Entrepreneurs take risks. It’s in the job description. In fact, it might be the whole job description.
In this episode of “If These Heels Could Talk,” JoyGenea and Michelle discuss risk. Not the board game, but the actual scary stuff that business is made of. When to hire, buy a building, add a product or service line, even sell your biggest customer – all are huge risks that can make or break your business. So how do you know when to take a risk? And how do you protect your life and loved ones from your choices in business? (Hint: you can’t.) This episode is not for the risk averse!
M: Hi everyone, I’m Michelle owner of BadCat Digital.
J: And I’m JoyGenea and I own Solutions by JoyGenea. Welcome to If These Heels Could Talk! Today on our show we want to really have an in-depth conversation, somehow in 30 minutes or less, about risk.
M: The board game?
J: We could do that but I think we will get a little more in detail and talk about risk and business.
M: Ok well with Risk the board game the thing you do is get the middle of the board and then work out from there.
J: That does work really well.
M: It does work really well. So that topic is over.
J: Yes. Now were talking about business.
M: So this topic is born just like every other topic. It is born out of something that’s happening to one of us in the moment. So my business is kind of going through a lot of changes as is yours.
J: Oh yeah.
M: And in the process of that we’re both taking different kinds of risks. And I had never thought I would be an entrepreneur and one of the reasons I had never thought I would be an entrepreneur was because I thought that I really didn’t like risk. Not the board game.
J: The real world.
M: Real world risk, like standing on the edge of a knife and wondering if its going to- like I mean that never appealed to me as concept and when I started a business I didn’t think well this means you’re gonna have to get more comfortable with risk.
J: Well the beauty of when you start a business is you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s the best part.
M: Honestly, I think like anybody who knew what we knew would just not do it.
J: Well I think its comparable to kind of parenthood. Like if you knew you wouldn’t sign up.
J: But you don’t know and you do sign up because you have a dream.
J: You have a dream and your just like I can do this better than someone else.
M: Well and I will say when I started BadCat my husband and I talked about how it was a good time to take a risk in our lives. We didn’t have kids. Still don’t. We don’t have a lot of debt. We got married late. He had bought the house by himself and was making the house payments already when I moved in.
M: So there wasn’t like a huge downside.
J: Well and that right there, what you described is called a risk evaluation. That’s a very general basic overview of a risk evaluation. And in business you’re going to learn to take a risk evaluation to many other levels.
M: Well and the deal was this is the level that I think I need to maintain our lifestyle. This is the level of income that I need. So here’s the time frame that he gave me to try this.
M: And not work. For pay.
M: So that I could build it to that level and then what’s after that. And if I got there in that time frame then we would take the next step. And I got there.
J: Yes, you did.
M: Faster. But then the next step and the next step and the next step neither one of us knew what we had signed up for and the fact that still 3 years down the line I’m still not at that income level.
M: But as the business is growing, that is the next step. And he, because he bought in so early, we’ve been at it together which has really made it a lot better because honestly like he works for somebody else and so if everything hit the fan we wouldn’t like lose our home which is a big deal.
J: Well you remember in our household we are 2 solopreneurs.
J: 2 small business owners. I am not really a solopreneur at this point.
M: No, you got.
J: You know when you really get down to it with contractors and everything I actually kind of have a team.
M: You have a team.
J: I do and I love my team so I have a little more going that way.
M: You just aren’t their sole income
J: They’re diversified.
J: Just kind of like how I feel. You know it’s a diversified pallet but it’s definitely in our household risk is an ongoing reality with two solopreneurs.
J: Like there is not- if something’s down the other person is usually kind of looking like how can I help? What do you need?
M: Well and that comes with some challenges but it also comes with some mutual understanding. That I don’t necessarily get.
M: So, I think you know again like any other kind of assessment. There are things one both sides to kind of think about.
J: Well and one of things I wanted to make sure to point out is as a coach and somebody who has deep conversations with people about certain things and conflict that might arise in life.
J: Conflict. Understanding each other particularly in marriages and in business partnerships everybody having an awareness. You having an awareness of your risk tolerance in business and with money and in particular areas is really critical and understanding your partner’s risk tolerance. It helps you frame things nicely.
