such a demand for specialist knowledge and expertise?

The answer perhaps dates back some twenty or even thirty plus years. Up until the late eighties board members generally came with experience related to the company’s market or industry, together with all round leadership and business skills. This had largely been the post war formula, in other words Executive or Non-Executive Directors in 1958 had much the same attributes of those in 1988 – then everything changed.

We had Wall Street, Enron and the Sub-Prime less than twenty years apart. Not co-incidentally, this timeframe was paralleled with the rapid rise of business computing and the internet. Ironically, while technology was an enabler for business growth it became an inhibitor for effective all-round board performance. Directors became much more focussed on financial and legal due diligence as the regulators took control. Boards became largely the keepers of compliance and governance, with their members skilled and qualified in these disciplines. So what happened to the much needed advice in areas such organisational structure and market direction?

Enter the Advisory Board, bringing relevant expertise and experience in key strategic areas.

There is perhaps another reason for the rise of the advisor(s) in the boardroom. Casting the mind back to our pre-1988 Director, past industry experience was a key attribute for the senior board member. Being five to ten years away from a hands-on roles was not a major issue – as business and market fundamentals remained consistent. Today key industries are in rapid growth mode that did not even exist five to ten years ago, with “here and now” expertise required.

So Advisory Boards are most likely here to stay and ideally should complement our incumbent NEDs or Exec Directors; the key is find the right balance and consistency.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

How to infuse boards with entrepreneurial spirit

I was recently having tea and a ‘meeting of minds’ with a great friend on the subject of executive board management and entrepreneurial spirit, the question ‘whether the mindset of boards can infuse entrepreneurial thinking objectively? ’

We all know that entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset and then a behaviour. It is an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It is a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It is about seeing the big picture and thinking like an owner, It is being agile, never resting on your laurels, shaking off the cloak of complacency and seeking out new opportunities. It is about taking ownership and pride in your organisation.
Despite the best intentions, too much success may ultimately lead to failure as employees in well-established companies focus on maintaining the status quo and following procedures instead of looking for new opportunities. Executives ultimately get a wake-up call when a svelte competitor swoops in and seizes market share by capitalizing on an untapped opportunity.

Dr. Glen Taylor, director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at CSU once said “When things are going well, it’s natural for companies to thrive on their own logic and nurture a culture that resists change, but if you don’t consider new ideas and opportunities, eventually you’ll hit a dead end.”

Wherever you look in business, there’s a new level of interest in entrepreneurship. As attention at corporations swings away from retrenchment and toward growth, more and more people are wondering why some companies and not just start-ups are able to stimulate creativity and initiative among their employees more effectively than others. Beyond helping to trigger the impulse, what do those organisations do to convert intriguing ideas into commercial ventures?

Most managers whose companies have found success in fostering entrepreneurial activity agree that no single practice enables them to identify and capture new opportunities. For example, many companies have found that pushing decision making down into the organisation is only part of what’s needed. Building a culture of entrepreneurship often requires pulling and nudging a variety of other levers as well.

Many large companies are seeking ways of reinventing or revitalising their entrepreneurial roots.

These companies often long for some of the spark, innovation, speed and risk taking that they once had, but which have slowly eroded under the weight of size, bureaucracy, complex processes and hierarchy. Corporate entrepreneurship encompasses a set of activities, attitudes, and actions that are believed to help large companies regain some of this lost magic. Although much has been written about corporate entrepreneurship over the last ten years, very little is understood regarding its implementation within large company settings. First, the concept is little understood beyond the halls of academia, and there are very few guidelines regarding successful implementation.

Amazon.com has forced Barnes and Noble to re-evaluate and change some key aspects of its business model. Homeruns.com has changed the way many people shop for groceries, and Autobytel has forced GM and others to put up their own websites in direct competition with their own dealers. What’s going on?

The little guys are taking advantage of the big guys, and the big guys have to fight back … fast. entrepreneurship is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for many of these large companies. It is an attempt to steal and inculcate some of the thunder from these little entrepreneurial start-ups.

Corporate entrepreneurship can be a powerful solution to large company staleness, lack of innovation, stagnated top-line growth, and the inertia that often overtakes the large, mature companies of the world. Corporate entrepreneurship can also be hugely positive, a novel approach to new business development that often sits uncomfortably, sometimes impossibly, next to the planning, structure and careful organization many large companies have often built so carefully over the years.

Big companies are turning towards corporate entrepreneurship because they are not getting the continual innovation, growth, and value creation that they once had. Unfortunately, many CEOs look around their own company, and see very few entrepreneurially-minded executives. Perhaps they never showed up to work because of their dislike of large company bureaucracy and politics. Or those who did show up were either pushed out or learned to stop pushing. We may all love entrepreneurs, but large companies have a way of eroding their entrepreneurial underpinnings. In large companies, most managers are rewarded for minimizing risk, following the rules, and performing their functional roles to the best of their abilities. They look forward to a predictable rewards and, in many instances, a fairly predictable bonus.

