Brave business: The power of soft landings in business

- September 18, 2023 3 MIN READ
brave business owner concept: a business woman stands face to face with a roaring lion

Recently, as part of a masterclass I presented, I reflected on the decision that saw me step away from a full-time job and into business ownership for the first time. Someone suggested it was a brave thing to do, writes Kelly Exeter.

Was it brave, though?

At the time, I was freelancing (mostly stuff for family and friends) while working a full-time job. With my freelancing, I’d reached a point where I had so much work it was taking up all my spare time. I was also starting to turn away work from ‘real’ clients (i.e. people who weren’t family and friends) because I didn’t have enough hours in the week.

Was it a significant risk to step away from my job and turn my side hustle into a full-time gig?

Well … I was married with no kids. My husband was supportive of the idea. We had a mortgage, but it was small enough that his income could cover it if I didn’t make any money from my business. And the company I worked for was clear: if things didn’t work out, they’d have me back in a heartbeat.

All of which to say, if I crashed and burned with my business, the landing would be soft. Probably the only thing bruised would be my ego, and I could definitely live with a bruised ego.

So, I took the leap and, within three months, was making the same amount in the business as I’d been making as an employee.

Many years later – a point in time when my husband and I were both working in the business – we faced a decision where the risks were much bigger. We were older, had two kids, a lovely home we’d worked hard to acquire, and the income to support a nice lifestyle. In a nutshell – there was much more than bruised egos on the line this time.

As we sat and contemplated the decision, we looked at the worst that could happen. And that was that we’d have to sell our lovely home and go live with his dad. Moving back in with their parents would be a terrible blow for many people. For us, it was not. We’d lived with him before and enjoyed it. And we believed living with my father-in-law was highly preferable to being homeless with two kids. While the thought of losing our lovely home was slightly less palatable, we were confident the risk would pay off. And in the end, it did. But it’s important to note we’d never have taken that risk if we weren’t comfortable that the landing available to us if we crashed and burned would be tolerably ‘soft’.

Brave businesses

I’ve been a business owner for nearly 25 years now and, over that time, have done many things that would have appeared ‘brave’ to the outside observer. And I’ve observed other people do things that could be considered brave, too.

When we observe others doing brave things, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they’re ‘ballsy’ or assume they have a higher tolerance for risk than us. Sometimes this is true, but often, there is a soft landing we can’t see, waiting to catch them if they fall. Things like:

  • A partner’s income or emergency fund to bail them out financially
  • Parents who can give them an interest-free loan to get them back on their feet
  • A network of contacts who can give them work in a time of need

How can the power of soft landings help you in your business?

First of all, it allows you to park the thought that everyone is braver than you. If you want to make assumptions, a better one is that everyone has different resources to call on in times of need and failure that you probably can’t see.

Second, it can help you shift your focus the next time you’re making a big decision. Yes, being brave requires assessing risk and adequately considering the consequences of failure. But now, you can also consider the soft landings available to you and add those into the decision mix.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"