Category Archives: Risk

Being Young

I think we are all young to a certain extent. I don’t think it matters how old we are. Although we all equate numerical age with being young, we shouldn’t. Being young is something else. We all start youths and as we gain experience we also seem to start to lose our ability to be young. I think in many instances we do not see these changes in ourselves. I do not think that those that we continue to work with see these changes either, since they too are gaining experience right along with us. I think the loss of being young is a little more insidious than that. When we are young we don’t know what we can’t do, and as a result we are able to do the things that others can’t because they “know better”.

In case you are missing the connection here I am not saying there is a direct connection between your age and being young. I don’t think there is. I think being young in business resides in your head.

I watched a great rant by the comedian Craig Ferguson on the “Deification of Youth” or otherwise titled “Why Everything Sucks”. You can find it here: Aside from being very funny he does touch on some of the issues and sources of our obsession with youth. I think they apply equally to business.

Notice again that I am not connecting “Youth” with being “Young”.

We tend to associate being young with the physical attributes of youth and age. As Craig Ferguson points out there are also experiential and state of mind attributes associated with being young. Unfortunately we all seem to focus on the youth aspect of being young. We assume you have to be a youth in order to be young. Hence again according to Craig we seem to be focusing our resources on retaining our youth instead of what I would call being young.

I tell people that I have grown older, but that I have not grown up. My wife does not seem to be entirely happy about my lack of growing up.

I absolutely agree with the preconception that we need young people in business. Young people have energy. They don’t seem to slow down. They have places to be and things to do. They walk fast. They get there early and stay till they are done, not till any specific time. They look at goals as something to be attained and exceeded, not something to be measured against. The young believe that they are responsible for their own attainments, or failures, and act accordingly.

I remember few if any incidents in my youth where I looked for a consensus on just about anything I did. In some instances I might have been better off doing so, but in the long run it was probably those failures that taught me the most.

Young people take on challenges because they have no idea what they are getting into, or if they do they don’t know any better about saying no. When we were young we did not know what we could do, or conversely what we couldn’t do. There were always plenty of people who were ready to tell us what we couldn’t do. There are many of those people still around in business now. When we remain young we retain this don’t know that I can’t do it approach even though we may have gained some of the experience that tells us it may be difficult if not impossible.

Young people ask direct questions and give direct answers. There was an old television show hosted by Art Linkletter called “Kids Say the Darnedest Things”. It consisted of kids (in this case really young people) answering some simple and seemingly innocuous questions and everyone listening to what they said. The kids answered directly without first wondering if they should answer at all, if they would look foolish for their answer, or if they would get the answer wrong. They just answered. I can’t help but believe that approach might help improve business.

Direct questions are usually the simplest ones to ask. Why? How much? What do you do? We seem to have evolved to a point where direct questions are associated with being rude. The young ask direct questions without the consideration of if it is rude or not. It shouldn’t be construed as a question of etiquette. It is merely a request for a desired piece of information.

Young people understand that they can be wrong. They think they know everything (especially my children) but I think deep down they know that they don’t. That doesn’t stop them though. That’s why they went to school. To learn some things that they didn’t know that will help them later. That learning process usually involves getting a few things wrong. They don’t want to be wrong, but they know it happens and hopefully they will learn from it.

The active ingredient here for this aspect of being young is learning. Sometimes it is mandatory and we are forced to go to school and learn something whether we want to or not. On the other hand as we gain and gather experience we should recognize how much we have yet to learn and no so much rely on how much we believe we already know. When we have decided that we either have learned enough, or know enough is when we begin to not be young.

Too often it seems we have a tendency to get defensive in our business posture as a result of feeling that we must defend what we have already achieved or accomplished instead of remembering the risks and behaviors that enabled those accomplishments to occur. We understand the new challenge but may not as fully commit to or embrace it. We are now more conservative in our approach. We feel that we have something to lose and not so much to gain. We are no longer young, and we are acting like it.

I do not wish to sound too utopian in my views. I understand the realities of life and business. At least I hope I do. My objective is to remember my approach to things as a youth and combine it with the knowledge and experience I have gained since then. I may have a little better idea of some of the things that I can do, but I think there are probably vast expanses of things that I can’t do that need exploring, if for no other reason than to prove that there are parts of it that can actually be done.

I think being young in business is about remembering and channeling the energy, excitement and approach we had to proving something when we started out. It’s more about having somewhere to go instead of looking back at where you have been. It’s about continuing to learn new skills and capabilities instead of relying on those that you already have. It is retaining the realization that it still is about the destination and not so much about the path or process that is supposed to get you there.

It is remembering that it is not so much about youth but more about retaining our approach to things in our youth. I think that is the essence and key to being young.


