Be scared, but be careful

Recently Justin Jackson wrote a great post entitled Do things that scare you which really resonated with me.

It uses a metaphor of someone dropping off the wall of a half-pipe on a skateboard:

It’s scary as hell, because the next step is to commit: you have to force yourself to put weight on your front leg and push down hard. You kind of “scoop” into the ramp.

Your brain does not want to do this. The instinct is to keep your weight on your back leg. But if you do that you’ll never drop in. If you “half commit” and start to drop in, but then lean back, you’ll wipe out.

Of course the point he’s making is that if you don’t ever push yourself to go outside of your comfort envelope then you’ll arguably just stay where you are, which may not be what you’re after.

It got me thinking about some of the key moments of my business career and the (literal) sleepless nights I had before deciding to do things: like hire my first full-time staff member, take on my first commercial lease or even fire my first client. These were all indeed quite scary but at the time the ‘only’ people being affected were me and my family.

Nowadays, though, when I’m thinking about growing my business these decisions (which are still scary) now have more stakeholders to consider, particularly my team that still needs to be paid and our clients who rely on us to help keep their businesses running.

Just jumping in and hoping it’ll be alright isn’t good enough any more, that leap of faith needs to be more of a leap of I-ran-the-numbers-here’s-the-plan-and-I-still-have-a-fallback-option-so-I’m-going-for-it.

Take a small but concrete example. I am struggling to keep my business tiny; a core of 5 people. The aim has alway been to keep things small as it reduces stress. But here’s the thing: lately it has been more stressful trying to juggle projects between us at our current size so I’ve finally decided to allow things to grow; to take on 1 or 2 new developers to ease the pain.

Except for my commercial credit card which gets paid off in full each month or the odd computer lease I’ve never borrowed money through the business, everything has been funded through cash flow. But this week I went to the bank and they agreed to give me the equivalent of 2x my monthly wage bill as a commercial overdraft.

I still get to grow, I’m still taking the risk that more work will flow and that the stress won’t rise (too much) but I have that little safety net. If (when, right?) a client doesn’t pay a chunky invoice on time I can still pay that wage bill.

So, definitely take those risks but remember that it’s also OK to have strategies in place to soften your fall (like knee pads and a helmet).


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