Risk Taking

Take A Risk

"To move to the next rung on the ladder, you've got to take risks. You've got to move out of your comfort zone." - Debbi Fields

August 16, 1977. Palo Alto, California. It was the first day of business for Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery. Owner Debbi Fields, 20 years old, had opened her store in the face of considerable opposition. Although she had somehow convinced a bank to loan her money for the risky business - how could a bakery that sold only chocolate chip cookies be successful? - others had not been encouraging. The store, they said, was a bad idea, and she didn't even have the recipe right: Americans liked crispy cookies, not the soft and chewy ones she made.

On that day in Palo Alto, Debbi Fields didn't know if she or trhe naysayers were right. She had no business ecperience to point to. And by noon on her first day, she'd had no customers. Finally, tired of waiting, she headed into the street to give out free samples. And the taste lured people in. By the end of the day, she'd made $75.

Three decades later, Mrs. Fields Cookies is a $500 million company with more than 600 stores in the U.S. and other countries. Under Debbi Fields' guidance, the company - which changed its name when it added more cookie types - became a leader in computer-streamlined operations and production schedules. These high-tech inovations led Harvard Business School to use Mrs. Fields Cookies as a business-efficiency model in their curriculum.

While she built the business (shel sold it in 1993, Debbie Fields expanded her personal abilities to meet the needs of the company. Starting as baker and store manager, she eventually took on roles of astounding responsibility: supervisor of operations, manager of brand name usage, head of public relations and director of product development and franchising. In the same years that she was building her business, she became the mother of five girls of her own and, later, the stepmother to her second husband's five children.

How does a self-described unconfident 20-year-old create a life this large? Debbi Fields attributes much of her success to the willingness to risk. "The important thing is not being aftraid to take a chance," she say. "Remember, the greatest failure is not to try."

Among the ranks of successful people risking is common. "Living the safe life without risk leads to a dull life without reward," says author and businessmean Bo Bennett. In his book Year to Success, he writes that these steps can help yo identify a worthwhile, calculated risk:

(1) Do your homework: The more you know, the better you can size up a situation.
(2) Ask yourself, what's the worst that can happen if this doesn't work out?
(3) Start small. Don't leave your current job to plunge into a high-risk venture.
(4) Have a back-up plan.

Know how you'll recover if things don't work out.

Bennett favors sticking your neck out once in a while. "It is the risk takers," he says, "that live their dreams and achieve success." Debbi Fields is a good example. "Everybody said I couldn't do it," she says. "I didn't have a job. I didn't have money. I didn't have formal education. I just had a recipe and a dream." Consider taking a risk of your own. You might discover sweet success.


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