As we enter the fourth quarter and approach the end of a year, greater attention will be focused on the business performance financials. We see this type of focus at the end of every quarter to a certain extent, but at the end of the year it peaks. Sales commissions and staff performance bonuses are paid based on annual numbers. Personnel ratings and reviews are conducted based on annual numbers. Business forecasts are to be completed in preparation for the next year during this time period as well. Predictability of business performance is now at a premium. It is also the time when businesses most try to avoid surprises.


Surprises are those unexpected events that materially affect both the performance and the measurement of the performance of the business. Surprises can be viewed as both positively impacting and negatively impacting to the company. However when surprises are viewed against the three basic limitations that all businesses must deal with, Resources, Money and Time, we see that at the end of the year, time is in very short supply when it comes to dealing with surprises. That means that incremental money and / or resources will be expended on surprises, both good and bad ones.


Good surprises usually come in the form of unexpected sales and revenue opportunities. A large un-forecasted order can come in. A product shipment scheduled for next year can be pulled forward into this year. Good surprises are normally associated with opportunities to increase the top line and via the financial flow through, increase the bottom line as well. However, even good surprises normally come with an additional cost. A large unexpected order will stress both the supply chain and production capabilities for delivery. Overtime and expedite costs may be required to meet the year end time frames. In short, because there is now limited time, it will take incremental resources and money to deal with even good surprises. No business leader wants to deal with problems, but if they are going to have problems, these are the types of problems that every business leader wants to deal with.


Bad surprises on the other hand are normally associated with issues that unexpectedly reduce sales or revenue, or alternatively increase business costs or expenses, and again via financial flows reduce the bottom line business performance. Expected orders being cancelled or not materializing would be the primary example of a top line bad surprise. A reduction in sales will turn into a reduction in revenue, and all other things being equal, a reduction in predicted earnings.


Top line bad surprises normally come about as a result of an overly optimistic sales team, or a sales team that is under engaged with the customer. Either way, it was not clearly known that the customer was not going to be buying, when everyone was predicting that they were. When the business is counting on the sale, the sales team needs to be fully engaged with the customer, as well as possibly a little conservative in their forecasting. It is far better to present the good surprise of an unexpected sale and the problems it presents than the bad surprise of the loss of a sale that was counted on to make the yearend forecast.


 Other types of bad surprises can affect both the top and bottom lines. Component shortages can cause unexpected production limitations precluding shipment and revenue recognition, changes to government regulations can add unexpected costs to products and unexpected legal or labor provisions can eat directly into margins to name just a few, are just a few examples of bad surprises.


The point here is that these surprises are issues that can and should have been readily identified as potential risks to the business. If they are risks, then the need a risk mitigation strategy if they occur. If they are not identified, then the business team needs to understand why they were missed and take corrective actions, as well as examine the business for any other unidentified potential risks. If they were identified and mitigation was neglected, then the business team must address this management failure appropriately as well in order to avoid future similar situations. Again in either event, it is the business leaders’ responsibility to identify and either avoid or mitigate these types of bad surprises.


Predictability of business performance is a key to the business’ success. As the end of the business year approaches it takes on a heightened importance. Good surprises can help bolster the numbers coming into the close of the year, but even good surprises usually come with the requirement of increased resources and financial costs since there is usually limited time to deal with them. Bad surprises on the other hand can cause problems with the business’ financial performance that there is not sufficient time for the business to recover from before the year ends. Bad surprises are normally the result of human error where either sales’ over optimism or management’s lack of attention to fundamental business practice has contributed to the business failure. In either instance the “surprise” needed to be identified well in advance of the event occurring so that the business could more accurately predict how it was going to perform.


We are all knowledge workers. That means that we make our living and provide our value-add to our businesses based on how well we process the information we receive and what intellectual output we provide. The long and the short of it is that we think about the issues that are presented to us, and we create solutions for them.

As a kid I was pretty creative with the ideas that I could come up with. This caused my parents some significant heartburn on more than one occasion. I would like to think that I have not entirely lost that creativity but rather that I have learned to channel it a little better. I think in today’s business environment that we need to continue to try and create new solutions to both the new and the old issues that we face. We cannot continue to do things the same way we have been doing them and expect the situation to improve.

Unfortunately the current business environment has itself created an aversion to the risk associated with solution creation.

Creativity and new ideas require that we endure some amount of risk. The problem here is that the perceived up-side reward for risking and creating a new solution seems to be far outweighed by the down-side penalties that would occur for the solution being unsuccessful. It seems our current business incentive set is much more to try and avoid failure as opposed to that of creating success.

The result again seems to be a decrease in the number of people either creating or willing to create new solutions, and an increase in the number of people who while not willing to create, are willing to review and edit anybody else’s solution.

Editors can and do serve an important role in the solution process. They invariably look for the holes in the solution, or for scenarios that might not have been considered or addressed. The result of their involvement can be a stronger overall final solution product.

