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Risk Shouldn't be a 4 Letter Word

So I decided to start doing a little blogging again, mostly to impart some entrepreneurial advice, plug for my ISU Cyclones, and give our intern something to do by posting these and helping me out with the graphics.  I’ll maybe write some sort of proper intro blog down the road, but does anyone ever read those anyway?

Last week I was sick with pink eye for a couple days – not sure where that came from, probably one of my nephews – anyway, I ended up catching a segment of the Today show.  BTW, they’ve really run that show into the ground with some of their choice in topics.  And I’m pretty sure a third-grader could have handled the Anne Curry situation a little better.

But I digress; the segment was an arm chair quarterback talking about how Michael Francis, JC Penney’s President in charge of merchandising and marketing – was being asked to step down.  He went on and on about how Francis had screwed it up and was obviously out of touch with his market.

It seemed that his resignation was mostly due to his high profile strategy to incorporate EDLP – Every Day Low Pricing – as JC P’s main pricing strategy.  He lasted all of 8 months after an amazing run at Target doing many of the same duties.  If you remember, he was part of a big time recruitment effort by JC P, as they put in place their “Dream Team” – not the one with MJ and Friends from ’92 (which incidentally, Kobe and Co. can apparently take down

At this point, I don’t remember the name of the “analyst” ripping into Francis.  What struck me was how our culture is built on this ability for anyone to come in and provide the hindsight on a failed attempt by someone else and make that risk taker look incompetent.  It really rubbed me the wrong way and caused me to launch into another attempt at blogging wonderfulness. 

I don’t know Mr. Francis, but I can imagine that he wasn’t named part of a Dream Team to take over at JC P based on his looks or bench press.  So for someone else to come in and question his abilities seems unfair to me. 

I think that is a huge part of what makes entrepreneurship and launching a startup so challenging.  You have to worry in the back of your mind not about failure, but about the “analysts” out there that will take your failure and shred you with it.  Doug Guthrie wrote a nice piece on Creative Leadership and part of that is being willing to take a risk.  I completely agree.

Why can’t we instead lift up a risk taker as something to strive for?  Not all startups succeed.  If they did, no one would want to work for someone else.  We’d all be doing it.   It’s not always roses, as Mr. Francis can attest.  But isn’t the attempt and the joy of the ride far more interesting than being the after-the-fact “analyst”? 

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