[7 of 8] Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur – Internal Risk Management for Start-up

Into the Wilder{ness}with the children of Israel VIII

By Louise Lee

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” Exodus 13:21, The Holy Bible

‘Pillar of Fire’ was the provision of God for the Children of Israel to go through wilderness by night, the purpose was to protect them from risk (potential danger), so that they could continue their journey onto the Promised Land (success).

We have established in the previous article that ‘pillar of fire’ principle represents ‘risk management’ for the start-up. And so far, we have covered the external risks that start-up may face. In this article, I am applying the ‘pillar of fire’ principle to the ‘internal risk management’.

What is ‘the internal risk’ for entrepreneurs?

I would like to define internal risk as anything that is potentially hindering YOU as a person.

Internal risk is anything that is potentially hindering YOU as a person.

Let’s look at it from a different perspective; internal risk can be interpreted as ‘personal crisis’.

Personal crisis if not managed properly will result in failure or collapse of anything you built, that include your family, relationships and business. It is especially critical in the start-up stage when ‘YOU’ are the key person. The logic is simple, when the key person is in crisis, your start-up is shaken, the impact is great.

When personal crisis hits you as a person, it can escalate quickly to become a risk for your start-up, which in turn risking your success. When the driving force behind your organisation is at risk, how can it move forward? The next question is: how to ensure this engine (YOU) is not overrun or is not getting into crisis mode?

Let’s look at some of the potential areas or indicator of internal crisis/risk. Personal crisis often appears in the form of ‘lack’: Lack of knowledge, lack of discernment, lack of confidence, lack of vision and lack of resilience; these are the hollow points in YOU.

Personal crisis often appears in the form of ‘lack’: Lack of knowledge, lack of discernment, lack of confidence, lack of vision and lack of resilience; these are the hollow points in YOU.

Do not let them hinder you but manage them before they hurt.

Manage Your Lack

How to manage your lack? These ‘lack’ are hollow points, the best way to manage it is to fill them with the right material and right actions.

What to do when you lack knowledge? You need not to be very knowledgeable before you can get your start-up on track, but you need to have some basic knowledge of many things. They are your trade or industry, accounts, law, finances, marketing methods, technology… etc. Acknowledge your lack is the first step, fill the lack with “know-how” is important.Be an all-rounded person, this can help you along the path to success. If not, engage the help of experts or more experienced individual if you can afford. If you can’t afford, just learn the bare minimal of everything essential to your business. Read up, take up courses are some low-cost way of becoming knowledgeable.

The most effective way could be finding yourself a mentor or join a community of like-minded people.

“In a company of three, you will find a teacher you can learn from.”A Chinese Proverb

What to do when you lack discernment? You may want to listen to your wife/husband or counsels you tend to ignore. For believers, listen to the inward witness and the voice of the Holy Spirit and ask for discernment.

The ability to discern about timing and what action to take is critical for start-up. Missed opportunity is one of the results of lack of discernment. If you lack discernment, surround yourself with mature and reliable counsels. For believers, ask your Heavenly Father for wisdom. Do know that discernment is one area that you need to work on and pay close attention to.

What to do when you lack confidence? Acknowledge your lack and check for its root. Don’t be surprised that even into your adulthood you may still be seeking approval from authorities that you did not get while growing up.

So, be very careful to check your motive: why you are doing what you are doing. Are you doing these out of fear, insecurity or approval seeking? Try your best to uproot them before they get into your way of success.

Beware! Do not ignore the sign of lack in confidence. The collapse can be great if its roots are to discover later than now.

What to do when you lack vision? You may ask if it is important to have vision. The answer is a definite yes! You need to see at least 2 to 3 years down the road where you see yourself and your start-up, you will then know the next series of action to take.

Once you’ve established your vision, write it down, draw it out, make it bold, hang it somewhere at your work area and look at it constantly. If you can, look a little further about 5 to 10 years ahead, adjust whenever it is necessary.

“Without vision, people perish.” Proverbs 29:18, The Holy Bible

 What to do when you lack resilience? Are you the type that is easily discouraged? Do you find yourself always like a punctured balloon?

Watch your self-talk. Perhaps you are talking to yourself too harshly or you are allowing other people’s words to discourage you.

Be in the accompany of encouragers. Stay away from the negative people.

Refine your purpose and tighten the loose ends. Affirm yourself the purpose and tell yourself you can overcome. Practise your self-talk that affirms and be flexible.

A nugget for the lack of resilience: Be flexible otherwise you will break.

Next time when crisis hits, you can bounce back easily.

Turn your ‘lack’ into arches

Managing these ‘lack’ is critical during start-up especially you can’t see results immediately.

Imagine if you build a structure on top of a hollow ground, when pressure comes, the collapse is great.

Managing your lack is like turning the hollow space into an arch, which allows it to support the pressure from on top.

Bridges are built on arches joint below, which can sustain great pressure above with thousands of cars coming through daily.

You are the architect of your start-up, spare a little thought over your ‘lack’, turn them into arches by applying the principle of “Pillar of Fire”.

