The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster

The entrepreneur business is one of the best businesses in the United States. It’s an exciting business; it’s a challenging business; it’s a business that can deliver billions of dollars to winners and scoop up all of the money that the losers ever earned in their lifetime, leaving them poor, if not destitute.

The entrepreneur business, with its highs and its lows, is akin to the high that a gambler gets in Las Vegas. There are high stake chips involved, and every time the entrepreneur rolls the dice, his or her fate goes on the line. It’s a nerve-wracking business, to say the least, and sometimes the entrepreneur is confident. Other times the entrepreneur is crushed. Sometimes the entrepreneur wakes up and thinks of himself as a billionaire. Other times, he’s broke.

The truth is that to win at the entrepreneur game and make your money, you have to be cautiously realistic. I never want to dash the dreams and the hopeful spirit of a talented entrepreneur. But, at the same time, I don’t want to see any entrepreneur – or 99% of the entrepreneurs – risk everything, only to find out that they’ve bet on a number that won’t ever come up.

The problem with this emotional cycle is that it causes the entrepreneur to think in a way that is less than rational. Rather than getting help when help is needed, the entrepreneur will go and get help only when they become desperate and unable to pay. To be cautiously optimistic is a more realistic entrepreneurial attitude and these types of business owners will typically ask for help before they find themselves in a critical situation.

I counsel entrepreneurs to be realistic about the likelihood of their success, knowing that there are some who will be massively successful, but most will be trivially successful, if at all. The one thing, however, I caution all entrepreneurs to do is to guard their company stock with their life. Treat every single share as if it has a tremendous amount of market value. I’ve seen entrepreneurs who give 5% to this cousin for a few dollars, 10% to that friend for a few dollars more, etc. I ask the entrepreneurs when I get involved with them, “How many ‘10%s’ are available for you to give away before you have no stock left?”

That’s the one place where entrepreneurs frequently make a mistake, and it’s usually the place that causes them to reach out to me – after they’ve made a couple of errors. There are lots of other places where entrepreneurs need to reach out. For example, they should reach out for help when: they have critical meetings with investors, when they have critical meetings with suppliers, when they have critical meetings with potential customers, joint venture partners, licensors, licensees or anybody who is going to make a material impact on the business. Each of these is a place when the entrepreneur should reach out and ask for some help.

If you need help, you’re welcome to call our office, but at the very least, if you don’t take our help, get help from somebody who you trust. Get this person to help you and your company to cross the finish line, because the entrepreneur game is a great game. But you want to make sure you turn the game and the chips that you have on the table into real wealth so you can provide a great life for your family.