As communications director for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, I frequently write and talk about business formation and creation.
I do it so often that coming up with new, exciting or interesting ways to talk about entrepreneurship is challenging. There are so many clichés and too many people trying to make the same points. And many are trying a little too hard to be different.
A web search for “Starting a business is like” turned up dozens of results that left me scratching my head.
Based on what’s online, I figured out that some people really like sports metaphors:
I encountered lines like "starting a business is like a football game" and "launching a business is like skateboarding in a half pipe" as well as "starting a business is like a prizefight" and "starting a business is like bowling for the first time."
Some sports comparisons baffled me, though, such as "starting a business is like running a race against time." I’m not sure I understand the business parallel with time as the competitor (as opposed to a real-life rival).
Then there are the personal challenge metaphors: A blogger could always say, "Starting a business is like climbing a mountain" or if he is up to it, "How Starting a Company is Like Climbing Everest." Or better yet, as Kevin Fleming pointed out "Starting a business is like attempting to climb up a mountain during a hurricane," which tempts me to ask what he does to relax.
Adventure, travel and fun.
A ton of adventure metaphors have been set forth online about starting a business. These include the harsh reality mentioned in a post that "starting a business is like riding a roller coaster" and the piece titled "Starting a Business Is Like Jumping Out Of An Airplane" (not an approach I recommend). Rich Dad Coaching's site offers that "Starting a business is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute" (probably an even worse idea).
Quite a few posts referenced the metaphor of travel: For example, there's "Starting a business is like embarking on a journey." Simple enough. Or "starting a business is like a rocket ship taking off into space" and "launching a business is like getting a jumbo jet off the runway" or "Launching a business is like launching a rocket. That must be why they refer to it as “launching" a business.
Some bloggers found starting a business fun. Hence there's the first-person post titled "When Starting a Business is like Throwing a Party" and an article titled "5 Ways starting a business is like throwing a rocking party at a nightclub."
A few other pieces compared entrepreneurship to the movie making business with titles like "How Starting A Business Is Like The Making Of Star Wars" (which I want to read) and "How Starting a Business is Like Casting a Movie" as well as the slightly esoteric "How Starting A Business Is Like Casting 'la Dolce Vita.'”
The human experience.
Apparently, it's possible to analogize a business startup to nearly every stage in the human life cycle: There's an article "Starting A Business Is Like Asking Out A Girl For The First Time" and a line in another post declares, "Starting a business is like falling in love." Other Internet posts explain "Starting a business is like getting married" and "Starting a Business Is Like Having a Baby" and even "starting a business is like raising a child."
There’s even a crash course titled Starting a Business is Like Starting a Family, which gets bonus points for being a video that starts with a lot of wine drinking. Cheers!
A more frank discussion is promised in an article titled "Starting a Business Is Like Having Sex."
If the baby metaphor still is puzzling, there’s a helpful British article: "Eight ways starting a business is like becoming a mum." That’s referring to parenthood not flowers (although gardening parallels abound in "Starting a business is like planting a seed," "Starting a business is like growing a flower and "Starting a business is like picking fruit.")
I could not find any business-startup advice with comparisons to divorce or retirement. But I did find the line "Starting a business is like having 10 years of therapy," attributed to Gina Hiatt. That may come in handy in some day, although she says it's just as expensive.
But if none of this advice works for you, there’s an alternate option: "Starting a business is like joining the priesthood," another article begins.
Learning and puzzles.
Some articles make learning analogies such as "How Starting a Business is Like Learning to Ice Skate" and "How Starting A Business Is Like Learning to Drive." Plus there's the blogger who pointed out, "Starting a business is like going back to school all over again." I also found a post titled "How Starting a Small Business is Like Being a Detective."
Others believe that starting a business is gamelike. "Starting a Business is Like Playing a Game of RISK!" is the title of one piece. The author is quite excited about the idea, I believe, as the exclamation point is not part of the game title.
I also found out "why starting a business is like solving a Rubik’s cube" and the more cerebral and classic formulation that "starting a business is like a game of chess." Chess sounds nice. At least it’s not CHESS!
From other Internet postings I gather that launching a business can be very, very confusing: See these references: "Starting a business is like trying to complete a very complex puzzle with many pieces" and "starting a business is like looking at a word problem that is constantly changing on you and there’s no final answer."
Under a section I'd be tempted to title "sounds like bad advice" there’s StartupSofa's piece "Starting a Business Is Like Dating a Hot But Needy Girl."
For the category “I get what you’re trying to say, but no,” here are two examples:
A legal website attempted a good comparison with the line "Starting a business is like building a house" but spoiled it in the next line “and governing documents are the foundation.” I’m no engineer but building a house on a foundation of documents doesn't sound solid.
A few articles seemed vie for "insert random analogy here" honors like the line "Starting a business is like building a house, buying a phone or storming a castle."
Then I have my What? Huh? grouping of articles as follows:
1. "Starting a business is like a sponge." I have no idea what's meant.
2. "Starting a business is like nurturing a sports talent" (referring to something I know everyone has done).
4. "How starting a business is like a Christmas cracker." I had no clue about this. Someone explained to me to the reference is akin to exploding party favor.
Finally I leave you to ponder the online comment "Starting a business is like any project" as well as the observation "Starting a business is like no other thing on this planet."
In other words, entrepreneurship can be like anything else and nothing else. I could not have said it better myself.