What is Opportunity Cost? Definition of Opportunity Cost

When launching a new product or company, an entrepreneur must consider their biggest cost – the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is an economic term that is defined as the cost of passing up the next best alternative when making a decision. For instance, if an asset such as capital is used for one purpose, the opportunity cost is the value of the next best purpose for which the asset could have been used. In the entrepreneur’s case, this asset typically includes the entrepreneur’s time and money.

For an individual currently working in a corporate position, the opportunity cost of creating a business plan and launching their own venture is typically the financial security that their corporate position affords. Fortunately, this security could be mitigated by attaining funding for the venture and setting the same salary as the prior position. However, if the venture fails, the individual may have lost the opportunity to return to the corporate position and/or does not realize the steps up the corporate ladder that they may have made had they stayed in their prior position. Likewise, if they chose to pursue one entrepreneurial opportunity rather than another, the individual may have lost the opportunity to try to launch the other opportunity.

Opportunity cost is related to the risk/reward tradeoff that is implied in entrepreneurship. The risk/reward tradeoff implies that the higher the risk, the higher the potential reward. Opportunity cost comprises a large part of the “risk” in the risk/reward tradeoff, although it doesn’t include many intangible factors such as potential embarrassment caused by taking capital from friends and family and having the venture fail.

Each entrepreneur has a different opportunity cost such as the amount of their salary should they currently be employed elsewhere. Likewise, companies have different opportunity costs when determining whether to launch new products, services, etc. Identifying the opportunity costs, analyzing them, and then making the optimum decisions is a critical process for entrepreneurs and small and large companies alike, and can be a critical factor in the long-term success of a venture.

 

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