M: Yes, and understanding that that risk tolerance is going to change.
J: It’s going to evolve as we do different things. I can tell you that the first building on fire that I ran into…
M: Literally. This is literally because JoyGenea was a firefighter.
J: And I was fully geared and I had a team with me like you don’t run into these things alone, but like-
M: I would hope not.
J: Every bell and whistle in your brain is like what are you doing? Turn back now. Turn back now. And you’re just like I’m going in. And it’s really but talk about risk. Like at that moment but I didn’t. There was nothing in me that was like no I’m not doing this even though my brain like I said the warnings were all going off.
M: Your brain’s like no no no!
J: We don’t do this.
M: What are you doing?
J: It’s hot, go the other way. Other way. Turn around. And yet that was a risk I chose to take. I took training to do that.
M: You mitigate the risk. Like you work to mitigate the risk.
M: And it’s the same thing with daily business decisions. Like daily things that you do you work to mitigate the risk. I don’t pay this set of bills because payroll is next week and I’m not a 100% sure I can cover both.
M: So I mitigate the risk of not paying people on time by managing cash flow over here. Or I do this so that you know like I project and plan how many clients I have to get out of my advertising because before I sign the year long television agreement that’s going to cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars I know that xyz. And so we make these decisions in business everyday.
J: Well and that’s why we’re saying you evolve because when you first start out I don’t know about you but every decision….
M: Everything is scary.
J: It is. It’s scary. It’s like oh man ok I got to build this website ok I got to go to this networking event, what’s gonna happen with that.
M: Everything’s starts to feel life or death. Like every decision starts to feel like.
J: It does. That’s well said.
M: Like the world is going to end if this decision doesn’t get made correctly and it’s not true.
J: I think that’s been one of the greatest gifts of being a business owner.
J: Is that I can sometimes in circumstances step back and be like nobody is dying like we will figure this out. It might cost a little money.
M: It’s not brain surgery.
M: We will figure it out.
J: We will figure it out.
M: And you know when you make a mistake.
J: We do.
M: We do. When. It’s not an if. It’s a when. And it costs you money when you make a mistake.
J: Oh yes..
M: Almost invariably. A good friend of mine calls that tuition to life’s university.
M: And I think it should be a deductible business expense.
J: I don’t know why it’s not.
M: It’s like up there with your car and mileage and your lease. It’s like a mistake.
J: Yeah but the only way that’s learning, and I have to talk about this sometimes too with people, is its only learning if you talk about it and if you learn. If you truly take out life the lessons from it. Most people are like we just don’t talk about it and I’m like no it happened how does that not happen again. What choices did you make that contributed to that? How could it be avoided? A lot of things could have gone differently if just a few choices were made differently over here.
M: Well I actually made ok. It’s a metaphor people. We’re going to start with a metaphor. I dropped the cap to my deodorant into the toilet.
J: Oh, that seems like not a big deal.
M: Right. But the thing is that there’s really no way I should have not been able to see it coming because of where those objects are in relation to each other. The head space I’m in when I wake up. How tired I am when I’m grooming.
M: All of those of things combined to be maybe you shouldn’t put the slippery plastic thing in the cabinet over the toilet with the seat up.
M: Because you’re going to drop it in there.
M: And so, but here’s the thing
J: Didn’t change it.
M: I never changed anything.
M: After I dropped it in there. And I even thought about it. I thought about it as this is like a metaphor for a learning and being able to project and see potential problems in the business and everything is a metaphor, right? So this is a metaphor in this twisted brain of mine.
J: Yeah, but really also back to on top of the risk thing you recognized the risk on that was low so who cares.
M: Well and that’s exactly it. I mean I could just throw the thing away and buy another one but the point is,
J: The point is it was mitigatable.
M: And it’s changeable now. Like I can store these things differently. I can you know put the seat down. Like all kinds of things that I can do to prevent this from happening in the future. None of which I have done. So, to your point, if you don’t change anything after the mistake or the problem, you’re going to make it again.
J: Oh guaranteed.
M: And it’s going to happen again.
