“Forty million, five hundred thousand,” Bond says. “All in.” And he pushes his pile of chips into the centre of the table.
It’s the climax of the poker game in Casino Royale: the moment when there are only two options for Bond: he wins, or he loses.
Throughout this year I’ve compared the entrepreneur’s journey to the classical story structure used in literature. The ‘inciting incident’ when Harry Potter discovers he’s a wizard – and the moment our potential entrepreneur pushes his breakfast round his plate and realises something has to change.
Then there’s the importance of a mentor figure – Dumbledore or Gandalf or – hopefully for some of you – the Alternative Board.
And then comes the climax. The moment when there are only two possible outcomes, success or failure or – in stories and in the movies – a heroic triumph or certain death. Harry Potter goes through the trapdoor to confront Voldemort: he can succeed, or he can die. There is no other option.
Literally and metaphorically, he’s all in.
There’s a moment when the entrepreneur realises he’s all in as well. But this time it’s not the climax of the movie. Instead, it’s a staging post on the journey.
There are millions of words written about the decision to start your own business. There are virtually none written about this equally important moment. Let’s try and put that right.
I’m talking about the moment you realise that you’ve found your niche: that you’re doing what you were put on the Earth to do – and that you’ve become unemployable.
This is the moment when the entrepreneur realises there is no going back. He turns around – and the bridge behind him is burning.
For me this ‘realisation moment’ was triggered by a client. It was early in my TAB York journey and I was just finishing a 1 to 1 with a client. “Thanks, Ed,” he said. “I simply couldn’t have made these changes without you or my TAB board.”
A day later I was in a taxi, travelling home – relatively late at night – after an event. There was a sudden moment of quiet and I thought: ‘I like these people. They’re great people to work with. And I’m building a community of people like this.’
And then I spoke to one of my old friends from the corporate world. Five minutes on office politics, five minutes on the changes the new MD was bringing in and five minutes on why he was bringing them in – essentially to prove he was different to the old MD.
At that moment I realised I was all in. I couldn’t go back to my old life.
I liked my new life too much: I loved the fact that success or failure was entirely down to me. And I knew I could never go back to the office politics, to dancing to someone else’s tune.
I’ve talked to any number of entrepreneurs over the years and they can all recognise the moment. Suddenly you know you’re creating something worthwhile: suddenly the business community recognises that you’re in it for the long term: suddenly aware that you’re building a network of people around you that add something new to your life every day.
That’s when you turn around, see that the bridge is burning – and punch the air in celebration. You’re all in – and you couldn’t be happier.
Twenty years ago I went all in as well. And as this week draws to a close Dav and I will be in Whitby for our 20th wedding anniversary. Whatever I’m achieving with TAB, whatever I’m helping to build, I couldn’t have done without her at my side. “All in…”; the best decision I ever made. On the off-chance you read this, thank you.