Friday, September 14, 2007

Entrepreneurs also have comfort zones

Just recently, I read paddy’s post “Complacency, a big price to pay later”, which talks about how some employees tend to stay in their comfort zones, live from paycheck to paycheck, and face problems when they get retrenched. I believe the tendency of staying within one’s comfort zone, either knowingly or unknowingly, is a common trait among most working class people. So what about entrepreneurs ? Does entrepreneurs also have comfort zones? I believe the answer is yes.

Normally, one would think that entrepreneurs are highly-motivated risk takers. So how does being a risk taker corelate with a person who stays within his comfort zones?

An entrepreneur’s comfort zone usually originates from a self-perceived sense of security. At the initial stage of startups, entrepreneurs are normally driven by their passions and enthusiasm. They would probably work almost 7 days a week and not feeling tired. When time goes on, some survive and some fail, some struggle while some manage to achieve stability. The problem is, upon achieving a certain level of stability, some entrepreneurs may gain a false sense of security. And that false sense of security may eventually lead to complacency, or what I called, an entrepreneur’s comfort zone.

Very often, we have heard people saying that a certain entrepreneur had survived for a couple of years and thus his company is already quite stable. However, being around for a long time does not necessarily mean that a company is in a stable state. Or in fact, is there really a stable state for a company? Personally, I have seen companies that had been around for more than 10 years being closed down, due to various reasons.

So what exactly would happen if an entrepreneur stays in his comfort zone? Firstly, the entrepreneur would probably be contented with the status quo, instead of looking at how to expand his operation or thinking about possible future challenges. As a result, the decisions made by the entrepreneur would most probably be geared towards short-term gains and immediate monetary rewards. This can become quite dangerous as we all know, the world is changing very fast and sometimes it takes only a subtle change in policy or technology and whatever competitive edge you possessed can dissappear within a blink of the eye. Similar to an employee who lives from paycheck to paycheck, some entrepreneurs live from project to project without seriously considering building up the intellectual and other intangible assets of the company. When times become bad, these entrepreneurs may be surprised to find out that the foundation of their companies are actually much more vulnarable than they thought.