In application to entrepreneur’s start-up journey, identify your ‘internal risk’ or ‘lack’ before you build anything on top. This step is important, remember the ‘pillar of fire’ lights the way in dark, this allows the Children of Israel to identify the potential danger, this safeguard their journey towards the Promised Land.

Last but not the least, be well-versed of your own lack, work hard to turn them into strength, you will see success rather than unexpected collapse along the way.

Stay tuned for the next and final article in the series:

Ancient Secrets for the 21st Century Entrepreneur: “NO TURNING BACK”!




[6 of 8] Ancient Principles for the 21st Century Entrepreneur Risk Management for Start-up

Following the Children of Israel into the Wilderness VII

Risk management for start-up is an important issue to consider for the entrepreneurs.

First thing first, let’s refer to the Biblical context again.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”  Exodus 13:21, The Holy Bible

So far, we have been following the Children of Israel into the wilderness. As they went on their way, there were pillar of cloud and pillar of fire to lead them. Pillar of cloud was for the day, pillar of fire was for the night.

What would you expect when if you were wandering on foot in an uninhibited land?

It spells DANGER… especially at night when the vision is not clear.

Like you, the Children of Israel was probably expecting ‘potential danger’ when they wandered in the wilderness (an uninhibited land).

But the good news is that they were protected. They were not alone because the LORD led them by a pillar of fire, so they can travel by night in safety.

Other than guidance, fire drives away potential external danger at night: wild animals would stay away from them.

Fire also provides warmth; sudden drop in temperature at night could be life-threatening. Fire provides light for a clear vision.

External danger for the entrepreneurs

‘Pillar of Fire’ signifies a protection from life-threatening risk for the start-up. No entrepreneurs should expect a risk-free journey towards success, but risk should be properly managed or anticipated at every turn.

Risk = potential danger at night

What are the potential dangers (risk) for entrepreneurs?

The nature of risk is largely not within our control, but we can manage the magnitude of its impact on our start-up today and make way for its future.

First, environmental darkness poses great risk that is totally out of anyone’s control.

Natural disasters, war, political instability, poverty are some good examples of this kind of risk. In the natural, these situations could be damaging for some, but at the same time they generate opportunity for entrepreneurs that seek to meet the needs of the people in crisis.

If you live in an environment that are prone to these kind of risk, consider shifting your approach to a social enterprise. It is one of the most meaningful form of businesses, instead of starting a charity, you are providing business solutions to address unmet needs.

If you are one that can identify emerging social needs and gaps, you should explore starting a social enterprise. A social enterprise has a great potential in making a difference, create value and help solve social challenges in sustainable ways.

Economy downturn/meltdown

The second type of risk is largely a financial one. It is for those who live a stable economy, where financial services and all of kinds business flourish. Be prepared as there is no guarantee that economy continues to grow.

In affluent societies, the biggest financial risk for entrepreneurs would be bankruptcy.

Since there is no guarantee that all business start-up will succeed, the risk of losing your investments is present. As an entrepreneur, mental preparation of financial failure should always be in your plan B. Before you invest in anything, understand everything have its risk, always keep an alternative plan (or diversify your approach), you can minimise the damage if you meet with a financial crisis in your country or in the country you invested in.

Be prepared for the worst, if you are prepared, you have a chance to be those odd ones remain standing when economy took a down turn. Even if you lose everything, you can still stand up again and do something different.

Territorial Risk/Cross-border Risk

Third, when your business expands internationally, beware of the law in the country you are going into. Work with reliable local entities to ensure compliance in your respective industry. In this sense, you can minimise the cross-border risk.

The success or failure of a business in their international expansion is determined by how well one understands their host countries. The risk could lead to debt or even law suits, in some cases, it risks also your professional licence.

Be diligent in knowing your host country inside out before your venture out!

Human Factor

Lastly, the most unpredictable risk is rooted in human weakness that include fraud, mismanagement of fund, bribery, short of labour, mismanagement of all kinds and many more.

Human error leads to collapse of empire, business is no exception. However, the ability to amend from one’s mistake is wisdom. Learn from the industry guru is important, it is not necessary to revamp the wheel if successful examples exist. Experience from a mentor can save you from detours to your success.

Furthermore, human factor is not totally undetectable. It can be studied, understood and managed. If you envision to build a company of certain size, you should be endeavour in becoming a people person. Managing people requires great wisdom.

People are your assets; they are your customers, they are your staff and overall “human” is the key element of a successful business. Learn to build people, not to use people. It is a healthy practice to your business.

When crisis hits, it is the people you built who will stick with you.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. “ Eccl. 4:9-12, The Holy Bible


Are you a risk taker? Entrepreneurs are risk takers.

There is no perfect timing to launch out into the deep, but you should consider the likely risk in the respective environment before making a move.

Overall a word of caution: never start any business in Isolation, be connected, be knowledgeable, always be teachable and learn as much as you can.

Risk are to be identified, assessed and managed but it should never be something that freeze you from action.

P.S. ‘Pillar of fire’ provides light so you can see in the environment that is dark. Anticipate risk is possible when there is light, it serves as protection as well.

Next article will be on “Internal risk management”, stay tuned!