Prisoner one: “We’re going to break out of here, or die trying.”

Prisoner two: “Are those the only options?”

That’s in a scene from the movie Chicken Run. The prisoners are chickens. It’s funny, but it also makes a very good point, which relates directly to starting a business.

And that’s one question we forget.

Do we have a choice? Are those the only options?

Startup experts, including myself, produce lots of good lists of questions to ask. Most of these are business plan points, completely valid, vital to starting a business. They lead to absolute essentials such as: Will it sell enough, can you afford it, who wants it, can you make enough money to survive and then grow, do you have the right team and so on.

There’s a lot of that these days–people losing jobs, people starting up because they have to. We get cornered sometimes. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who didn’t really have a choice. They lose their job and can’t find another one. Or they’re offered buyouts, sometimes called golden handcuffs, that come with the undeniable indication that if you don’t take it, your job isn’t secure.

That’s different from the classic entrepreneur story of starting a business out of passion for the product or a vision, or as a leader, a builder, a doer. But it happens a lot.

If that’s the case, realize it, acknowledge it and put it that way to yourself and the people you care about. It’s too easy to fall into the lore and forget that this isn’t a risk you chose to take.

This comes to mind as I look at the list I posted here yesterday from Kelly Spors of The Wall Street Journal. I liked that list very much because it goes into the roots of the startup with beyond-the-business-plan questions like the one about whether your spouse, partner or significant other is on board on this and another about whether you’re prepared to sacrifice your lifestyle for a few years.

There’s no telling how much heartache people risk when they pit their business ambition against their personal life. The mystique of the passionate entrepreneur working impossible hours rarely remembers the relationships left behind. All of which takes on a completely different reality when it’s not a matter of choice. Life is tough sometimes. And particularly during this economic crash we’re dealing with, we should at least recognize that sometimes our entrepreneur didn’t want to take the risk but had no choice.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.