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No Risk. No Reward

I am a history nut. I love learning history of cities, cultures, nations. My wife and I always visit a history museum when we travel. I also watch the history shows on television, especially the History Channel. My favorite of late is "Foods That Changed America." This weekend I watched an episode featuring the origins of Vodka and Bourbon in the United States.

The Smirnoff company changed hands a few times before it grew to the number one seller in the United States (It has been replaced by Tito's, but is currently number 2 in total Vodka Sales). In the 1960a, Smirnoff was struggling until the owner, Jack Morgan, decided to take a risk and get Smirnoff endorsed by a celebrity. In 1962, Ian Fleming took his books to the motion picture screen. These books featured a British spy who was charming and dangerous. The spy was James Bond, the actor was a young Sean Connery. The movie was "Dr. No." This was not the first James Bond movie (The first was His Majesty's Secret Service featuring George Lazenby as the first James Bond). In Dr. No, Bond asked for a martini, "shaken, not stirred." The movie showed Smirnoff as the vodka and suddenly, people all over the world were drinking it. No one knows how much Connery was paid to endorse the product, but the risk was worth it and the Smirnoff brand began to grow.

Business owners should understand that some moves require huge risks to move forward. Such risks include moving to a new location, hiring new leadership, investment in new equipment or technology, and spending money not in the budget for employee development and training. The rewards are unknown at the onset, but grow surprisingly with time. Some companies play it safe, penny pinch, make cutbacks, and operate in fear. Management and leadership often take a conservative route to growth, when a more aggressive approach is needed. The bottom line is important, but moving it often requires courage. I remember coaching a little league baseball game that would get us into the playoffs if we won. It was the last inning in regulation. We had bases loaded with two outs. My best player was at the plate and rather than let him swing away, I called for a suicide squeeze. Everyone was moving and he laid down the bunt perfectly. We won 4-3, went to the playoffs and this team gave me my first championship as a coach. Parents called for my head, but later praised me as a great coach.

You can't play it safe when it comes to major moves. Go with your gut instincts and trust your knowledge base. If you are a decision-maker, you are paid to make decisions. Not making a decision is to make a decision and tells much about your leadership character. Pushing decisions on others because you are afraid to make them also tells much about your leadership character. Going with the safe bet may work for a minute, but will it satisfy the company needs in the future? Leaders often miss great opportunities for growth because they are more concerned about finances, than making key investments in the mission and vision of the organization. My Father used to tell me all the time, nothing beats a failure but a try. He would also tell me "can't died" whenever I said I couldn't. If you are going to put your feet in the water, you may as well walk on it. Leaders, go big or go home.

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