What Does It Take to Navigate the Unknown? These Experts Weigh In

Expanding your business by exploring new, unknown territory can be intimidating, but the results may be well worth the risk.
December 15, 2016

With a new year quickly approaching and potential changes on the horizon, it's not uncommon for business owners to look ahead and wonder what the coming months will bring. If you plan on making some changes to your business in 2017, new territory may seem daunting.

While the unknown can cause uneasiness, at the same time it can be thrilling. After all, there can be a sense of excitement at what lies around the next bend. The truth is, great business ideas can come from forging into unfamiliar surroundings and scenarios.

“Rather than seeing the world as it is, successful business owners see the world as it could be and create opportunity by stepping into the space that isn't yet created," says Greg Head, CEO of Greg Head Consulting, which advises business owners on navigating the challenges of company growth. "They essentially make it up and then make it obvious for the rest of the world." 

The Benefits of Exploring Unknown Territory

“We naturally crave certainty, but that doesn't exist in a competitive marketplace," says strategic consultant Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage. “As a business leader, you must keep your business moving forward, and there is no way you can foretell the future, so everything is an unknown. At the same time, it's important to remember that there's a direct correlation between risk and opportunity. Those business leaders who recognize this fact are the ones who enjoy long-term success."

When embarking on a project with many unknown variables, it's essential to stay positive and not second guess yourself.

—Jon Sebastiani, founder, KRAVE Jerky

The unknown can be scary to business owners, but it can also open up endless possibilities, agrees Jon Sebastiani, founder of KRAVE Jerky. Sebastiani speaks from personal experience: He sold KRAVE and then launched Sonoma Brands, a consumer products incubator and venture fund.

“The newness of the unknown can spark creativity and open up opportunities beyond what you could ever imagine," he says. “When I founded KRAVE, people viewed jerky as a gas station snack, and the category was sleepy. Through embracing the unknown, we embarked on the jerky renaissance by elevating the snack and targeting new, previously untapped audiences. Now at Sonoma Brands, we offer the same insight to the brands in our portfolio."

Tips for Making the Most of Uncharted Territory

As you navigate the journey into the unknown over the coming months and year, keep the following strategies in mind.

Manage growth. “One of the most important decisions an owner faces is maintaining the size and quality of the company while seeking the growth found in new opportunities," says Alexander Joyce, president and CEO of ReJoyce Financial LLC, a full-service retirement income planning firm. “A successful company has a well-defined plan for growth that recognizes the uncertainties of the future and proposes proactive responses to potential situations."

Stay confident and keep your higher purpose at the forefront. “When embarking on a project with many unknown variables, it's essential to stay positive and not second-guess yourself," says Sebastiani. “As you move into the unknown, many decisions need to be made, and you'll require a firm hold of your company's core beliefs and mission to make them."

Don't be afraid of change. “Avoid allowing fear to compromise your leadership," advises Panaggio. “Stay steadfast in your resolve to face the unknown with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, even if you are as frightened as a child in a haunted house. Don't show it."

Involve your team. Employees are one of the best assets of a successful company," says Joyce. “Share the company's plans and allow their input, which is likely to provide you with viable suggestions along the way."

Engage your employees as you forge into uncharted territory, agrees Panaggio. “If you empower your people to help with the planning and implementation of change, there will be greater buy-in and less fear about the unknown for everyone."

Learn from successes and failures. View both the wins and the losses of the journey as opportunities to learn and grow. You can analyze the situations you mastered and those you didn't for clues as to how to succeed in the future.

Read more articles on planning for growth.

Photo: iStock