Monday, January 17, 2011

The Entrepreneurial Dilemma of a Bird in the Hand or Two in the Bush

Entrepreneurs face a dilemma every time they make a decision. They are constantly weighing the present and the future, trying to benefit both but often sacrificing one for the other. But that’s what makes entrepreneurship so risky, right? The unknown outcomes?

In The Dilemma of Entrepreneurial Decision-Making on American Express OPEN Forum®, I make this one major point: we need to ask ourselves how each decision we make in our business will potentially impact our future. The more realistic and grounded we are about the future, the better decisions we will make today, and the better the chances that our decisions will benefit today and tomorrow.

Which brings me to the question I want to discuss in this post: Why does the saying “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” have to be so linear and definitive? Can’t we have both? Don’t we need to figure out how to have both if we want our businesses to survive?

I realize that one of the meanings of this saying is to help us be grateful for what we have, but entrepreneurs who spend too much time enjoying the fruits of their labors need to be careful. We are under constant attack by hungry, aggressive competitors who are frustrated they didn’t get the bird we got but are anxiously plotting to get the two in the bush.

Entrepreneurs need to take great care of the customers they have. We need to get clarity about why those customers are so happy to pay us and why our business model is being successful and ground our plans and projections for the future on that clarity. Then we will be able to make the types of decisions that will improve both–the bird in the hand and the two in the bush.

How do we do that? First, we need to consider our realistic vision of the future in every decision, like whether we should buy or build our next piece of technology or if we should over-promise a new customer. Then we need to continue to challenge our vision of the future with trends, market changes, new technology, and so many other factors to help us keep the birds in our hands while positioning our businesses for the opportunities of the future.