Turning 40 and Swimming With Sharks (Literally!)

by Adam Kreitman

sharkLast Friday I turned 40.

To celebrate, I jumped into a 6 million gallon aquarium teeming with 600 pound turtles, huge stingrays, and SHARKS…a few topping out around 10 feet long (and I’ve got a video at the end of this post to prove it!).

No, this wasn’t because of a mid-life crisis.

No, despite my family and I having spent the previous week staying with my mother-in-law, this wasn’t because I’d rather jump into a shark tank than spend another minute with her.

And, no, I’m not some crazy risk taking daredevil.

This was just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I love sharks. Always have.

In fact I’ve been in the ocean before, both while scuba diving and snorkeling, and had the good fortune to see sharks up close in their natural environment.

Swimming with sharks doesn’t scare me because I know the risks involved and understand the chances of being attacked are VERY low.

But most people don’t get this.

When I mention how I spent my birthday, most people think I’m joking. They think it’s mid-life crisis time. Or they think I’m just plain crazy.

They think these things because most people suck at accurately assessing risk.

The reality is that the 90 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s to Epcot Center, where I did the dive, was MUCH riskier than being in that tank.

And listen…I did this dive at Epcot Center. Disney World for crying out loud!

So first of all, you know Disney sharks are REALLY well fed.

Second, the instant one of those sharks shows ANY sign of aggression, Mickey would fire its ass faster than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

Yet, still, the thought of swimming with sharks scares the bejesus out of most people.

They have images from the movie “Jaws” firmly implanted in their heads. They think of sensationalized media reports about the handful of shark attacks that do take place each year.

They think about rows of razor sharp teeth and blood in the water.

And when they think these things, emotions take over. That makes sizing up the TRUE risks of a situation hard to do…whether in our personal lives or our business lives.

I often see businesses in peril because the business owners FAIL to see the true risks of the situation they’re in.

Here are 4 big risks I commonly see in business:

1. Not diversifying your sources of leads/revenue

I know of businesses a Google algorithm change away from going under.

I know of businesses that get 95% of their leads from AdWords.

I worked for a business that got 80% of its revenue from just one client.

Yet the owners of businesses in these types of situations often feel quite secure because money’s flowing into the bank. They just don’t understand the huge risk they’re taking…or would rather ignore it.

Diversifying your lead/revenue sources reduces your risk. It puts you in a position where if one source shuts down, gets too expensive, or stops working for whatever reason, it’s not the end of the world.

When the money’s flowing in, that’s great. But if it’s flowing in from just one source, don’t get lazy. That’s EXACTLY the time to find other sources of leads/revenue. Because when the spigot all the money’s flowing out of gets shut off, it’s too late.

That’s what happened to a company I worked for years ago. Things were going great until our main client unexpectedly switched to another vendor. I was unemployed 3 weeks later.

Don’t put your business in a risky situation like that…Diversify!

2. Relying on free traffic

One of my mentors once said:

“If your business relies on free traffic, you don’t have a real business.”

That may sound harsh, but there’s a lot of truth there.

A lot of people flock to the “free” sources of traffic like organic search traffic, social media, etc. And they may find some success.

But it’s a risky position to be in.

Why?

First, you’re at the mercy of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. They can change their algorithm. They can (and do) make you pay for full access your Fans. They can do whatever the heck they like without asking if it’ll affect your business or not.

Their platform. Their rules.

Second, it’s not a viable long term strategy. Sure, the early days of SEO were awesome. You could exact match domain and keyword stuff your way to the top of Page 1.

But then word got out, algorithms changed, the competition got fierce and the Google Gravy Train left the station. High rankings ain’t free anymore!

And sure, you could reach thousands of “fans” through social media, post some content, sprinkle in some offers and life was good. But then everyone jumped on the social media bandwagon. People are now following 100s or 1000s of people, companies and groups on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

GOOD LUCK getting noticed in the stream of crap cluttering up most people’s social media accounts these days!

(And have you noticed how many social media sites are addressing this? They now let you pay for that “privilege” of standing out from the crowd these days and reaching more of your followers!)

Lastly, free traffic makes you lazy. There’s something about having to pay for traffic from AdWords, direct mail, etc. that makes business owners sit up and take notice. They think more seriously about their sales funnel. They look at ways to bump conversion rates. They pay close attention to ROI.

Because they’re carefully counting the dollars in and dollars out, they’ve got their sales and marketing act together in a way business owners relying on free traffic don’t.

There’s something very freeing about knowing you can turn to AdWords, direct mail, even TV/print/radio ads, put a dollar in and get a dollar or more out.  It puts your business on much more solid (ie. less risky) footing.

Free may work for a while, but it’s not a viable long term strategy.

3. Not outsourcing/hiring

I see many business owners take the attitude “why pay someone else for things I can do myself?”

Well, sorry to break it to ya, but you’re just not good at EVERYTHING you need to do to run a company. Why spend time doing things you hate doing and/or aren’t that good at?

I don’t like spending my time reconciling bank statements and figuring out the inner workings of QuickBooks. I hate it. I’m not good at it. So I hired a bookkeeper.

Smart decision. It’s freed me up to do the things that I enjoy more and are income producing activities instead of time and money drains.

And that’s just one example.

Outsourcing other tasks so I can spend time on the things like high level strategy, writing, etc. that I excel at is one of the keys to the growth of my business over the last few years.

If you’re wasting time on tasks you don’t like and probably suck at, you’re leaving money on the table.

4. Not being a part of a Mastermind Group

Yes, this a very real risk to your business.

If you’re part of a high level Mastermind group, you know what I’m talking about.

If not, join (or start) one and find out what you’re missing.

The risk of not being in one is you get stale. You get stuck in the same patterns you’ve always been stuck in and don’t get the new ideas, the support and the guidance from successful peers that you need to break out and take your business to the next level.

The other risk is, without a Mastermind group, you don’t get the BIG kick in the ass many of us need to get over ourselves and start making significant improvements to ourselves and our businesses.

I wouldn’t be caught without one…the risk is too great.

Planning for 50!

I knew the risks I was getting into when I plunged into that shark tank and I’m here to tell the tale.

When you understand the real risks involved in anything you’re doing, you make smarter decisions. And those smarter decisions lead you to exciting experiences…whether swimming up close and personal with incredible animals or growing your business and enjoying all the success that brings to your life.

(Click the video to watch part of my dive)

I had so much fun on this dive, I’m already thinking about my 50th…diving off the coast of Mexico with Great White Sharks. (In a cage of course, because I’m not one to take big risks;)

Who’s with me?!

What other risks do you see business owners regularly ignoring? Please share them in the comment section below…

 

 

suz May 9, 2013 at 4:39 pm

how cool is that!!
loved how you related it to biz risk.. and you’ve given me lots of ideas…
thanks for sharing just a touch of your amazing experience!
Happy Happy Birthday, Adam!!

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