For most people who want to start a business, the idea of starting big is scary. I think that’s completely backwards. In fact, I believe starting big is less risky than starting small.
Some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of risk, but we live in a very leveraged economy. If you own a home, chances are you didn’t pay for it with cash—you most likely financed most of it. You yourself are very leveraged.
Most businesses also work on that scale. In my opinion, more businesses fail from not embracing risk enough, they play it too safe.
Risk is an essential part of your business, and if you’re not comfortable with it, it’s going to hold you back. Too many people don’t take the risk and end up just created a closed ended job for themselves, never finding the success they could have had if they’d been a bit more ambitious from the very beginning.
Taking risks is a way of life
I’ve always been comfortable with the idea of risk or opportunity cost. Growing up, I had plenty of odd jobs. My parents divorced when I was a teenager, and I witnessed my mom go from a homemaker to a full-time provider – fast. Seeing that probably helped develop my work ethic. I was throwing papers at midnight as soon as I could get my permit at 15 ½. I also mowed lawns and flipped burgers, doing whatever was necessary to help cover my expenses. Risk, albeit only opportunity cost probably was a part of life early on—I hope my twelve-year old knows he had better be paying his own gas money, too! Ha!
Those experiences stuck with me through the rest of my life. I was bitten by the restaurant bug early, and continued working in the field while attending the Hotel and Restaurant Administration program at OSU in Stillwater. After college I was working toward a general manager position in the Hal Smith restaurant group, but that didn’t happen right away. The pay was fine, but I had a family by that point, and still wanted more. More growth and more reward.
The first big risk
I left the restaurant industry for a short spell and became a stockbroker—with zero finance background. And it was one of the best things I could have done, because it paved the way for the job I have now.
I worked for Wachovia as a broker. Within a year and a half, I went from having no financial experience to being ranked third in the country in my classes’ training program. My short spell came to a close toward the end of the Housing and Market Crash in 2009. After that, I got back into the restaurant business. That risk however, gave me the experience I needed to approach the next challenge.
At that point, I was able to walk into several different general manager positions, which paid much better than being an assistant manager, but I still had the itch to work for myself.
The second big risk
I left the restaurant business a second time to create my first company and become self-employed. It wasn’t a popular decision to some, and within a few years I had to close the company. The experience taught me some very valuable lessons, I will say.
Looking back on it, we were very undercapitalized. We didn’t have a brick and mortar location that could drive sales. It folded under its own weight. With the lessons and hard experience, I was able to approach the next risk.
The third big risk
I had no job. The company I had founded failed. So, with nowhere to go but up, I approached Aaron Soward and said, “Hey, let’s start a restaurant management company together.”
We had humble beginnings, as we started out of his garage. Yet quickly thereafter, we went fairly big and created Broadway 10. Almost immediately after that we created Sidecar, and that gave us the kick we needed to expand fast and get off the ground.
Now with over 350 staff members, we’re aggressively expanding throughout Oklahoma. From the beginning we’ve risked failure, we’ve risked finances, and we’ve risked everything. There was no plan B and still isn’t.
This saying I believe to be true: “The moment businesses stop growing, they start dying.” Never relax your standards. Never stop pushing forward. Never stop taking risks. Without them, you’ll never find that reward.