Beware White Knights

When you start a business, everyone has a lot of advice. “Just do this…” and everything will be great. Usually, this is quickly followed by what I call a “white knight”

What’s a white knight? In shot, it’s that “one thing that would change everything.” You’ll recognize it because it usually starts with the words if only.  If only I could get X or Y, then everything will be different. When it comes to business owners, every owner has one. Sometimes, it’s magazine coverage – if Oprah would cover us, then we would have a line out the door! Or if this investor just SAW us, we would be all set

White knights are seductive because they are easy and a final destination. Just grind for a specific period and once you get this one thing, you can kick back and relax. They also tend to illicit dreams of fame, success and mega sales or what I like to call the Tiltillating Trifecta.

They often are a major let-down. Getting a white knight is one in a million for many small businesses. Or, if you are part of the chosen few, they can cause more harm than good.  How many businesses have been brought to their knees by explosive growth and have had to reorganize, disappoint customers, or worse close?

Look, I won’t lie – sometimes white knights pan out and they are life-changing. You get on Shark Tank and suddenly the phone doesn’t stop ringing. And, if you’re lucky, you’re prepared. You’ve thought of the logistics, operations and finances needed to manage growth. Hopefully, you haven’t given up so much equity and control during negotiations that it’s not your company any more.

Here’s my suggestion. Don’t spend your time pursuing white knights. Instead, spend your time on your business. And be patient. Adjust your expectations so that you expect success in 10 years rather than five. It’s a safer bet.

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