Safety is Over-Rated

Category: Strategy Published on Apr 06 2015

My husband and I used to watch the reality TV show, Breaking Amish on TLC. I found the show riveting because it provided a glimpse inside a very strong culture. As the show approached the conclusion, the individuals on the show were required to decide whether they were going to return to the Amish community or create a new life with the “English”.


When I compare the freedoms and fun that they had in NYC to the restrictions and constrictions they face if they return I assumed that this would be an easy decision for them. And then they revealed what the biggest draw pulling them back to the Amish community is: Safety. If they return, they know they will be safe, that their neighbor will literally have their back if something bad should happen. If their barn were to burn down, the community will come together to rebuild it.

As small business people, we also tend to cling to safety. I have been as guilty of this as the next person. The proceeds from my small business paid the mortgage and kept the electricity flowing. This situation made me loath to take too big a risk.


For me and other small business owners, safety is:

 - Doing what your competitors are doing because it works for them.

 - Researching new opportunities that someone successful has already endorsed.

 - Keeping controversial ideas to yourself while publicly proclaiming mainstream thoughts.


What we desire is to follow the sure path to success. Instead, we doom ourselves to mediocrity as we are perceived as being just like everyone else. We make a living if we are lucky, but we never brand ourselves as unique enough to be a shining star.


It occurs to me that what differentiates a small business owner and an entrepreneur is their attitude to safety.  The small business owner clings to safety as the best way to succeed. The entrepreneur sees safety as much too risky an approach. The entrepreneur would rather go down in spectacular flames than risk being mediocre.


Like most things, there is a line or continuum connecting the two extremes of safety and risk. Where are you on the continuum? Are you clinging too closely to the safety end of the line?


Safety is over-rated and potentially deadly. While it’s nice to know that someone has your back and will help rebuild your barn if needed is it worth the trade-off of denying your creativity and uniqueness? And really, when was the last time your barn burnt down?


If you are a small business person, I encourage you to strategically shed your safety. Be passionate about your brand: what you do and what you believe in – in public. Concentrate on what makes you unique and how you can leverage that to grow your business. And when new opportunities arise, instead of entering analysis paralysis, review your brand definition (vision, mission, values, and company belief systems) and compare it to the opportunity. Then you are ready to make a strategic decision to proceed because it truly is an opportunity or defer because it’s a shiny bauble (a distraction that only looks like an opportunity.)


Safety is over-rated. What can you do today to strategically take more risks?