But they are not creators.

The editor doesn’t write the Pulitzer Prize winning book, or direct the Oscar award winning movie. They may have helped make it better, but they didn’t create it. It was someone else’s idea and vision. It was created and then presented to the editor to review. They had no real ownership, or risk, associated with the final product. Their name did not appear on the book cover, or in the opening credits of the movie.

The same goes in business. Organizations today seem to have significant numbers of people who are willing to review and edit any new idea that comes along. For the most part they are willing to tell you what is lacking in the idea, and the many reasons why they think it won’t work.

When I have encountered this sort of behavior I have found that there is usually some kernel of truth in the critiques that I have received. I try to look for it and see if I can use it to make my ideas and solutions stronger. I have also found that I have needed to grow a thick skin when dealing with their criticisms. I am still working on that.

My point here is two-fold. The first is that we need to try to get back to our creative roots in looking at how we are dealing with today’s issues in business. We know what the existing solution provides, and if we want to do better, that means we must do something else.

The second point is that the next time someone provides you with one of their ideas or solutions do not become an editor. There are already enough editors around. Look for the value of the idea and try to work from the point of view of what is right with the solution as opposed to what is wrong with it. What can you add to the solution as a co-creator as opposed to identifying the holes in it as an editor.

Creativity in dealing with the many issues that business is facing seems to be in short supply. If you can, look for ways to create new solutions. If you are presented with the opportunity to review and edit someone else’s ideas and solutions, fight the urge to critique and get involved in the proposed solutions creation process.

There is an old saying: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” I think in business today a more accurate rendition of this phrase is: “If you are not part of the solution, you are probably part of the editorial staff.”

Phishing Victim…..Me?

I enjoy writing my blog. I really enjoy getting comments. That means that someone has read my Blog, and thought enough about it to take the time and write a comment. I put an effort into thinking about topics to write on and for the most part it appeared that the people that wrote comments did also. That was until recently.

In the last few months I started to get a significant number of comments. At first I thought this was pretty neat. We all like a little recognition and this increase in comments seemed to indicate that I might be getting some.


Upon closer inspection of this newfound number of comments I noticed that they all seemed to be based from “Russian” servers. This is only an assumption, but it is based on the URL nomenclature of the site that generating the comment. Russian? Really? Could I really be generating a following in Russia?

Still something about this seemed “Phishy”. So I decided that I would Google one of the more reasonable sounding sights to see if they truly existed. It generated another Blog site. I then decided to go to one of this more reputable sounding site. I went, I saw, and I read. No big deal.

That’s when it started. The next day I got notification from my site hosting service that they had complied with my wish to have my domain changed. My domain changed? Who requested that?

I then went to my site to see what this all meant. What is meant was my site was no longer where I had bookmarked it. My site had been hijacked.

I then called (not emailed, not IM’ed, called) my hosting provider and asked what was going on. They said that they had complied with my email request to relocate my site to another domain/server. This was obviously news to me.

After verifying (via security questions and the like) that I was in fact who I said I was, and that the site in question was indeed mine, we started down the road to reclaiming my site. After the appropriate programming magic was accomplished, we started back-tracking what had happened.

It appears that by even going to the supposedly acceptable site of one of my commenter’s I had somehow enabled them to get into my hosting account through the information I had left (like they leave at my site) at their site. They then hacked my account and hijacked my site.

This was again, and interesting and somewhat unsettling experience. But the greater question to me is: Why would someone want my site? There is not a significant amount of traffic there (from internet standards), nor are there any secrets. I guess I will have to be vigilant and watch for any issues that may arrive at a later date. In the mean time, I would ask and suggest that all who receive any of these strange / anomalous emails or comments to beware.

Focus on Achievement

We have all heard the phrase “risk and reward”. It helps us quantify and balance the upside (reward) and downside (risk) of all that we do.

When most of us start out in business we have not accumulated much in the way of position, title or responsibility. We have not so much to risk (lose) as a result of our actions. We tend to make our decisions based on how we can improve our situation or the situation of the business. If we make good decisions we and the business prosper.

As we progress up the ladder, we begin to accumulate responsibility. We begin to have more to “lose” as a result of an incorrect decision. You have heard it and seen it. In general people start to get a little more conservative in their approach. They begin to focus more on the risk associated with the action and not so much on the reward to the business. The status quo and management by existing directional momentum set in.

No one makes the right decision every time. The key is to recognize if a direction needs to be changed and quickly adjusting. The reason for the action must however remain constant. It should not be solely or predominantly to avoid the downside or risk. The action should be taken as a step toward the goal. It should be due to the focus on achievement. Keep the positive reinforcement in place for decisions versus the negative. It keeps you and the business moving forward.