Whistleblowers and entrepreneurs have a lot more in common than meets the eye. The former has perhaps a better guarantee of a handsome, relatively fast payout--but that's a one-time deal (and not necessarily their goal anyway). When it comes to figuring out who's more likely to strike it rich in general, it's more of a crapshoot. Whistleblowers can technically enjoy a very lucrative payout, but only in certain situations (and despite of a career-threatening risk that they might not have wanted in the first place). Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, adopt a slow and steady approach to earning their riches, but it's a path wrought with comparatively smaller obstacles. Having said all that--riches aren't ever a "sure thing" for either a small business owner or the person who shines a spotlight on bad business practices at a company.
You may have heard of the whistleblower who in recent years made out with a $14 million paycheck by calling out Bank of America, but these kinds of earnings are few and far between. You've also probably heard about some teen entrepreneurs making millions in between prom and classes (or before that even), but those are also rarities. Here are a few ways whistleblowers and entrepreneurs are alike (and a few reasons why they're very different):
They're huge risk takers
The "risks" faced by each camp might be very different, but there's no denying that taking risks is a huge part of being a whistleblower or an entrepreneur. These risks need to be calculated. Blind leaps of faith rely on a whole lot of luck, and that doesn't usually pan out. To be a successful whistleblower or entrepreneur, risks need to be weighed first.
In the case of a whistleblower, he or she may be putting their career aspirations at risk if they report various wrongdoings of an employer to higher authorities. Entrepreneurs face risks as well, but they aren't usually quite as career-threatening. The owner of a small Chinese restaurant faces risks when he or she sees steep fluctuations in business on certain days or weeks of the month or year. Startup entrepreneurs face risks in a variety of things from funding availability to product-market fit struggles.
They're unorthodox when making cash
There's no such thing as a sure and steady paycheck when you're making cash as either entrepreneur or whistleblower. As a founder of a small company--there's no guarantee that you'll be successful, and that may be part of the allure of that lifestyle to some extent. For someone who has become a whistleblower, this too is an unorthodox method of making cash, with no guarantee of success (one of the main reasons why so few people do it). Unstable income isn't for everyone. It can be too anxiety-inducing, stressful and in some cases risky (especially if you have a family and need a steady paycheck).
They know the importance of contracts
A verbal contract just won't cut it for whistleblowers or entrepreneurs. Unless you have it in writing, it may as well not exist. Promises can be empty, verbal "guarantees" can be forgotten, and manipulative language that can't be cross-checked in writing can get you into a world of trouble. Having it in writing is paramount for an entrepreneurial venture and a whistleblower payout agreement alike.
They find success when they approach the right people
There's no time to waste barking up wrong trees, but unfortunately that's something many entrepreneurs and whistleblowers have experience with. For example, it isn't always easy for entrepreneurs to find the right hire, just as it isn't always easy for whistleblowers to find safe people to report problems to. If you find someone who isn't a fit, the best-case scenario is that you simply might be wasting your time. In a worst case scenario, you might get yourself into trouble. For the entrepreneur this could take the form of an employee who never fit in, which negatively impacts productivity and the bottom line. For the whistleblower, you have to be careful not to tip off someone who's going to blow the whistle on you (the whistleblower). Approaching the right people takes research, intuition and a touch of luck.
They're not afraid to burn the right bridges
There will probably come a day when bridges have to be burned--although it's not as clear with entrepreneurs as it is with whistleblowers. Maybe you need to bow out of a friendship lest your venture gets hurt in some way due to nepotism. Perhaps you're getting ready to fire your first employee (or even a co-founder). You have to protect yourself and your assets first, and this can require leaving some people behind.
Perhaps the most important similarity between whistleblowers and entrepreneurs is a knack for making money while still trying to do what they believe is the right thing. It's not an easy combination to come by, which is partly why the possible payout can be so alluring. Listen to your gut instincts, and remember that no matter which route you're taking, it has to feel right. A whistleblower has to firmly believe in reporting questionable business behavior, just as an entrepreneur most know in their heart that their product is worth fighting for.