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by Matt Thomas

There is only one answer an entrepreneur will give you when you ask how their new venture is going, “Great!” They may be 24 hours away from missing payroll for the first time, putting off replying to emails from disgruntled investors, struggling with a long sales cycle, and paralyzed wondering whether or not this was a good idea, but ten times out of ten they will respond with optimism and positivity. Ask anyone who has started a business and they’ll tell you, 50% of the game is just staying positive and pushing on. The ones that give up? Well, they weren’t cut out for it in the first place! Maybe. Maybe not.

We all know the harrowing statistics around business failure. A staggering percentage of new ventures will close their doors by year three, and even more by year five. In the startup world, companies are allowed, and even encouraged, to pursue funding round after funding round without any real pressure to turn a profit. Users, revenue, and brand recognition create buzz, but they don’t always translate into a viable business. Entrepreneurs believe that they have stumbled into something special. Something unique, irreplaceable, well-positioned, and right on time. Until things don’t go as planned.

Several years ago I was preparing for a trip to a large conference and decided it was a good time to update and order new business cards. At the time, I owned and operated two businesses. The first (Core Ventures) was new, exciting, and consumed most of my time and energy. I had big plans to disrupt the recruiting world and build something special, but we hadn’t even landed our first client or made our first hire. On paper it was real, but it was early. The second business was an outfitter my wife and I had opened up together several years prior. It had grown slowly and steadily but it wasn’t long before we realized we were not likely to make any real money so we both exited day to day operations.

I owned the majority of both entities, so I thought it would be a good idea to make a business card with one company on one side and the other on the flip side. Co-founder on one side and CEO on the other! How cool! At the conference, I handed out business cards like candy canes at Christmas eager to confirm that yes indeed, I was a really big deal.