Recently I was rushing home to pick up my son from daycare. I was a touch late but luckily I’m only 15 minutes away by car, assuming there’s no traffic. Hopping into my car I realized that I was nearly out of gas. I was running on fumes.
Five blocks from my office there’s a gas station. As I approached it these thoughts ran through my head (although I don’t recall actual bullet points!):
- “I’m really low on gas.”
- “There’s a gas station right there.”
- “Hhhm…doesn’t look like there’s an open pump.”
- “I’m already late.”
- “If I stop I’ll be even later. That’s not good.”
- “I can make it.”
- “As long as the traffic’s not too bad.”
Guess who got stuck in snarly traffic?
So there I was, sitting bumper to bumper, praying that I wouldn’t run out of gas and that I’d make it home before the daycare provider locked my son out on the front stoop to wait for his idiotic father. And a thought came to me, “I should have just gotten some stupid gas.”
The gas would have provided me with some security, even if I would have been 10 minutes late. Now I was willing the car home. Getting gas was the less risky path; even if it meant missing my absolute objective.
I realized by not getting the gas I was basically cutting corners. I didn’t want to miss my deadline, but I also couldn’t be bothered to wait for a pump, get out, fill up the car, pay and move on. So I cut a corner and moved on, hoping it would work out…actually, believing it would work out, not just hoping. There’s some hubris for you!
Entrepreneurs take risks all the time. It’s just part of running a business. There’s almost no such thing as a business that runs with no risk. So entrepreneurs are aware of, and often comfortable with taking risks.
But cutting corners is a different story.
Cutting corners is doing things less than your best to achieve some end goal. It’s usually not a good idea. It may feel like you’re making progress by cutting corners, but at the end of the day you’re not. You’re not building up enough value in your business, for the long haul, when you start to cut corners.
It’s important to recognize the differences between legitimate risks and cutting corners. Risks need to be assessed on a number of factors: probability, impact, reward. Risks need to be clearly identified so that they can be managed and treated. Cutting a corner is a form of risk, but it’s a silly one to take. More often than not if you really assess the significance of the risk and reward of cutting a corner, you’d realize it’s not worth it.
Incidentally, I did manage to pick up my son. The traffic delayed me less than I thought it would and visions of being stuck on the highway shrugging endlessly at angry motorists drifted out of my head. Let’s hope I’ve learned my lesson…(which is: “I can get home on almost no gas!” Right? Um, no…how about, “Don’t be a putz.” Right. Got it. Let me work on that…)[tags]cutting corners, risks, taking risks, risk management, running out of gas, entrepreneurship[/tags]