THE BLOG
11/11/2013 05:07 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Are YOU Your Greatest Risk?

When confronted by the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program orientation, the first thing I looked into was our potential for growth. We needed to recognize the difference between an opportunity and an idea. You can always have a lot of great ideas, but if they do not have a strategy to make the idea a reality, then they may be best left to the poets and philosophers.

We had an idea that was tangible. To make sure that the opportunity could then be followed by a clearly defined strategy, I needed to assign and evaluate our company's risk. A risk assessment that I was writing even had a boat sinking in the ocean. I thought of everything that might deflect our path from our current plans. After assigning a score to the risks, glaring at me in the center of the report were some of the most sickening realizations. I was my biggest risk.

If anything happened to me, the business would fail to operate and subsequently, dissolve. Any family depending upon this income would need to scramble and start from scratch. There were no written systems. If I did not die, the business would just simply dissolve because there were no contingency plans. I never thought while we were creating this business about how important it was to be writing and leaving a paper trail behind about how operations functioned. I was too caught up in the excitement of growing sales and maintaining the day-to-day activities that I did not realize one person doing nearly everything was such a colossal risk.

This did not mean that I needed to immediately hire a lot of people. It just meant that I needed to get out of my own way. I needed to step back with a vision of how this company could run if I were in the hospital for a few weeks or worse. I needed to put a documented paper trail in place all about operating our little puzzle company. I started buying services that would take the logistical load of fulfillment off of my shoulders. I bought technology to streamline the daily applications so the company could run seamlessly without me being in my chair. By assessing myself as a risk, I was designing a new way of thinking that would lead me to innovation.

Defining risk allows you to face what is necessary and recognize potential fatal flaws before it is too late. If you have not set up a standard operational procedure to be found and followed, you could be the largest risk to the health of your company. By pulling away and assessing what risk you may be to your company, you will continue to focus on the trajectory of growth that you spent all that time creating.

I am no longer the biggest risk. Our plan is laid out and backed up. If anything ever does happen to me, it won't be the end of Eni Puzzles. Now instead of worrying about what happens if I am in the hospital for a few weeks, I can look into seeing what happens if I am in the Caribbean for a few days.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.