The following are brief elaborations on the rules I have set for myself—the reasons behind each guardrail. Again, remember that your circumstances and needs are different from mine, just as each ski slope is different. The key is that you need to define what guardrails you need in your life.
I will not risk my family’s financial stability
Before I took the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship, my wife and I had paid off our home. This was a huge milestone for us, and it provided us with some sense of security as I undertook pursuits that involved a much higher degree of risk. I have committed that I will not jeopardize my home because I do not want to take risks with my family’s financial security.
I keep my teams small
Whether I’ve been working for an organization or running a small business, I have always preferred to keep my teams small. I know myself well enough to know that this is where I excel. I have found that if I keep my teams under fifteen employees, then I can know the needs, interests, and desires of each person. I can get to know what motivates them so I can push the right buttons to keep each person going. I have run much larger teams, but keeping them small results in the highest output for the amount of input I can give.
I avoid venture capital to start or grow a business
I have a good friend who had the courage to become an entrepreneur fifteen years ago. He and his family came close to living on wheat and water so he could create his business. He maxed out credit cards and used whatever he had to become successful. And, indeed, he did become successful and profitable. He and his business partner then decided to grow the company even bigger, and they were able to raise a couple million dollars in venture capital. They continued to work hard and became even more successful. They were the rave of all of the business magazines in our area. They won awards and were highly regarded. However, bit-by-bit, as financial challenges hit, they sought out more venture capital. But each time, they also signed away a bit more of their lives; to where the venture capitalists had diluted the ownership of a company they had sacrificed so much to build. Now my friend is at a point where he has minimal ownership in the company, and yet he is contractually obligated to run it for the venture capitalists. Of course, the venture capitalists demand that he put in the same amount of work and energy as when he started the company. After years of hard work, he still never gets to spend the time with his family that he was hoping this business would allow. He is now middle aged, and he is burned out. If he would have stayed on his initial course and built his business a little more slowly, he could have zigged and zagged his way to permanent success. He now either has to start all over or continue to work in a company he no longer controls. There are times and places for venture capital but not as frequently as people think, and it is not my desired funding method.