J: And the next time might not feel as good or work out as well.
M: Well and the next time might be way more expensive.
M: Because the next time I could drop the whole stick in there and then I have a problem.
M: For the day.
J: Yeah cuz now you’re going in. Now it’s a bigger problem. There are some other things we were thinking about that go with risk and business. Taking on a really big client.
M: Yes. When you take on a client that’s 25, 30, 50, 50% of your revenue like not only do you have to service that client whether its client, a product, or a service but you have to build infrastructure around that client so now if that client walks away…
J: Well we’ve taken on additional risk, which is employees.
M: And additional costs. And additional this and additional that so
M: Even the processes, the location. Maybe its product and you have to have inventory cost. Maybe you stepped up your supply chains so that you know to get a lower price on that and now you’re going to have a problem if your order drops. Like all of these things are potential so the question then is how do you mitigate that risk? Like how do you make it so that it’s not that easy for the client to walk away either?
J: Yes. And that’s part of your risk evaluation that you do. And there’s some great documents out there. I did. I hunted down a pile of really good documents, but any good business, if you’re working with any good business coach or associate or you have good friends that are in business, executive committees, groups that your part of so forth they will walk you through a lot of that and they will point out a lot of that and they will point out a lot of it which is really, really, helpful and have good ideas.
M: And I would argue that any time you hire somebody it’s a risk.
M: Anytime and anytime you fire somebody it’s risk because it changes the team. It’s an imbalance.
M: You know it alters, like you don’t know how everybody is gonna react. You bring in a new person and everything changes. You take somebody out of the mix and everything changes especially if you don’t want to.
M: Especially if it’s a layoff or an unchosen, yeah.
J: But necessary, again, risk.
M: But necessary for a business you have to do it but…
J: Well so some of the risks that I’ve recently been taking on is the fact that I’m adding in that coaching stream.
J: And so that meant that some of my time and energy for a little while recently, which it’s nice to be shifting gears out of that cuz I’m getting out of the certification and I’ve got that now. Working on that and so forth wasn’t you know- I divested my energy.
J: From being a 100% in that one bucket. And it was interesting, my sales went down.
J: And you could just tel.l
M: Cuz you don’t have effort in it.
J: No and I was surprised by some of the reactions of a few clients that were just like, oh you’re leaving us. Oh, do I need to find someone else. I was like wow. Like none of that was said but that’s their risk aversion.
J: Like I recognized it right away, I’m like oh ok like I need to be a better communicator about the fact that this is diversifying my palate and my portfolio but in no way removing skills and abilities. But that’s a risk. Like that was a risk to do it. It’s been interesting having those conversations.
M: Well and I would say also like something were going through right now is you know a pricing model change and accessing work that we’re providing versus the price that were working under and that’s a risk because you have to be ok with those people saying yeah no I only value your service to this level and that’s it.
J: And we’re going beyond their risk ability.
M: Right. And so then it becomes a question of ok well am I ok with them walking away? And the minute you get to that…
J: The first time you have that conversation by the way,
M: So hard.
J: In business the first time you do that that first increase and people start to have conversations with you its mmm. But the next one gets easier.
M: Yeah. No. And I’m procrastinating so we’re gonna move on from this topic.
J: You’re doing really well
M: But then to say look any capital investment like you know we’re kind of thinking where we gonna be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and are we gonna be able to stay in the building that were in. Do we have to look bigger? Does it make sense to keep leasing? Do we have to buy? And now all of sudden you’re talking about massive financial risks.
J: Oh huge.
M: On top of all of the other risks.
J: One thing that’s really important to point out here though in business if you are not risking you are not growing.
M: Well and it’s true. And if you’re not growing, you’re literally dying.
J: In today’s world of business with technology and everything moving at the pace that it really is that’s not an understatement.
J: In any way.
M: No, it’s not. To be constantly seeking new. New services. New ways to provide. You want to hold on to what makes you you and why people brought you in in the first place. But always be looking for what’s next. What’s next. What’s next.
J: Well and I think as a business provider I hope my customers kind of expect that of me.
