FSB Author Article
My Inspiration Story
By Tom Panaggio,
Author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge
Where did your inspiration come from?
It's the question I am asked the most, always followed by "why did you write a book?" and "where did your unique perspective on success have its genesis?"
The truth is I have no muse or special place I go for inspiration, and the unique perspective of the book literally came to me while I was sitting staring at a blank computer screen thinking about sports car racing.
My original intention was to write my business memoirs and share the secret to my success, but the first drafts were rambling messes that offered nothing insightful. I wasn't giving my readers anything of value -- no specific message or inspirational guidance. It was a bland history lesson on a nondescript company, one that was successful, yet relatively unremarkable. Not a formula that sells tons of books!
Writing a book is no different than being an entrepreneur and starting business. An author is obligated to provide value to his or her "customer," the reader, as any business must. Without real value the reader has no reason to read. My message was my value set. To compete with the thousands of books published each week, I had to provide my customers with an impactful reason to read.
An entrepreneur who focuses their business on themselves will fail just as easily as an author whose message simply strokes their ego. All customers must be provided real value and I knew my rambling mess of a book was valueless in its original condition. But I also knew that my entrepreneurial success had a valuable message that would provide plenty of value to my readers. I could literally feel the message in my heart and soul; I just needed to go deep inside to extract it.
The moment came while I was racing a sports car. Actually, I was thinking about a race I had recently won and the circumstances which provided me the opportunity to win. Ok, ok, honestly, I was just sitting at my computer day dreaming, admiring my guile and shrewdness in how I managed to put myself in a position to win. I guess I can stroke my ego when I am daydreaming.
At the heart of my writing predicament was this nagging feeling that hard work, commitment and dedication was not really the basis of my success. Virtuous and noble certainly but plenty of businesses fail when the entrepreneur possesses all of these qualities. In fact 80% of all businesses fail within the first three years! So there had to be some other "thing" that provided an edge.
As I sat at my computer rerunning 30 years of history, my mind wandered back to that race I won. I thought about the very moment that I was given the opportunity to take the lead and how that put me in a position to win.
I had qualified second and would be starting the race on the front row. From the start I had to fight for position with the competitor next to me and we took the first turn side by side right on the razor's edge between control and mayhem. We maintained this position down the straightaway to the second turn still trying to out maneuver one another to gain that edge. Again, we both had to take Turn Two side by side but because he was on the inside he gained a slight advantage. As we went toward Turn Three I saw that he was moving over toward my side of the track. He was going to cut me off and I now had to make a pivotal decision.
And as I recalled this incident, I had an epiphany: the reason some entrepreneurs are successful over the long term is they have the courage to embrace risk to get opportunity. When I realized that my competitor was going to cut me off, I had to make a choice -- back off and let him have the turn and try to get by him at another chance. Or take this opportunity to get what I want, the lead. My desire to win was too strong and I had to grab the opportunity, right then. I jammed my foot down on the gas pedal, drove off the track to avoid smashing into him, kept control of the car and came back onto the track in first place. Now the real test, I had to stay in the lead which meant more risk for more opportunity.
My message was now very clear, success comes to those who recognize a worthy risk and have the courage to take it. Embracing risk is not a singular event but must be done continuously.
© 2014 Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge
Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge, has enjoyed a thirty-year entrepreneurial career as co-founder of two successful direct marketing companies: Direct Mail Express (which now employs over 400 people and is a leading direct marketing company) and Response Mail Express (which was eventually sold to an equity fund, Huron Capital Partners). As a result, he can give a true perspective on starting and running a small business. His practical approach to business concepts and leadership is grounded in the belief that success is the result of a commitment to embracing risk as a way to ensure opportunity.
Today Tom lives in Tampa with his wife, Shemi. When he's not speaking or advising entrepreneurs and small businesses, he's spending time with his family -- his three daughters, Ashley, Christine, and Elizabeth, are all pursuing their college degrees -- or he's out on a racetrack.