Business Is Like War; Easy To Begin But Hard To Stop
Nov 2 2008

The title of this post was inspired by a fortune cookie fortune.  For those of you who are new readers, I did some posts a while back using fortunes from fortune cookies as blog titles.  I thought this one was particularly appropriate given how challenging entrepreneurship can be and given the state of our economy.  But here’s the interesting part, the fortune cookie actually read: “Love is like war; easy to begin but hard to stop.” 

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I felt myself nodding knowingly inside when I read it.  How true it is in relation to both Love and Business.  How relatively easy it can be to start a business or fall in love.  We tell ourselves, it’s just an idea/romantic feeling…let’s see where it goes.  One thing after another happens and if you don’t chicken out (or the playing field of potential significant others or stable jobs doesn’t pull you away), you find yourself: 

Business Love
   
Exploring ideas Dating
Incorporating your business Being in a committed relationship
Raising funds Getting engaged
Hiring people Getting married
Raising more funds Buying a house
Releasing new products Having kids
Hiring more people Hiring domestic help or losing your mind
Taking longer to break even Taking longer to adjust to life with kids
Laying off people Hiring a marriage counselor
Feeling an air of desperation Experiencing a mid-life crisis
Closing up shop or going bankrupt Getting a divorce
Becoming profitable and self sustaining Living happily ever after!

No one goes into business or marriage believing that one day it might ‘stop’ or end.  Yet, 80 to 90% of the time businesses (e.g., technology start-ups, restaurants, retail shops, side businesses) fail or barely break even, and last I heard 50 to 60% of marriages end in divorce and that rate has been increasing over the years.  So much so that venture capitalists are actually funding sites like Divorce360.com and Agreed Divorces.com.  They should also fund a site called ShutDownYourBusiness.com! 

Stopping a business or a marriage is not easy.  You get up every day and say to yourself: “Something will happen to make the business work.  I’ll get funding.  I’ll get that next customer.  I can’t stop now!”  You coast in your marriage thinking “I’ll keep myself busy and things will get better or make more sense.  We’ll  make it work for the sake of the kids.”  Many times it does get better (after the sleep deprivation wears off) but sometimes you end up like Archie Bunker and Edith Bunker or other such couples who can’t stand each other but stay together because they don’t know what else to do.  Or you end up a bitter, washed up individual who finds yourself going through the motions because you have defined yourself as an entrepreneur yet you could never build a sustaining business.  You then end up feeling that life is unfair and you never got your well deserved lucky break. 

I know this post might sound depressing, but these are the odds you are playing with when you start a business or marriage.  Many entrepreneurs will fold up (and have already started to) their businesses due to tough economic times (no funding, no customers, etc.).  They will use the bad economy as a welcome excuse for not making it.  It is, after all, a justifiable/less ego-destroying way to explain to people why your business didn’t make it.  

And by all means, take the opportunity to wrap things up if you can (for your and your family’s sanity) because it is going to be tougher than normal for a while.  However, at the same time, the opportunities (volunteer help, cheaper resources, less competition) for being creative will be abundant. 

The next few years are going to be interesting.  Companies/marriages may fall apart because the changing economy ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  Or they might outlast the downturn and be stronger on the other side.  Many successful entrepreneurs have emerged from down economies and their success is surely a prerequisite for the economy turning around and thriving! 

I, for one, am glad to be living in this day and age.  In no other time in history (or probably not in any other country) could I have done what I’ve done, tried what I’ve tried, say what I say, write what I write, do what I do, or dream what I dream without being squashed. 

What do you think? Is Business and Love like (the US war in Iraq)? Easy to begin but hard to stop?

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