J: That I’m adapting and that I’m telling them you know what we have to make these updates because you know like I’m not leaving you behind. I would not allow that to happen to you.
J: Like that’s just too important.
M: Yeah and they don’t always want to walk that line with you or they don’t always have it in that moment but I’ve never had a conversation with somebody about you know really this is really outdated. We really need to upgrade this or take this and they don’t always love that conversation.
M: But it’s never gone badly for me. To have that conversation except for that one time that I said somebody’s website was terrible and it turned out their wife had made it.
M: Yeah, you never do that. You never do that.
J: Never do that.
M: No, you never do that. You ask before you tell. But the point is…
J: Learn something.
M: Learn something. Risk.
M: Have an opinion. That’s a risk. But the thing is that even if they didn’t do it right away, they always appreciated the push. And they always said things like, this is what we hired you for. We hired you to tell us what we don’t know. And so that again is a risk but it’s one worth taking and by the way, we didn’t put it on the list, but having an opinion is a risk.
J: It is. And knowing when to share that.
J: That’s a learning curve in business.
M: It is. It’s a learning curve and how to share it.
M: It’s a learning curve to even just having a brand that has a personality that doesn’t try to appeal to everybody. That’s a risk because the minute you say what you are, you’re saying what you’re not. And you’ve got to be ok with leaving behind the people that you’re not.
J: And Michelle’s not kidding you have to be ok with doing that, because if you do not do that and niche down.
M: It’ll stagnate. You won’t ever grow.
J: And you’ll be frustrated and you’ll be like why isn’t this growing. I’m trying to reach everybody. No, you’re not. There’s a specific group of people you are trying to reach and the clearer you are about that the more they can find you.
M: You know on that topic I have a really quick diversion. I went and saw my marketing hero Seth Godin. I love him.
J: Oh yeah.
M: But I went and saw him speak and somebody in the audience asked a question. They worked at 3M and they asked a question about audience and he said from your question I can tell you that your audience is probably 6 people.
M: And she went, What?
J: She niched down that far?
M: He said you’re trying to please the board with that. You are not trying to do anything other than please the board because 3M’s strategy has always been product brands. Scotch Tape. Post-it. Those are huge brands.
M: And he said the question that you asked…
M: means how do I please the board, which means that your project has an audience of 6 people.
M: And I was like mind blown. Mind blown. Cuz he was absolutely right. And like this morning I went to a big like annual, this is what happened, you know, final meeting. My audience is not their actual audience.
M: I’m there to support the marketing directo,r or the VP of marketing or whatever the title is, in their decision to continue paying me in front of their bosses. I have an audience of 2, 3, 4 and that’s all it needs to be.
J: That’s a niche
M: And that’s a nche. And that’s a risk because the minute that you understand that and you’re leaving all of these other people off the table.
M: It feels different.
J: It feels different. It’s easier to hide. It’s easy to hide in the sea of everybody.
J: In some ways.
M: Like I say when you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody.
J: Exactly. It’s the sea of everybody. Who can even notice that.
M: So how do we mitigate risk, JoyGenea?
J: Well, you do your risk evaluations.
M: Even if they are very informal. Let’s just be real because I’m never sitting down and doing like a pro con list. Like that’s not me.
J: Yeah but with this building I have a feeling you’re gonna actually be doing a little more of a plan.
M: Oh absolutely.
J: Like that’s just it. And you’re going to want to.
J: You’re gonna want to have a variety of opinions with that. You know I also want to point out that to do these types of things and even have these conversations you have to make time to work on your business and not in your business.
J: And I read that in a variety of things and I thought, oh they’re so right. They reminded us that no is how you clear space to make sure that your business is growing.
J: And so just a reminder these things you can’t assess risk and step back and make sure that you’re making good decisions if you’re never stepping back to make sure. You’re standing in it all the time and being like ok yeah that sounds good, yeah that sounds good. You do have to take time to look at it.
M: It’s just like anything else like if I hadn’t been sitting around and thinking what is this business actually gonna look like in 5 years. Or 8 years or 10 years. Then I never would have projected out that this is going to be a problem and I never would have thought to myself oh I should probably spend a lot of time on this. Like I should be thinking about this for a year which means I need to start thinking about this now. And that’s you know because I don’t want to be making a snap decision. This is too important.
