Entrepreneurship is Overrated
Or why working for yourself is really just a worse version of working for somebody else
There’s all kinds of statistics pointing to our collective interest in the profession (though, rather than having me actually research and cite any, just image they exist somewhere in Exhibit 3 towards the end of this newspaper). Harvard has a required course in Entrepreneurship in the spring semester. The HBS brain trust is in fact underway in inventing new courses under the loose, vague framework of “FIELD” in attempt to pit green RC’s in a real, live entrepreneurship setting (I’m sure you might be able to read more about this, if you dare, in HBS’ intrepid torture system, Learning Hub).
Assuming you didn’t skip the article title like you’re now accustomed to skipping the “Company Background” paragraph in your case studies, I’m going to take the contrarian position here. I think that Entrepreneurship sucks. And as a faithfully sporadic opinion columnist in your weekly paper, I felt the burden was on me to clarify some of the many misconceptions about the field.
The sell: You’re your own boss.
The reality: You know what’s great about big, corporate culture? You’ve probably only got one boss. That’s it! Sure, Lumbergh is probably an obnoxious bloke who’s invariably more into TPS reports, memos, and cover sheets than concerned about your self-worth. Big deal. I mean, haters are going to hate. Write his behavior off like you know what you’re doing in FRC and go enjoy yourself with the other (x-1) people in your life.
Here’s the weird thing about startup culture: When you’re the company owner, the line starts and ends at you. You’re not your own boss; rather, everyone else you’ve ever met is actually your boss. Supplier got the order wrong? Your problem; you fix it. Sales team can’t get their act together (despite a wonderfully choreographed song and dance routine)? That’s on your shoulders. People fighting, Arthur Moreno’s only working at 103% efficiency, not enough likes and tweets and check-ins? All you. But if Tide suddenly stops selling at Procter & Gamble because somebody’s been brewing three varieties of beer in the vats in the basement? Pfft. I’m just the guy in the Crest toothpaste division.
The sell: Work from wherever you want; work from your desk at home.
The reality: Working from home is great! Why, right now, I’ve been squatting on Facebook waiting to see if anyone will sell me a last-minute Priscilla ball ticket for cheap because nobody seems to have figured out yet that it’s a horrible idea to buy these things anytime sooner than the last possible minute. …You were saying about getting some work done on an article?
The sell: Make money.
The reality: Hah, seriously?
The sell: Do what you love.
The reality: Half true. To be more precise: “Do the worst part of that thing you love that nobody else is going to peacefully agree to do for you, or is going to do even remotely as well as you could do it.”
You know that big idea you’ve got that you want to center your entire life around? Guess what: if it’s not already being done, someone’s already come up with the same exact concept at least a year ago. In fact, the last person who thought of it probably had a way better version than the rather embarrassingly elementary rendering your feeble mind managed to conjure up. The internet is a really, really huge place.
Not to worry, though. There is one thing that may actually separate you from the creepers who breed in the darkest corners of the cloud: You may actually try. You can pound the pavement, make on-the-fly decisions where both options are the wrong answer, sell until your face changes color, invest your own hard-earned money, invest other people’s hard-earned money, ruin someone else’s social life, and even ruin your own.
But honestly, I can’t see why you wouldn’t rather sit back in your ergonomically-designed desk chair, crack a beer you bought on the company’s expense account, and cut your biweekly salary checks that could feed a family of five for three months.
J. P. Tercel is an RC in the Class of 2013 at Harvard Business School, and actually was an entrepreneur at one point. This totally makes him a venerable authority on the subject. If you’d like to partner up with him on one of your own stupid business ideas, send him an email at.