Not Everyone Needs To Take The Same Risks

When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.
–Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)

Last week I read a couple posts about hiring MBAs into startups by Ed Zimmerman and Phin Barnes. They took a thoughtful look at hiring and funding MBAs, with both largely ending up on the “it ultimately depends – but I’m usually extra cautious about it” answer. My view is a little more nuanced view, in that I think that most MBAs should ignore the startup hype and go after the big roles at corporates that they dream about. Much like a Rabbi telling the wannabe convert to get stuffed 3 times before welcoming  them into the fold, founders should push the limits of potential MBA candidates.

If they don’t do the startup thing, it’s totally ok! Other people do not need to define success, or their life, the way that a startup founder does. It makes me extremely upset when I see startups poopooing other people’s career goals as not valiant. It is perfectly acceptable, and more logical, to make a conscious effort to de-risk career choices. Hell, in the depths of the dark days there isn’t a single startup founder who makes it past the “just messing around stage” that doesn’t rethink their own huge risk taking. Over the past year I’ve had more than my share of dark days, many of which had me thinking how to seriously de-risk.

When an MBA decides to take on the extra risk, they can be a huge asset. Many MBAs have an element of unrestrained ambition that makes them a force when deployed in the right way. They will give up all other aspects of their life for professional success, throw personal relationships out the door and maybe even sacrifice their own health. They also usually have the intelligence and attitude to be a key contributor to the team. The problem, as both Phin and Ed point out, is that they are usually wired to take safe bets and seek out status, security and prestige. As a founder, you question their motives for wanting to be involved, worse you fear that they’ll jump ship when something shinier comes along.  If you can find one that truly wants to be involved, they usually have something to prove and that kind of fire translates into an employee that will be very hard to stop.

So when an MBA comes looking for startup opportunities as their modern “safety school” equivalent, they get shown the door.  If you put up every roadblock and they knock them down one by one and are relentless because either your idea or your team is something they need to be a part of, then open up and use their fire to your benefit.

Not Everyone Needs To Take The Same Risks

Why I became an Entrepreneur (the short story)

During my last trip back to the East Coast it was obvious that people didn’t understand why I’d become an entrepreneur. Why give up a successful career trajectory for something with a 90% chance of failure? It bothered me and I wanted to start getting my thoughts down, I want to revisit and expand on this topic later. For now, the basic answer is that my life goals and desired lifestyle are not achievable with a job.

Like @mattmireles I grew up as the middle class kid amongst the super rich. This gave me both a strong desire to change my economic positon and also an outsiders mentality. It was obvious that the if the status quo remained I’d never move up. So throughout my life I’ve tried to create things that break the paradigm.

While my last job was perfect for me, the next roles I saw in the future weren’t. It was apparent that the highest I could reach at a large company would be an exec role entrusted to maintaining steady growth and compensated to live a comfortable, and always working, lifestyle. This just wasn’t what I personally wanted and the thought of settling down into a routine job and lifestyle scared me. I still harbor dreams of changing the world and living an adventure. The corporate career path seemed to conflict with that dream.

Entrepreneurship on the other hand feeds directly on passion, profit from disrupting the status quo, and is one of the biggest adventures one could undertake. There is a definitive risk of failure, but the payoff if successful in both money and status is far beyond what is achievable in a job. In essence I’m risking comfort for a chance to be extraordinary.

Its hard at this very moment because I’m not earning what I was, but I’m compensated well by having a lot of fun, working with great people and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This first project, successful or not, is a chance to really learn the ropes and in that way I see it as an investment.

I know quite a few of the readers here have made, or are contemplating, similar decisions. Use the comment box to tell us what you think.

Why I became an Entrepreneur (the short story)