M: So who do I reach out to first? Where do I start? And let me just start.
M: One foot in front of the other.
J: Exactly. This isn’t a link.
M: And then I will make time for everything else but one foot in front of the other.
J: I don’t know, the more you do it the more you’re able to be like this is a minor risk and I need to spend the same amount of minor time on it.
J: This is a major. This is a game changing.
J: Adding things.
M: This is something that and I will say to that I’m also considering property in areas of town that are not the most well thought of areas of town. And I can do that for my business because I don’t need a lot of consumer foot traffic.
M: So I’m able to expand the horizons of what I think…
M: …a building could be. Or what I think I could have. And maybe think about getting in at an opportune time before the city does a lot of redevelopment and people put a lot of money into a space and the property value could go up significantly. That’s one scenario. The other scenario is none of those plans go through because I have control over exactly zero of it.
M: Yes. And I’ve put time, money, energy and investment beyond just the purchase price into a building I am never going to see out of it.
M: And that’s the risk.
J: That’s risk. At the end of the day.
M: We’re talking about retirement savings.
M: Like we’re talking about you either retire well or you retire hoping that you know somebody leaves you a lot of money which is not a retirement plan.
J: It’s not. That’s a perfect segue: I met a really interesting person and it was shortly after the great recession and that person at one point had been a multi-millionaire.
J: And he lost all of it.
J: And he was rebuilding his life.
J: From the ground up.
M: Ouch. How hard. Oh my gosh. Demoralizing.
J: But that’s not even the most interesting part. What was really interesting about it was his family. So he had risked big. Had great rewards.
J: And he was able to bring everybody in on that. You know not just his wife but I’m talking his parents, his in-laws, like he was providing for this huge swath of people. That same swath of people I had never seen a person be so dehumanized. They would call. They would text you’re so worthless. The in-laws actually like would not talk to him because he stopped providing for his family the way he should have. It was fascinating how they were all very comfortable riding his risk when it benefitted them. And then when his risk, which he gone way out on a limb, when that wasn’t paying off they weren’t in at all. They were blaming him for risking.
M: They didn’t just abandon him, they hurt him.
J: Oh no they went at him. I was amazed.
M: Oh, that is so sad.
J: It really was but I get people love the rewards of risk but those that are risk averse don’t like the other side of it. They love the front side of the coin. They’re like this is fabulous! Well, you didn’t get there because you toed a safe line and stayed really close to the edge of something. No, he went out on limbs and he took risks.
M: He took chances.
J: And it was a very valuable lesson. All of a sudden looked around my environment also and just made sure that everybody was clear that I was making risks and there might be disadvantages to some of them and it was interesting but literally had conversations. Like my father’s very risk averse.
J: And so he is always just like how you do it. He said it finally.
M: I don’t know how you do this.
J: I don’t know how you do this. He goes you don’t actually know where your next dollar’s coming from. And I’m like no. Well I definitely do not stand around and look at that for long.
M: Because then that next hour isn’t going to come.
J: Right. I like no I’m looking past that and where’s my next dollar coming from.
M: It’s kind of the hustle.
J: It’s part hustle. It’s just part who you are.
J: Can’t turn it off. It was really interesting that gentleman’s like seeing it in that magnified at that level.
M: Well and that’s an extreme example but at that same time it’s not that uncommon and it’s not that…. And it’s part of the fear.
J: It is.
M: So part of the fear for me about taking a large financial risk is that part of what I’m risking is something that somebody else built.
M: You know. In order for us to take a step a forward with this, my husband has to be with me and he bought his house without me.
M: He bought his house before I met him and now were talking about making that home part of this risk.
M: So if he’s not a 120% on board with that, what does that do to our marriage? And that risk is too great.
J: That risk is too great.
M: So this has to be something that we’re together on.
M: And hand in hand so that we are taking that risk together because if I were to gamble his house on my own that’s a betrayal.
J: Oh yeah. A game changer. You’re done.
M: Absolutely. You’re done. I mean it is a betrayal.
