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Making the Leap to Become an Entrepreneur
A friend of mine, “John,” often shows strong interest in being an entrepreneur.
John has numerous business ideas, some of them quite good, and he wonders if he should patent his innovations and found a startup. He is intrigued by the opportunities entrepreneurship offers, including the chance to learn new skills and control one’s own destiny.
For years, John has asked questions of entrepreneurs we know, lamented never founding a business, and mused about making the leap.
But entrepreneurship isn’t a path for everyone.
It requires not just insight and passion, but the willingness and ability to take on significant risks, as well as an accurate sense of judgment. It’s a decision that should be made carefully, knowing that there is no shame in sticking to a conventional career path.
Becoming an entrepreneur means accepting risks that don’t come with conventional jobs and careers. Startups have a 19 in 20 chance of failure, and in the beginning, often don’t pay very well.
Entrepreneurs are committed enough to their ideas to accept these hazards, even though many of them could easily run a division of a large company or another “safer” option–and many have in the past. In my own case, starting Han Santos meant leaving my position as a partner in an established law firm.
Not everyone has the disposition or the means to accept the risks of entrepreneurship. People who are risk-averse will not be able to take the leap into entrepreneurship no matter how brilliant their business ideas.
In addition, many people’s personal circumstances do not allow them to take on the risks of entrepreneurship.
Unlike when I started Han Santos, I now have a mortgage, children on the verge of college, obligations to my elderly parents, and other responsibilities that weigh against taking the leap into entrepreneurship. John, the would-be entrepreneur, has similar considerations.
Developing business judgment
For those who can accept the risks of founding a start-up, the next crucial step is to develop a sense of good judgment. In business, this is far from simple: how can you tell if a successful outcome came from insight, or mere coincidence?
To better evaluate judgment, allow me to introduce the notion of the “called shot.” Metaphorically, it’s a prediction of the future that can be proven or disproven.
In a game of billiards, it is customary to state the shot that you are about to make. For example, you may say, “Nine ball in the left corner pocket, off the two.” Therefore, when you sink the nine ball with the two ball, there is no question that this was intentional.
When you articulate risk factors and mitigation strategies for your idea, make sure they are “called shots.” You should be able to tell whether you were right or wrong, distinguish measured risk from recklessness, and pivot when presented with new information.
The bold heart of an entrepreneur
To found a start-up, you must begin with an idea that will give you no peace. You must then be not only willing, but compelled to turn your insight into action, despite the obstacles.
However, even motivated innovators with brilliant ideas should first consider whether they are willing to shoulder the risks and develop the keen judgment required to succeed.
Returning to my friend John, he has a wonderful family, enjoys his job, and is a respected resource and friend to those around him. We both know that if he were going to pull the trigger on a start-up, he would have done so long ago.
John understands what I have explained here: that not everyone is an entrepreneur, and not everyone should be. But for those who do have the heart of an entrepreneur and an idea that motivates them, entrepreneurship is among the most fulfilling and creative pursuits imaginable.
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