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What’s the ROI on a “life experience”?

“I think you’re over-intellectualizing this, John*.  Being an entrepreneur isn’t a risk/reward conversation, otherwise nobody would ever do it.”  Thus spake the “sage” of Ottawa, midway through a conversation with a close friend who’s thinking about striking out on his own after a lengthy career within one of the Fortune 500.  Somehow we had started talking about return on investment as it relates to startups, compared to continuing to be a working stiff in the corporate world.

Starting a business is a gutsy, and some might say foolish, exercise.  Your business is going to take longer to get off the ground than you ever imagined (Calliflower has taken nearly seven years!). You’re going to spend way more money than you ever expected. You’re going to earn far less than you “need” to live on.  You will likely bring on investors who will have strong views on your business that you may, or may not, agree with.  You will work more hours than you have ever done before.  And worst of all, you’ll spend more time working in the business – doing the accounting, cleaning, running servers and so on – than you ever anticipated and it will frustrate the heck out of you because you can see the forest for the trees.  It’s just that all those bloody trees are in the way…

And yet there is also:

  • the incredible team that you’re going to build as you build your company. 
  • the joy of bringing a new product to market – the inspiration, perspiration, and perseverance that culiminates in a launch. 
  • the undeniable thrill of customers – the people who part with their hard earned dollars to buy the product or service that you’ve built;  the ones who are passionate enough once they’ve tried your product to tell you and your team what’s good, bad, great, or indifferent about your baby;  and those rare individuals who go out of their way to tell the world that what you all have done is great.
  • the faith that family and friends have in you, and the responsibility that you have when they entrust even a portion of their savings to you and your new business. 
  • the immense opportunity to learn new things.  I guarantee you, and everyone working on the business with you, will learn faster in this “job” than you’ve ever learned before.
  • the network of mentors, advisors and friendships that you will build who are all rooting for this business and every other business you may build in the future.

And maybe, just maybe, at the end of it all you’ll make money out of this incredible life experience. You tell me – what’s the ROI on that kind of experience? 

I’m not even going to try to guess.

*not his real name.

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