What have you got to lose?

5 Jan

roulette table and gambling chipsWe’re frequently told that gambling is bad. We get this message from a variety of sources in a variety of ways, both applying to literal gambling (as in a casino) and gambling in a more casual way. But are we actually doing ourselves an injustice by lumping all gambling together as a no-no?

I was recently talking with a successful entrepreneur who runs a small business he’s had for three decades. He told me about a $20,000 “gamble” he was taking on a promotional project to start 2012. But he was quick to add that he’s built into the company’s budget the money to take this gamble, and therefore it’s not really a gamble — it’s money that can be lost without causing harm to the business.

It got me to thinking how many entrepreneurs I know, including myself, who don’t allow for there to be any “gambling money” in the budget. This particular entrepreneur even said, “What fun would business be if you can’t play around with ideas because you can’t afford for them to not work?” How true. And yet, again, many entrepreneurs budget themselves into a corner, not allowing any room for the playing around that can result in killer ideas coming to fruition.

Rock stars generally don’t fall into this trap, however, which is yet another reason why we have a lot to learn from them. In fact, rock stars are generally expected to gamble big. Think of the U2 “360 Tour” a couple years ago, with its incredibly massive production. Or at the other end of the spectrum, think of the budding rock stars who quit their jobs, throw everything into a van, and go on a tour. This isn’t to say that it’s savvy business to risk it all or even risk a lot — but we need to be reminded that it’s best to leave some room to gamble. The person who buys only one lottery ticket a year still has one more chance to win the jackpot than the person who never buys a ticket.

So, as 2012 marches on, think about your business and your budget. How much money can you afford to gamble this year on an idea or two that could make your business better or more successful — or perhaps just make it more fun? Some of the coolest things rock stars do in their work (smashing guitars being a great example) are as much about enjoying the business as they are about growing the business.

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