TAKE BIGGER RISKS – Reid Hofmann talks with Shellye Archambeau, Former CEO, MetricStream
Masters of Scale podcasts with Reid Hoffman.


It’s a common mistake to see planning and risk-taking as opposite ends of a spectrum. In fact, every great plan relies on taking an intelligent risk. Risk is the nitroglycerin that launches your idea to the next stage, rather than obliterating it. You have to play the long game, understanding how a risk now will maximize your gains much later.

urned out, every single CEO of IBM started out in sales. So I needed to start out in sales, which my Wharton friends thought was nuts: “What do you mean, you come out of Wharton and you’re going to go to sales at IBM?” Right?

I think the best first job – and I don’t care what you want to do in life – is a sales job. Best job. You learn how to ask for what you need. You ask for the order. And you learn how to be resilient and that a “no” is not the end of the world. You learn how to negotiate. You learn how to listen. You learn how to solve problems.

It’s so much easier for CEOs, especially when you’re newer CEOs, to believe that your investors and your board members and whatever know more than you do. They do know more than you do – but they typically don’t know more about your company, your market, your customers, your team. And so you’ve got to have the strength and the resilience to believe in yourself and take that risk. So I consider those big risks that I took; right thing, big risk.

ARCHAMBEAU: I try to have the most informed perspective, and then take the overall decision. But risks, it’s the same that I use personally. I’m like, “Alright, what’s the best that can happen? What’s the worst that can happen? Can I live with that? Alright, what’s the worst that can happen, now are there some mitigating steps that will help?” I do all of that. And then try to basically take the bigger bets – cause there are always safer bets, but the reason I take the bigger bets is, I’ve never believed that the odds were in my favor. 


And so if I just play the odds and take the safe bets all the time, I’m not gonna get what I want out of life. Life may be fine, I’m not saying it’s gonna be a bad life, but I’m not gonna get what I want out of life. And that, to me, means you take the bigger bets and you take the risks.

HOFFMAN: Now, again, I think that’s exactly right: intelligent, calculated risks with alternative plans and mitigation. If more people did that, we’d have a much more productive society.

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