Most big company executives would be hard pressed to call themselves value creators. They are quota and budget watchers. They are planners and organisers and more rule adherents than rule breakers. Big companies have slavishly gone after waste and redundancy with, sometimes, spectacular success. But these machinations rarely create long-term sustainable value for the shareholders. It helps the bottom line, but not necessarily the top line.

So how then can a corporate leader try to re-establish this start-up kind of mentality in his or her large company where the organisation’s sheer size and bureaucracy have managed to kill this type of behavior?

1. Corporate venturing involves starting a business within a business, usually emanating from a core competency or process. A bank, for example, which has a core competency in transaction processing, turns this into a separate business and offers transaction processing to other companies who need mass processing of information. In some organizations, functions like product development are tasked with being the people responsible for new venture creation. Ventures usually involve the creation, nurturing, and development of a new business that comes from within the old business, but represents a significantly new product or market opportunity.

2. Intrapreneuring, first espoused by Pinchot (1985), is an attempt to take the mindset and behaviors that external entrepreneurs have, and inculcate these characteristics into their employees. Sometimes the company wants every employee to act like an entrepreneur, but a more typical approach involves the targeting of a subset of managers to act as corporate entrepreneurs. Companies usually want this cadre of corporate entrepreneurs to identify and develop spin-ups (innovations in current businesses that can lead to substantial growth opportunities) or to create an environment where more innovation and entrepreneurial behavior is evidenced.

3. Organisational Transformation is another variation or flavour of corporate entrepreneurship concept especially if the transformation results in the development of new business opportunities. This type of entrepreneurship only fits the original Schumpeterian definition if the transformation involves innovation, a new arrangement or combination of resources, and results in the creation of sustainable economic value. Clearly, some transformations meet these requirements, while others do not. Transforming an organization by de-layering, cost cutting, re-engineering, downsizing, and using the latest technology does not guarantee that the organization will recognize or capture new opportunities.

4. Industry Rule-Bending is another type of transformation but focuses on changing the rules of competitive engagement. Stopford and Baden-Fuller (1993) label this behaviour as ‘frame-breaking change’. Toyota, for example, changed the rules of the game in the automobile industry by producing low cost automobiles with exceptionally high quality. As a result, US and European auto manufacturers were forced by Toyota and other Japanese automakers to follow suit. Thus, Toyota not only transformed itself, but also helped to start a wholesale transformation of the industry.

Companies can take a number of different approaches to becoming more entrepreneurial. AVCO Financial Services, a large international finance company was a very organized, detailed organization controlled by many governmental requirements in the management of their business. These governmental requirements demanded great attention to detail, complex systems, and daily financial reporting mechanisms. Not the stuff of entrepreneurial, fast companies. Nonetheless, AVCO was quite entrepreneurial.
They did not try to change the whole culture, or create a mass of internal entrepreneurs, nor dabble too far into corporate venturing, but it was still entrepreneurial. AVCO has operations all over the world, but mainly in the Americas, Europe, and in Asia. Much of their innovation and branch operations experiments were done in Australia.

Their reasoning was quite sound. First, Australia was far enough away from corporate headquarters in Irvine, California that the experiments could be undetected for months. And even if sanctioned, the experiments were being done in that odd country down under that seemed so remote to many at headquarters that it didn’t make much of an image on the corporate radar screen.
If innovation is the ability to recognize opportunity, then the essence of being an entrepreneur is being able to mobilise talent and resources quickly to seize that opportunity and turn it into a business. Particularly for big companies, the challenge is to find ways to nourish the activities that give rise to innovation while at the same time cultivating the ability to move decisively once an opportunity presents itself.

Finally, despite all of the aforementioned, when corporate entrepreneuring works, it can work spectacularly. And, if the company is serious and supportive of internal entrepreneurs, corporate entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool for innovation, growth, and personal fulfilment if approached thoughtfully and with courage of conviction.

As John C. Maxwell once said:

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

The extraordinary life of challenging the status quo

I was discussing my first book, “Freedom after the Sharks”, recently with friends and in particular I was challenged on chapter nine, ‘Building the Dream’.

I was asked: “So is it only successful people that take risks?”

All people who achieve greatness take calculated risks and we all have the ability to make choices, but first we need to take a ‘leap of faith’. Entrepreneur’s do think things through and evaluate options. All ideas are researched to gain foresight that is required to make an informed decision. But, generally it comes down to the following three questions:

1. What’s the best-case scenario?
2. What’s the worst-case scenario?
3. What’s the most likely scenario?

As Denis Waitley once said: “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”

Taking risks is not the secret to life, but taking risks does mean we are never at risk of doing nothing.

