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From Risk to Reward: How to Turn Hard Times into a Substantial Investment

By Jacquelyn Adams

Larry English, founder and president of Centric Consulting, isn’t afraid to take a risk. While we’ve all heard stories of people who have reached the end of their lives and regretted missed opportunities by playing it safe, he took these stories to heart. His refusal to meet that same fate has resulted in a life of adventure, including starting his own business during the dot-com bubble. During his ‘Career: Reset’ interview, he shared some insights as to what it takes to make a risk a substantial investment.

Set yourself up for success

Before starting his company, Larry noted that he interviewed other business owners to conduct an independent study on entrepreneurship. He hoped to learn from their experience and strengthen his odds of success. One of those lessons was to avoid getting too comfortable. He said that when he launched his business, he and his wife purposefully kept their expenses low so he could invest in making this opportunity work. He had seen others fail because they let their expenses match their income. In the end those individuals couldn’t afford to risk a lower income, and with not enough reserve, they needed to transition to their back-up plan. It always takes longer than you think to get something off the ground, and there are a lot of people who aren’t willing or able to tolerate that duration.

Finally, as you are setting the stage to take on this challenge, Larry points out that it is prudent to have a back-up plan. Investing in a strong network and having a marketable skill set are always good hedges. So rather than viewing it as preemptively quitting, a back-up plan preserves energy that could otherwise be wasted on anxiety and the concerns of what you will do if one venture fails. Instead, safety nets allow more time and energy to go directly into the success of the endeavor.

The worst time could be the best time

It might seem a bit overly ambitious to go straight from a change in career pathway to taking on a risk, but that is precisely what Larry did. When the dot-com bubble hit, Larry realized that his job at a high-flying startup would soon come to an end, and he decided to take a massive leap of faith. He started his own company. He learned from his previous employer’s mistakes and immediately leveraged them to create a solid foundation for his business model. He saw firsthand that employees crave a great culture that is about doing great work and isn’t all about stock price. There was a hole in the marketplace for a consulting company that built itself around client and employee happiness, and Centric Consulting was created with that void in mind.

Additionally, as other employers laid off, it created a talent pool that Larry knew firsthand, giving him atypical access to high-quality staff. Instead of it being a time of loss and devastation, he immediately implemented his industry knowledge and the available resources to create a new company. Almost 20 years later, it has grown to be a $150 million business. So Larry’s recommendation: your worst time can lead to your most incredible opportunities if you are willing to take that risk.

Assess your current situation

With all of this in mind, Larry says right now might be a perfect moment to choose your destination. Many industries are facing some form of disruption right now, and things are not returning to the “old normal.” The result is an increase in options and opportunities. Whether it’s creating a new startup with a low-cost virtual structure, being a digital nomad, or only working six months of the year as part of the gig economy, this time of fluctuation is a time for people ready to make a change. Now is the time to decide if you are one of those people. If you are on a path leading to regrets, this is the perfect chance to change that and explore the freedom created during this time of fluctuation.

We all know that risks can be intimidating. There are so many things that can hold us back; first and foremost, there is the fear of failure. However, now is a good time for us to assess our jobs, and businesses. Instead of letting fear rule us, we can learn from others, make a plan, and work towards creating new possibilities. This pandemic has created a lot of loss, instability and chaos. It has also created a great deal of growth and innovation. The dot-com bubble was the chaotic time of opportunity for Larry English. Twenty years from now, what will the pandemic be for us?

Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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