Do Startup Entrepreneurs need a “Quit” Strategy?
I feel very qualified to answer this question as I’ve had some success as an entrepreneur and builder of businesses, but certainly not without experiencing some bumps and even a monumental failure along the way.
The question, however, was deeper and more existential than I had initially contemplated. It forces you to define what an entrepreneur is and does in contrast to that of a corporate executive. Of course, there are more similarities between them as they both must possess the requisite business acumen to be successful. But a clear distinction that separates them is the attempted personification of business by the entrepreneur, who is often the founder. In many respects, the founder’s identity is defined by the success and failure of the business and in extreme cases, the two are the same.
So my answer to this question would be “no” as I do not believe one should ever quit oneself. It is this instinct to survive that heightens our sense of purpose and inspires us to exhaust all avenues before we accept contingency any plan. An entrepreneur is like an unrelenting boxer absorbing all the early-round body blows but recalibrates and digs deeper to find enough courage and strength to prevail in the end. I believe the essence of a founder/entrepreneur is their willingness to never give up. A corporate officer/consultant posted this comment on the same forum wall, “If you are in a 2-person airplane and the pilot dies, and you have a parachute, you WILL exit the plane. If you don’t, you will learn how to fly and land the plane, or die trying.” Thankfully, learning to survive in business is not fatal. Important lessons are borne from this struggle and can help prepare us for long term greatness.
This persistence found in an entrepreneur is not necessarily virtuous, and some folks may even deem it to be foolish. Often, when success comes early in life, we mistake this for our own greatness; our ego and a bit of narcissism can color our judgment. This is the time when the inner boxer in us is unwilling to stay down for the count when everyone else can clearly see the devastation the fight has brought to us. Also, no one see the hurt the fight has brought to others – especially the family/friends who depend on the boxer’s survival in the ring. However still, if your own financial security is at stake, would you wager on the boxer to come out a victor knowing that he was walking into the fight with a conscious and prepared quit strategy?
Just as there are rules in boxing to protect the boxer from himself, there are legal and strategic protocols in business to protect the entrepreneur from him or herself. A well-prepared entrepreneur would be wise to ensure there are important KPIs (key performance indicator) to measure performance, thoughtfully constructed contracts to address all eventualities, and an outside advisory board or other trusted professionals to objectively help assess business conditions. A fate of a startup involves many known variables mixed in with surprises, but the life sustaining factor is the determination and passion in the heart of the unrelenting boxer who refuses to go down for the count.