Too many people ‘play it safe.’ This is the playground of mediocrity. It is where average people live. They colour inside the lines, and always play by the rules. They fear the unknown, and rarely if ever venture outside the boundaries. People who ‘play it safe’ are predictable. Their life is run by rules and routine. Their actions are often dictated by the opinions of others. This is the crowd that fights to keep things the same…

Risk-takers are entrepreneurs, however, they a different and extraordinary breed. They live in the realm of possibility and greatness. They are not afraid to live beyond the boundaries and to colour outside the lines. To them, there is no such thing as failure; only experiments that did not work. Risk-takers are marked by a sense of adventure and passion. They care little for the accolades of the crowd. They are more focused on squeezing everything they can out of every moment of time. They are not afraid to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before.’

Success without risk?

Think about it. Try naming one historical figure that made a difference by playing it safe and being average. The vast majority of successful people are remembered for the difference that they made in their lifetime. And that difference required them to take risks and challenge the status quo.

We are inspired by people who go beyond the norm and push the boundaries of possibility. Mediocrity, on the other hand, does not inspire. Nor does it lead to greatness. Success, however you define it, will elude you unless you are willing to push the limits you have placed on yourself, and that others have placed on you.

The Orville brothers would have never made their historical flight if they had listened to the naysayers. Henry Ford would have never invented the automobile if he had paid attention to his critics. David would have never defeated Goliath if he had allowed his own family to discourage him. The list goes on and on.

Every major breakthrough in history, in business, science, medicine, sports, etc. is the result of an individual who took a risk and refused to play it safe. Successful people understand this. Their innovation is the result of their adventurous spirit. They invent, achieve, surpass, and succeed because they dare to live beyond the realm of normal.

However, many people have mixed feelings about risk, in part because they sense that facing the things we fear can present solutions to our internal dilemmas. Risk is something you want and don’t want, all at the same time. It tempts you with its rewards yet repels you with its uncertainties.

Take high diving, for instance. It’s been called a testament to man’s indulgent pursuit of the insignificant. After all, what did my own high-flying feats prove? That I could withstand two and a half seconds of plummeting hell? So what? The answer lies in my confrontation with my limitations and fears. For me, taking a high dive was more than an act of bravado or a flight of fancy. It was an act of liberation.

Like it or not, taking risks is an inevitable and in-escapable part of life. Whether you’re grappling with the possibility of getting married, starting a business, making a high-stakes investment, or taking some other life or career leap of consequence, one of these days, you’ll wind up confronting your own personal high dive.

Paul Brody, Chief Product Officer of CleverTap sits down with Mark Lack to discuss the right time to take a risk. Is there a right time? When is it?

Risk makes us feel alive. Life without risk is life stuck in a rut. If you feel like your job or life is getting boring and monotonous, then you’re not taking enough risk. The fact is we are built to take risk. We need change and growth in our lives. If you’re not growing, then you’re dying. Realize that nothing in this world truly stays the same.

Risk stretches us and helps us grow. Risk gets us out of our comfort zone to do something different. We learn by experience. Risk teaches us more about ourselves and helps us improve. How much more do we learn through the experiences of trying something big and failing? How much do you learn from taking risk and seeing the outcome?

Don’t let your fear of failure stop you. Fear of failure is often the single biggest obstacle that prevents us from reaching our full potential. We worry about what will happen if/when we fail. Realise that failure is relative. While you may interpret something as a failure, someone else may see it as a valuable learning experience. Often, failure is only failure to the extent you see it that way. What if true failure meant wasting your talent? What if failure was delaying action and missing opportunities because you didn’t take that risk?

Find your true calling. You feel most alive when you’re doing what you were meant to do. We’re not supposed to stay the same, but are charged with growing and developing. Everyone has greatness in them if they challenge themselves enough.

When you are faced with a decision and are wondering if it is worth the risk, it may help to ask yourself these questions:

– Am I risking more than I am able, physically, mentally, or emotionally, at this time?
– Will I be able to take this opportunity again at some other point?
– Are my fears based on real danger, or just on the fear of the unknown?
– What other possible opportunities do I risk by taking/not taking this opportunity?
– Is the risk of doing nothing greater than what I risk by taking this opportunity?

If we think about risks with these questions and process the risk of doing nothing, we are likely to make choices that seem risky, even crazy, to others, but make sense for each of us in our own lives.

The truth is that no matter how much we try to avoid risk and hide from pain, it will still find us, even if it is just in the form of regret. It’s far better to weigh each risk for ourselves and decide which risks are right for us to take than to always let the fear of risks force us to take the risk of doing nothing.

Let me leave you with this amazing quote by Mark Frost:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming…. “