J: It is.
M: It’s legit. It’s a literal betrayal. So when I think about the example that you just mentioned, I think about the people around me who are super excited for the success that we’ve had or you know really proud of what we’ve accomplished.
M: But who don’t have any skin in that at all. And who in fact actively say things to me like you work too much. You work too hard. Why are you at the office on Sunday? You know why are you doing these things for your staff. Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that?
M: Without understanding the larger picture of you know, if the success is an iceberg you’re gonna see the itty bitty tip at the top. Not all the fricking work that goes into making it happen.
J: Absolutely and that’s part of why we brought forth this podcast. Part of why we’re talking to you.
J: Out there. Because there’s a whole lot under that beautiful little part of the iceberg that’s hanging out of the water. Like there’s a whole lot that goes into making that happen and it is fun and it is exciting to do that stuff and we love it. We love it. And I hope that energy comes across to everybody. We love it and we want you to jump in but just get what you’re jumping into before you go.
M: And the thing is that I have noticed that my aversion to risk has lessened and so when these things come up that are huge risks I find myself really fighting the stakes of it and maybe even belittling the stakes a bit like I’m really. I’m constantly trying to remind myself what a big decision it is because I make decisions that my previous self would of thought were ginormous.
M: Every day. And it’s kind of like how you start to approach money and money becomes numbers on a spreadsheet because it goes in and out so fast. I mean when revenue starts to go up and costs start to go up you’re not necessarily taking more money home but those numbers just increase and increase and increase.
J: There’s just more things in front or behind the coma.
J: In front of the coma.
M: And I’m not even exaggerating here. A month’s worth of payroll for me is what I made in the recent past in a year and now that number stops feeling overwhelming.
M: So then when you’re thinking about well you know three quarters of a million dollars for this or half million dollars for that. It doesn’t sound like the game changing amount of money that it is. But I will tell you that my first inkling that the people around me were supportive of this choice was actually right after I got married. It was my father in-law, which is a really odd place for it to come from.
M: Because my father in-law and I do not get along in a lot of things.
J: So what.
M: So we got married I started the business four months later and I left a role that was a really high-paying role and I left a very high salary and when I had met my father in-law the first thing he said in front of me, besides hello in his house. Besides hello. Was do you think you should get a prenup?
J: Well ok.
M: So my soon-to-be husband had told him that we were getting married and his first thing was do you think you should get a prenup? And what my soon-to-be-husband said was she makes more money then me.
J: Oh awesome.
M: And that made my father in-law calm down. Well then 4 months after we get married, I left that high paying job. So of course the first thing I am thinking is oh god what’s your dad going to say.
J: Yeah sure.
M: Because I just got married and moved into your house and now I quit my job and have really no plan.
J: And what do I look like.
M: And you know what he said? He said good for her. It’s the only way to build long term wealth.
J: That’s awesome.
M: And that’s not necessarily how I think of it but I’m glad that he is supportive. And so now I know if we go belly up he’s not going to be like well you dumb blah blah blah blah he’s going to be like oh that sucks. What are you going to try next?
M: And I just love that. That just feels so freeing and liberating. So I’m really hoping that everybody out there has, everybody who is taking risks, has somebody in their corner who’s going to respond that way.
J: Who’s taking big risks. Who understands that. Yes, who is supporting you?
M: Who do you know is in your corner no matter what happens? Because that’s the person that gives you the confidence and the bravery.
J: They do
M: To take the risk.
J: And they ask some darn good questions while they’re pushing you right in towards it. They’re like you can do it. You know you might want to button that up a little bit. You got it.
M: You got it. You got it. Here I’m just going to shove you right into the deep end. I hope you can swim.
J: You’ll be fine. That’s awesome.
M: Well that’s it for us today on what is this again? If These Heels Could Talk.
J: It’s a podcast.
M: This is a podcast. Oh my gosh we normally do this in the morning. This is the afternoon. We’re a little fried. But thank you to everybody. We hope that we have given you some enlightment, inspired you a little bit.
J: And caused and encouraged you to maybe think about taking a new risk.
M: Thank you very much.