No one ever said that starting a business was easy. If it were, more people would do it. Likewise, no one ever said that running a business...

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No one ever said that starting a business was easy. If it were, more people would do it.


Likewise, no one ever said that running a business was easy. If that were true, most startups would succeed. But most fail.


Business is all about risk: assessing risk, managing risk.


But it is also sometimes about taking a deep breath, looking all around you, then doing what my friend and colleague Mark Burnett calls “jumping in” — following a well-informed instinct or a calculated hunch even when others cannot see or understand your vision.


If you are starting or expanding a business, you may already realize that you are a risk-taker.


The natural question to ask yourself is whether what you are considering doing is a well-calculated risk or whether you are poised to take what I would call a chance — a long shot that depends largely on luck.


I dislike taking chances; but I think taking a well-calculated risk is the cornerstone of entrepreneurship.


Excerpt


Reprinted from “The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build, or Manage a Business,” by Martha Stewart. Copyright © 2005. Permission granted by Rodale Inc.

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.


The entertainment business is full of risk-loving entrepreneurs.


People do not necessarily think of actors, directors or producers as entrepreneurs, but they are.


They come up with a Big Idea, develop it, invest in it, nurture it, and try to sell it to the public.


When it works, they can enjoy huge financial success and acclaim. When it does not work, some disappear into obscurity.


And so my decision to work with Burnett on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” and on a new live-audience format for my daily daytime television show, “Martha,” represented a well-calculated, but big and deeply personal risk for both me and the company. It also involved some risk for Burnett.


As the producer of “Eco-Challenge,” “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and “Rock Star,” Burnett is given credit for revolutionizing television.


He has been called the young Father of Reality TV, has won an Emmy award and was named as one of the Top 101 Most Powerful People in Entertainment by Entertainment Weekly.


Not bad for a former British paratrooper who arrived in this country with $600 and no college education.


Like all good entrepreneurs, Burnett has overcome numerous stumbling blocks.


For example, when he pitched his idea for “Survivor,” the first couple of networks looked at him strangely and turned him down.


But his idea has been proved so dramatically right that Burnett now has the confidence, and funding, to try all kinds of innovative things, including a collaboration with me.


During my legal travails, but before my trial in 2004, a good friend told me that Burnett had expressed interest in meeting me. I was intrigued, so I agreed, and he flew to New York. I liked him instantly.


Although he was deeply concerned about my legal affairs, he was not put off by them.


He explained that he watched my television show with great interest and he was looking for a successful businesswoman to extend “The Apprentice” format. It was a very good meeting.


Burnett knows a thing or two about risk. He has authored a book called “Jump In! Even If You Don’t Know How to Swim.”


In it he describes hair-raising encounters with lethal snakes and monsoons, natural challenges he faced while making shows like “Survivor” and “Eco-Challenge.”


Reading the book, you understand that he is a hardworking, adventure-loving person who is not afraid to follow his hunches.


“I operate on instinct,” he says.


While that may be true, Burnett has made himself an expert in his brand of television, and he spares no expense and no effort to bring the highest quality values to his shows that he possibly can. That is what I found so appealing.


You might think that I would have bristled at the idea of hosting “The Apprentice.”


My edition was to be a sequel of sorts to the popular original, which starred Donald Trump.


I have never played second fiddle. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia specializes in creating and originating ideas. Did the world want or even need another version of this reality show? Did I really want to follow someone else’s act? And what about creative control? We had never given that to anyone before.


In trying to convince me to do “The Apprentice,” Burnett made me his customer, and he connected with me.


He visited me several times when I was in Alderson (the federal prison for women in West Virginia).


In our conversations, he inspired me to think about all kinds of new things we could try on my new live show, and I agreed to let him serve as my executive producer.


He had convinced me that he was, indeed, an expert in this form of television, that his work ethic was excellent and that his instincts were sharp.


He also seemed to understand the big picture of my company’s story while so many others were focusing on the short-term details.


“People told me it was a risk to work with Martha,” Burnett has said. “I could see that her brand was way more full of integrity and future value than anyone was giving the company credit for.”


Here are a few more tidbits that he noticed about me: I like a good laugh. I love a good practical joke. I like to goof around a bit. Would it hurt to show that side of me?


Burnett and I took a well-calculated risk that a new, more spontaneous format with a live audience was a wonderful way for me to come back from my difficult experiences.


And I realized that “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” provided us with a different sort of platform to display the excellence of the company, its philosophy, its beliefs and its commitment to Good Things.


I am so pleased that I took the risk, that Burnett was wise enough to take this risk, and that we embarked on this television adventure together.


Burnett has a favorite North African proverb that he repeats to would-be entrepreneurs: “Choose your companions before you choose your road.”


What if I had not taken the risk and had said no to Burnett?


I would be doing something else interesting, something else of high quality and uniquely fitting to celebrate my return to television.


I have observed that inexperienced businesspeople sometimes make poor decisions because they are terrified that opportunity will pass them by and they will regret it for the rest of their lives. That is rarely, if ever, true.


You should never try something that makes you uncomfortable or that you are ill-prepared to undertake just because you think you may never get another chance. That chance will come.


Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and intellectually first, and you will be able to differentiate a long shot from a good, well-calculated risk.