I learned this week from one of my entrepreneur clients that he had decided to abandon his business venture. He had invested over 1 1/2 years and a considerable amount of cash to pursue his business concept, but unfortunately his value proposition wasn't being embraced quickly enough by the market to encourage him to continue.
Should he have quit? One could easily say that he shouldn't have. He should have figured out a way to persevere in the face of adversity, right? After all, isn't that what true entrepreneurs do? They don't abandon their venture...rather, they show dedication, resilience and fortitude despite hard knocks. Well, it is easy to judge and a lot harder to actually live the life of an entrepreneur especially when the latter has a spouse and children who have their own real financial needs. All I can say is that I feel for him as I thought he had a strong value offering and was making good, steady progress with customers. I am certain his decision was painful for him to make.
While his decision to terminate his operations is unfortunate, it underscores the challenge that many entrepreneurs face when their success is heavily dependant upon corporate customers to adopt their value offering within a relatively short time frame. Corporations typically don't make decisions quickly, especially when they must continuously deal with competing priorities, mulitple alternatives and other complicating factors. Still, should they strive to move more rapidly?
It is an interesting and provocative question whose answer has two sides. I am not saying that corporations should hasten decision making just to accommodate entepreneurs. After all, I can appreciate that a large corporation might be wary about dealing with an external technology provider whose financial situation is so precarious that he can't handle an extended decision making cycle. However, external facing corporations could probably be more sensitive to the often fragile financial position of outside technology providers. I have seen entrepreneurs waiting in limbo for up to a year or more for a customer decision. An extreme example, but this type of delay can't easily be accommodated by many young entrepreneurial ventures.
On the flip side, entrepreneurs need to be prepared (and sufficiently well financed) to weather a challenging start up period before they decide if their business is viable. For instance, another one of my entrepreneur clients is a millionaire and has the financial support of an even wealthier partner/investor for his venture. As they say, "He is in it to win it." To date, we are making excellent progress earning customer business and we have no doubt that we will continue to build on our success...acknowledging that it has taken several years and a lot of resource investment to achieve this standing. So, what is a reasonable and realistic time period for an entrepreneur to decide his venture's viability? It took my consulting business about 2 1/2 years to earn a sufficiently strong corporate client base before I knew that I was going to make it. But that's my case and I certainly can't speak for others. Each entrepreneur's situation and economic circumstances is uniquely his own.
What is your perspective?