Sophie’s Choice and Entrepreneurship

Not a literary buff? Here’s a little tale you ought to familiarize yourself with from the cannon. It’s called Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron. Amazing novel, but that aside, if you haven’t read it, here is the crux of the book and actually, one of the smallest scenes in the entirety of the piece.

I read it sometime during my undergrad studying Mass Communications and English at Missouri Valley College.

It goes a little something like this:

Sophie just arrived in Auschwitz with her 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. There a sadistic doctor said she can pick one of her children to live and the other will be killed. She couldn’t make the agonizing choice until several officers get ready to rush both children away and Sophie picks her daughter to die.

The unfortunate side to entrepreneurship is that many times you’ll face decisions that have no right answer, much like Sophie’s choice. And no I am not comparing running a start-up to the horrors of the Holocaust. I’m only using the movie and the literature as an example of impossible choices and the story illustrates that clearly.

I can’t speculate why she made the decision to save her son but not her daughter but I know tons of factors can do into a split second decision. Sometimes there’s so much pressure you blurt out an answer just to move onto the next problem you have to face. Sometimes your brain moves slower than your mouth and you just spout out something because you have to choose and neither answer is right and neither is wrong. Other times you agonize over a decision—stay up late at night tossing and turning to try to make one and still not know the answer but are forced to make a choice when you don’t know what the outcome will be.

As an entrepreneur, I studied at Syracuse University through the Whitman School of Business, and after graduating I’ve faced numerous tough choices and I don’t know the right answer, akin to the tale I learned in my undergrad.

I just know the path I took. Here’s some of the decisions I have had to make during my time as a small business owner that maybe you’ll have to face, too. Or maybe your choices will be something far more interesting with little quirks that push you in one direction or the other. I won’t tell you the answer I went for, I’ll just pose the quandary and just like in college, you get to think about the answer.

  • Do you file taxes if you only broke even?
  • Do you press criminal charges against a family member for something they did during their time in business with you?
  • Do you pay for a website or ask an ex-boyfriend to do it for you?
  • Do you give trade secrets away on the Internet for free or do you lock them down and safeguard them so your client base has to pay for them?
  • When finances are tight, do you pay yourself or someone else first?
  • Do you stop running your business so that your partner can’t collect a portion of your business or do you continue to work knowing they’ll get a portion regardless of how much they put in or not?
  • If you’re paid in cash do you deposit it in the bank or does that money not exist because there’s no paper trail to prove it?
  • Do you eat the cost of a lawyer with a business partner or pay for it yourself knowing you’re investing in social capital within the relationship?
  • Will you risk suffering to do something right, or will you take the easy way out to save the hassle?
  • Will you devalue your products and services by lowering your price to make the customer happy or will you turn down customers who won’t pay your fees?

These are just a tiny iota of questions I’ve had to answer during my time as an entrepreneur. Some feel like Sophie’s choice–an impossible decision that you don’t want to make but must because of the situation that surrounds you. Others are not. But they’re all questions that you can’t Google. They’re judgement calls and regardless of the choice, there’s no undoing it.

What impossible decisions are you making today as an entrepreneur?

About the Author
Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, the won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.