When There’s Nothing To Lose, You Have Everything To Gain

I was recently advised that in different parts of the country there exists a new phenomenon known as ‘pink slip parties’, where recently laid-off individuals come together to share war stories and proverbial grievances about the current state of national employment. What interested me most about these events was the amazing potential that this ‘meeting’ offered by bringing together like-minded people who all share in the common predicament that they are looking for something to do.

Shy of taking a job that is well below one’s potential or field of interest and expertise, it’s quite apparent that the job market is soft at best, and as such this couldn’t be a better time to band together and launch that startup you’ve always had on the back burner. I am of course not suggesting than anyone who is unemployed should turn to entrepreneurship, I am however speaking to those readers who have always had a certain inclination for risk tolerance coupled with a passion for business. And for those falling into the latter category, I have one question; why not? You have the time, the experience/expertise and given the current business climate your opportunity cost is significantly below your usual level and anything we’ve seen in the past two decades.

Like any good MBA disciple, let’s run through a cost/benefit analysis. If the venture is successful then by the time that you need outside funding (6-18 months post facto) the markets should look considerably better and by then you may be close to positive cash flow. Alternatively, if the venture fizzles (wink) then all you have really sacrificed is the time you may have spent searching for another job, and again by that point unemployment rates should return to standardized levels. One of my favorite business professors, who also happens to be an top tier international consultant, likes to employ the Roger Babson quote “If things go wrong, don’t go with them”; and following on that theory if the market and the economy generally is not providing you with ample opportunities, then make your own.

Last month I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks studying European business at the prestigious Vlerick MBA School in Belgium. One of the lessons I found most surprising was that in many European countries the mentality behind entrepreneurship is that an individual usually only gets one swing at bat. Essentially a strike against an entrepreneur, for a failed business or startup, can actually be terminal and may prevent them from being able to secure any financing or support in the future. In North America however, and particularly in the entrepreneurial community, a failed attempt is actually a ‘feather in the cap’, and behind most successful ventures are a couple others that never made it out of the red or even to market stage. The point here is that trying your hand at running your own business, especially when your opportunity cost is mitigated due to a sluggish market, can be the best way to find value, stay motivated and of course pay those bills. With that said, the next time you find yourself at a “pink slip” party, or any event where a group of your peers are chatting about job prospects or a lack thereof, try to find some synergies between those individuals and look for the value while others are preoccupied.