Happy, Rich, Or Famous, pick one!

John Warrillo posted this on Forbes today, read it first, it only takes a couple minutes then come back.

His post is interesting because I generally like what he is saying but feel it was incomplete.  John notes, there are generally three approaches to entrepreneurship, VC, organic (Small Business), Craftsmanship (I think Art would be included here in his model).  While he splits this into 3 distinct buckets, clearly he is talking about a continuum.  What I found interesting is he coupled the experience and the results to the approach.  I firmly disagree with this.

Essentially his continuum runs from very small to absolutely huge and assumes huge = famous, small-medium = rich, and very small = happy.  There is absolutely no relationship between the approach and the experience or result each person has.  There is, however, a very real relationship between the approach and your general state of being.  I have tried all three approaches in my career and here is what I experienced:

VC = Create a pitch deck, sell the VCs, hire a 100 people and hang on for dear-life.  High stress, significant loss of freedom, higher stakes, opportunity for larger impact faster, relatively low risk.  For me, not nearly as much fun but made good money on the start up we took public and made nothing on the other 3 that ran into the ground.

Organic= John says find a sleepy niche with little competition and quietly build your company.  Call it the small-medium company approach.  I would say, pick something where you have the right skills and contacts where you will no problems generating sales, I write about this choice here.  Lots of freedom, lots of control, takes time to have impact, very low risk.  For me, lots of fun and lots of stress and made high income.

Craftsmanship = pick something you love doing and do it well.  Far less income near-term, lots of control, ironically less freedom because you are defined by your craft, takes a very long time.  For me, the most stress as $ is literally non-existent to start making it the highest risk but once you get it going definitely fun at least for a while, some crafts become repetitive and boring over time.  The biggest issue here is figuring out how to generate sales while you are crafting your thing…  For me building custom applications using the framework I built was very cool but I had no time to sell which was just too stressful for me eventually sapping all of the fun out of it.

What really matters here is realizing this is not a tyranny of “or”, you can take any one of these approaches and be any combination of Happy, Rich, and Famous.  The outcome will be entirely based on your ability to execute, listen to your customer, and navigate the competitive waters.  Oh yeah, and your willingness to work 80 hours a week for years on end:-) a requirement of being and entrepreneur…

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