Risk! Swear word? Or the stuff magic is made of?

I meet daily with business owners to discuss their social media play.

In every conversation, and at their initiation early in the conversation, I get bogged down in the risk debate.   Much time is spent talking about risk mitigation.   Less time is spent talking about the exciting things we can do in social to create awareness around their brand; their people; their services and products.

Throughout the course of the discussion, the business owner defers to their various gatekeepers who control the keys to their commercial kingdom.

I find the gate-keeping scenario problematic and quite perplexing when referenced back to the true spirit of the entrepreneur.   Many business owners were forced by commerce to take risk in the first instance of setting up their enterprise.  Upon starting out, the majority did not have the resources to employ risk managers and gatekeepers.

The challenge for all businesses today is the ability to seize on opportunities early to get the brand ‘out there’.   Too much ‘brand containment’ can be a bad thing if the risk management team get their way on too many occasions.

And plenty of opportunities are missed.  At the very least, these opportunities, if adopted, can take too long to implement given the red tape around procurement policies.  Slow implementation means that the business is never first to market with an idea, service or product.

So what do we learn from this?   Gatekeepers are employed to manage risk.   They have a ‘risk averse’ mindset.   The best way for them to manage risk is to make sure the business is in no way exposed to it – so kill off the idea early without proper investigation as to its true value sees their job done.   This approach can cause the brand to be quite ‘brown and beige’ in the public’s eye.   There is no colour.  No wham; nothing that makes the public want to find out more about the potential offering that sits in behind the brand.   Oh well! Containment success is still a commercial victory of sorts, is it not? Yeah right!

Branding, like social media, is about audience entanglement.   It is about getting the brand across your business audience to encourage the punters to purchase your offering.

Yes!   The ‘do nothing approach’ is a sure way of protecting the brand.   It is also a great way to kill off any form of social media commitment which results in your brand being ‘socially dead’ when it comes to the social conversation.   All the benefits attached to the social play cannot be embraced by your business.   Opportunities lost due to brand containment policies ran for negative reasons that have their sole focus on risk!   But risk is the opportunity.   Risk is about being different.   Risk is about having a conversation.   It attaches itself to the self-promoter; the adventurer; the goal scorer!

So taking a calculated risk is a great way to get things started.   It puts flavour in your commercial serving and it is guaranteed to mix the commercial pot into a tizz.   And your commercial offering will be tasty and ‘moreish’.

I would say that there is no bigger risk taker than Sir Richard Branson.

This month many Australian business owners will have the good fortune to attend the ‘Inspiring Your Success’ Conference and will have the benefit to hear first hand from the great man on the various strategies that have grown the Virgin Group to global revenues of more than $17 billion.   Unfortunately, I won’t be getting along.   So I thought I would do some quick background on what he might say and I came up with the following list:

  • Screw it! Let’s do it (Richard’s favourite phrase)
  • Give your staff the freedom to make mistakes
  • Improve on things that have been done in the past
  • The idea of backing off is very boring; so make a difference today!
  • Don’t do things by the book!   Get busy mixing things up to keep that competitive edge
  • Don’t allow your organisation to be strangled by top level management
  • Don’t let formality get in the way of a great idea

So, don’t let risk be the starting point when considering a new opportunity.   Invest in your entrepreneurial spirit and see where it will take you, your brand and your business.