Jumping Out of an Airplane Without A Parachute

20 Jun

By Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series

I used to teach an entrepreneurial sales class at a local university in Boston. The first day of my class I would pose a question right out of the box: ‘OK class, show of hands please! How many of you would jump out of an airplane without a parachute? Simple question, show of hands please.’ Inevitably in every class I would have one or two who for one reason or another may be considered on the margins (as entrepreneurs can be) would raise their hands. I would point out that there are one, maybe two, hands, the rest are just sitting there looking confused and anxious. At that point I would say ‘OK! Thank you class, the two that raised their hands can stay and the rest of you can go.’ This would lead to more confusion and fidgeting and finally, I would say, ‘let me give it to you all straight – you have joined this class because you have an idea or a company that you want to start. Taking an idea and starting you first company is the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.’

Yes, you may figure out something on the way down. Yes, you could somehow miraculously survive the fall. But, realistically the odds are, you are probably going to hit the ground and die. That is the world of the startup. It’s a learning process. It’s getting experience in something totally new and different. It’s learning from your mistakes. And then I would say ‘You are all welcome to stay, and now we have to figure out how not to kill your company.’

That is precisely the chances of you getting your first startup off the ground. The odds are stacked against you from the get-go. There is so much to learn and know. The good news is, if you have tried a few times and learned lots along the way, the better chance you have of figuring it out and surviving your next company. The message here is of course you will strike out the first few times you get up to bat, but if you persist, you adjust and eventually you make it, you get there. I’ve done about a dozen startups over the years: the first one died and the last one is heading into its seventh year.

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