Oct
25

Entrepreneurial Growth Blog Topic II

William Casey Asbill-Beck

ENT 630: Entrepreneurial Growth

Blog Topic II

 

The Role of Risk-taking in Entrepreneurial Success

 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Self-examination Question:

Many people prefer to stay within their personal comfort zone and often do not explore or push those boundaries.  Are you willing to take risks and step out of your comfort zone in the pursuit of entrepreneurial success?

 

Let me tell you a story about risk-taking.  When I was sixteen years old I was living in Saluda, North Carolina, in school full time, and had a part time job working weekends as a dishwasher at a small local café.   It was hard work for little pay and had little room for advancement.  When a family friend informed me how much they made guiding outdoor adventure trips, I knew it was time to make a move.  The problem was trying to manage my time in order to pull off school, work, and the driving logistics.  It took me almost a month to secure a plan, and give notice to the current employer.  I already had a passion for playing in the outdoors and the idea of being a professional outdoor tour guide was incredibly attractive compared to washing dishes for minimum wage.  Because I was young and inherently more interested in finding a way to combine my work and play, I focused on the work logistics over school at first.  After phone calls, some persuasive conversations, and calling on a few friends to provide recommendations on my behalf, I landed an interview for the upcoming snowboarding season.  The interview and snowboard season did not start for a couple more months, this gave me enough time to plan for school, driving logistics, and learn how to snowboard.

I love learning and always have, however this does not mean I always did well in school.  I enjoyed going to class, doing projects, playing sports, and working with others.  When it came to taking test I did not always excel, it was challenging to sit still in class for long hours, and I was constantly told to stop asking questions, which did not set me up for success.  My parents and I, prior to me looking at this new teaching job, had already brainstormed alternative schooling methods.  This made it easier for me to pitch them the idea that I try and attend school at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College as a dual enrolled student.  I chose A-B Tech because it was in the middle of my route from outdoor work and home in Saluda.  At the time, 2004, once one turned sixteen they became eligible to enroll at community colleges.  The requirements beyond the age restriction were, students must be enrolled full time in high school.  Dual enrolled students were responsible for purchasing their own school products and books, but classes were free.  So I presented this information to my parents, who were excited to see me working and researching schools, but they were concerned with how to balance high school, dual enrollment work, and me trying to work and play.   With my parents’ assistance, we decided to try homeschooling.  This involved working with my parents to create a curriculum and register our homeschool for approval.  Once approved, I was able to withdraw from my public high school and sign up as a dual enrollment student at A-B Tech for the Fall semester.

Travel logistics fell into place as I was developing the homeschool and A-B Tech plans.   In North Carolina, sixteen year olds still have restrictions on their permits and licenses.  These restrictions include having to drive with a chaperone, time restraints, and fines that I could not risk accumulating.  My family gave me permission to use the old work vehicle with over 100,000 miles already on it, for a sixteen year old it was a luxury vehicle.  After some research and phone calls, I was informed of a few acceptations to the driving requirements depending on family’s situations.  I drove down to the DMV and then to a Social Services office to fill out paperwork that stated I was enrolled in school at A-B Tech, homeschooled, and confirm I was not working against my will.  With this paperwork filled, I now had permission to drive whenever I wanted, without a chaperone, as long and I was in route to or from a work or school function.

All of this miraculously fell into place as my interview to teach snowboarding was approaching.   This meant learning how to snowboard and teach.  I already had the gear so I drove to Wolf Laurel, where I had applied to work, and registered for a few group and private snowboard lessons.  Without telling anyone who I was or that I had an interview coming up I took these lessons with the intent of solidifying my snowboarding fundamentals but focused on watching how the different instructors behaved and taught.  I constantly scribbled notes down on a small pocket sized notebook and an outdoor pen with the cap.  The cap was very important so it was not an impalement risk when falling.  When not doing instructional classes, I spent my time getting familiar with the slopes and resort.   When the interview day came, several of the instructors recognized me and because of my positive relationship built with them through instruction they all encouraged the boss to give me a shot and he did.

For the rest of the season, I attended classes during the school week at A-B Tech and on weekends, lived out of the back of my car, taught snowboarding, and got to have a lot of fun.

My story is not as funny or entertaining as Steven Schussler’s superman strategies, but I believe it is more realistic.  Taking risks is inherently risky and can result in permanent loss, permanent injury, or death.  Because of the real risk associated with taking a risk, I disagree with Schussler’s suggestion to take risks without a “safety net.”  Entreprenures who take risks with no safety net gamble with their money, business, and personal status.  It is similar to outdoor professional not wearing personal protection equipment.  Owning and operating a business is inherently risky and entreprenures should be comfortable recognizing, taking, and mitigating associated risks.  My safety nets, for the decisions discussed above, were to not burn a bridge at work by giving two weeks notice and honestly telling my boss I what I was doing.  If A-B Tech had not worked out, I could have stayed at the school I was already at.  As for the vehicle, I had an already well developed car pool system for school and work, plus saved up money of my own to put towards a used vehicle. There were always backup plans along the route, because of this I felt comfortable pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and felt confident taking risks.

In conclusion, I overall am enjoying It’s a Jungle In There by Steven Schussler.  It delivers important wisdom and information on how to be proactive and aggressive with pursuing your goals.   As a professional risk manager and taker, I would be interested to read a chapter by Schussler covering Risk to Reward Ratios.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed how you added your personal story to your blog and wove in it the lesson from the book.

  2. Mitchell McDowell says:

    William,

    I thought this was a well-written article. I particularly liked your disagreement with Schussler’s suggestion to take risks without a “safety net.” Pointing out that entrepreneurs who take risks with no safety net gamble with their money, business, and personal status is a very valid point. There are many ways for entrepreneurs to mitigate risk…planning, research, education, starting out mean and lean, etc.

    Thanks,
    Mitch

  3. Scott Evans says:

    William:

    What an incredibly interesting story. I think you point about taking steps to mitigate risks as an entrepreneur is important. It just doesn’t make sense to operate “without a net” as Schussel says. Although mitigating risk does not eliminate risk, it gives you a better chance for success and limits you downside. Nice post.

Speak Your Mind

*