Message from the Chair
Steve Imke, Chapter 206
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Risk-taking is a key element

I was watching a TV news program that featured the company 1800GotJunk and learned that the founder Brian Scudamore started the business when he was just 18 years old. This fact got me thinking about what kind of path in life would most likely produce entrepreneurs. Ultimately, high school graduates are faced with three career-related decisions. Go to college and get a degree, join one of the branches of the military, or head out into the world of employment and hopefully learn a trade. Which path would you expect leads to more entrepreneurs, and which path leads to the most success full entrepreneurs? The answer will surprise you.

A study by the SBA (Small Business Administration) finds that, for the past 30 years, military veterans are more likely to become entrepreneurs then non-vets. The study concludes that it is not military training, education, or culture that predisposes individuals toward entrepreneurship. This conclusion comes from the fact that, as the length of one’s service increases, the less likely the individual will choose the entrepreneurial path. Therefore, a logical conclusion is that something comes from within the individuals themselves to choose military service.

Certainly, those who choose military service have a demonstrated propensity for risk-taking. Joining an armed force, where you could die, says something about their risk tolerance. Further, non-retired entrepreneurs with military service are the ones who don't covet the financial security of retirement, and perhaps have become disillusioned with adhering to strict process and the need for conformity, which are characteristics of entrepreneurs in general. As we have demonstrated, a fundamental prerequisite to become an entrepreneur is a capacity for risk.

A recent study of 2011 college graduates indicates an average student loan debt of $24,000. The need to pay off student loan debt erodes the long-term entrepreneurial spirit of the college-educated millennial generation. Peter Thiel, one of the entrepreneurs behind PayPal, Linked-In and Facebook, is so convinced that college debt squelches the entrepreneurial spirit that he is offering entrepreneurs $100,000 to develop qualifying business ideas, provided they agree not to enroll in college.

So while you may become an entrepreneur if you are a non-retired member of the armed service, you are more likely to become a very successful entrepreneur if you are a high school or college dropout. Academic knowledge is not "power" as many believe. True power comes from the application of that power. "A wise man may not know everything, but will know where to obtain that which he does not know." In the end, the recipe for entrepreneurial riches is: the ability to leverage knowledge from those around you, being a nonconformist, along with a healthy tolerance for risk.