We become entrepreneurs because we are an unhappy bunch of clods. Our joy is in rolling the boulder uphill, knowing that it will roll back down so we can roll it up again.
It is weird how you can take recourse to Greek mythology to drive home a point or obfuscate the issue. For years I kept saying entrepreneurs are like Prometheus, who stole fire from the fire gods, maverick dare devils. Now in the same breath, I am saying, the entrepreneur is this mythical monster, much like the accursed Sisyphus, king of Corinth. He was charismatic and crafty, dynamic and devious, inventive and enervating. And he was a victim of his own hubris.
Zeus cursed him that since he seemed to think no end of himself, he should spend the rest of his life rolling a huge boulder up the hill only to have it rolling back all the way down. The curse was that there would be no respite from this iterative act.
Did you say, this description of Sisyphus so sounds like the profile of an entrepreneur? If you did, then you are probably one too, for having recognised your doppelganger. Indeed, an entrepreneur is all of this and more. It is the intensity of schizophrenia that makes him successful or otherwise. Too much sweat, too many tears.
And by far, very few lucid moments to revel in, in neverland. It is a travesty that entrepreneurs set out to make people happy, but they themselves remain singularly, pulsatingly, agonizingly unhappy. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this.
About four years ago, Srivatsan, co-founder of a Mumbai-based advertising agency, sought my help in fixing a problem. He and his co-founder, Pradip had decided to split and Srivatsan wanted to buy Pradip out. He wanted my help in ensuring that it would be a fair deal.
On our first meeting, Pradip Lawyer HSL said, “the valuation we are looking at is 23 times the topline, so just wanted to let you know we will be drafting the exit document accordingly.”
I said, well, industry practice is 5 to 8 times revenue, in exceptional cases. If the order book for the next three years is eye-poppingly robust, it can go up to 10, but 23 is simply out of question. All I got was a politely raised eyebrow in reply.
Needless to say, Pradip would not have retained HSL if he wanted to talk sense. So after two months of going nowhere, we were back at the negotiation table.
Papers were drawn up, I kept hoping HSL would collapse from bubonic plague so we didn’t have to sign this one-sided deal.
Then like a monester mechanically I pulled all the documents from my bag and put them in front of HSL and Pradip. In my most mellifluous voice, I asked Pradip to first sign the valuation sheet. He did, with smug flourish. Then I put the signed sheet in front of HSL and told him in a cold baritone, now that you have agreed to this valuation, you buy us out! (by the way, this kind of reversal of negotiation tactics is called shotgun negotiation).
HSL sprung out of the chair, for a moment became confused with whether it was politically correct to call me #€¤%₹¿Σ, and the next few minutes are blurry as fecal matter hit the fan!
To cut a long story short, Srivatsan sold his stake, exited the company and with the kind of money he made from the sale I was sure he must have set sail to the Bahamas to spend the rest of his life as a lotus-eater!
The story should have ended here but for the fact that even after 90 days, my bank account did not reflect my fee. So I called Srivatsan. He sounded singularly pissed and bored. When I reminded him of my payment, he said, why should I pay you, I retained you so I could buy my partner out, instead you made me sell and now I have no job, no company!
I gently reminded him that he had instead a gold pot in the bank and nothing stopped him from starting as many companies as he chose and becoming employable as many times. To which his reply was, sure, but I have to again think of a new name, get office space, paint a new board, yadda yadda yadda!
That was the day it came to me. We become entrepreneurs because we are an unhappy bunch of clods. Our joy is in rolling the boulder uphill, knowing that it will roll back down so we can roll it up again. The day Zeus’ magic stops working and the boulder stays up, that will be the day of the apocalypse!
…shabab khan’s blog
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