Smart Risks

There’s this image that people have of what a “real” entrepreneur looks like:

Step 1: Quit your job

Step 2: Start your company

Step 3: Eat ramen for many, many years

Step 4: Hope

I’ve never seen the logic behind this approach, and because of that, I figured the (entrepreneur)ship—sorry, couldn’t help myself—had sailed given the first few decisions I made after graduating from college (e.g., small things like going to law school, becoming a lawyer).

Thankfully, one of my mentors shared something that totally changed my outlook: Real entrepreneurs don’t seek risk, they calculate it and they mitigate it. 

Sure, founders by definition are risk-takers. But, the only way to beat the odds is to take smart risks.  Quitting your job before you even know if you’ve landed on a solution that people actually need and want, before you’ve established your business model, before you’ve identified your customers? That’s an objectively not-so-smart risk. 

Entrepreneurship doesn’t need to be experienced in a pressure cooker of your own making, where you can’t choose the strategy that’s smartest for your business because it also means that you can’t pay rent next month.  In fact, a team of researchers studied this exact issue, setting out to determine whether you should quit your day job if you want to do something entrepreneurial. They concluded that those who kept their jobs while pursuing another venture were 33% less likely to fail than those who quit their jobs altogether.  They explain that a staged approach, where entrepreneurs can take the time to gain important knowledge about their new businesses “has important implications for new business survival.”

It’s a trade-off, of course, and there’s something very valid to be said about passion and throwing caution to the wind, especially if that’s your particular M.O. and it results in your best work.  But, learning that there are other options that fit my style and instincts opened up a totally new, dynamic path to entrepreneurship that works for me.  

However, for the record, ramen is delicious.

Divya Jayachandran, Grocer8