The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship
There is a dark side of entrepreneurship nobody seems to be talking about. Starting and running a successful business is no joke! I have read so many stories that make it seem like being an entrepreneur is really easy and that you will make lots of money.
“Your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is not concealing your idea from others or keeping your idea a secret, it is actually convincing people that you are not crazy and that you can pull this off.”- Sean Parker : Napster Founder
Trust me; the truth I am about to lay down, is not for the light hearted. Quitting full time employment and trying to be an entrepreneur could ruin (or better) your life forever. You got to know these hard truths in order to manage your entrepreneurial lifestyle.
1) You Will be a Jack of All Trades
You will find yourself doing things you never thought you could. You think that you are an accountant by profession? Well, get this right.
You will quickly become the Head of Human Resources trying to figure out who is the right person to bring on board to help you carry out some activities for your business. You will be the Head of Information Technology, engaging a website developer, laying down the specifications for your website development and designing the web pages.
Wait, I am not done yet. You will be the Head of Marketing, figuring out how to design your product in a manner that’s appealing to the masses, how to price your product, where to place your product and how to promote it. You will be the Head of Finance, trying to evaluate the financial viability of your business idea, where to source for funds, how much equity to give away and so forth. You will be the Head of Operations and you will source for your raw materials, ensure that they are processed into finished products, ready for market supply.
And you will be the CEO, answerable for the business operations, and acting as a leader and motivator not only to those you work with but also to yourself. It’s not easy to wear these hats, but you have to. If you decide to go big on staff numbers at the onset, you will deplete the resources quickly before you launch your business. Most businesses start small, and I can attest to this, having lost a lot of money in the name of entrepreneurship.
2) Work, Work, Work and No Play
As a result of being a jack of all trades, you are going to work, work, work, and work some more. I bet your idea of an entrepreneur is checking on your business every once in a while and spending majority of your time at the beach sipping away your favourite drink. Wrong! Most days and nights will pass by without your realisation. Insomnia will be your right hand man. Weekends and holidays will be normal working days. Your mind will be on a constant overdrive mode bubbling with ‘smart’ ideas. Fridays at the pubs and getaway weekends, will be a waste of time. You will lose friends! Be ready to kiss goodbye ‘work life balance ‘. This is the point where your passion will drive you.
Related post: What is Passion
3) Google Will be Your Companion
Many stories I have read talk about how an entrepreneur found a mentor in their area of interest and this mentor played a great role in ensuring the success of the entrepreneur’s business. So you will jump into entrepreneurship assuming the availability of great mentors at your beck and call. You couldn’t be further from the truth. These high quality mentors are too busy with their lives and they don’t have time for questions like: What should I include in my business plan? How do I recruit and manage my new employees? How do I evaluate my business to ensure that its performing as I had envisioned it to? How do I design my web pages so that they attract a lot of traffic to my site? How do I manage my business on social media? Who are my competitors?
For all these questions, you will need answers. Google or any other search engine will quickly become your friend and mentor. In this modern world, you don’t need an actual person to mentor you. If you get one, you are one of the lucky few. If you don’t, you are not alone. Try the search engines. They work wonders.
4) Someone Else is Already Doing it. You are not Albert Einstein
When you start doing your research, you will realise that your idea is not so novice after all. Someone somewhere is already doing it. You will get discouraged because suddenly, you are not as creative as you thought you are. You will begin to question yourself. You will wonder why everyone else is coming up with excellent and original products but not you. Newsflash. You are not Albert Einstein. But, you can differentiate your product from the rest in order to compete effectively in the market.
5) No One Needs Your Product!
You have made a great product. Yeey! But no one needs it. Most probably it was just something you came up with for self actualisation purposes. Your product may be there to fulfil your dream of being an ‘entrepreneur.
You will get seriously criticised. Learn how to develop a thick skin to handle the criticism and also an open mindset to be able to listen to your customers. This will help you have the strength to go on and continually modify your product to meet your customers’ needs.
6) Your Initial Business Idea Will Mutate Into Totally Something Different
Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that the business they are in currently is not what they first envisioned. Once you begin testing your product in the market, you will see the flaws in your product and will take measures to improve on it. The road becomes clearer as soon as you take the first step. Your original idea will mutate into something you absolutely never imagined. It will continue to do so for a very long time until you find a balance.
I used to have an idea for connecting talented youth to employers but when I tested the market, I found that providing a platform for them to sell their unique products was what they needed. I am sure my product will be totally different several years from now. The key to success is to continually listen to your customers in order to meet their needs.
7) Constant Rejection and Heartbreak
So you have this great business idea. Congratulations. That’s the first step. However, you are still playing in your bubble. The reality is, not everyone will believe in your product, let alone part with some hard earned cash for it. After all, you are just another wanna-be entrepreneur trying to get some money off me! That’s what’s running through the mind of an investor or a potential customer.
Your product may not be useful to them or they may not even see the business sense in it. You will knock on many doors. Once in a while you may find some encouragement from a friend who saw how desperate you were trying to make a sale. And so they bought your product out of pity. You will feel like giving up more times than you breathe. That’s how bad it can get.
8) You are on Your Own!
Did I say that you will most probably be in your own bubble? People will think that you are crazy for giving up a well paying job to start a business for which the returns are not even certain. Having left employment, you will realise that your social circles will change. Suddenly you have no colleagues to hang around with. You are new to the business world and have not yet forged networks with like-minded individuals. The business idea you have is so crazy, your friends have nothing to say about it. You are beginning to see the world differently. You no longer have anything in common with your friends. You are on your own!
9) Your Friends Will Not Understand Why Your Business is Not Established After One Year of Leaving Employment
Be ready to get those blank stares of disbelief that one year later, you are still struggling. I often get questions like: can you appoint me to the Board of Directors of your business? No! My business is not established yet. I am still starting up!
Most people expect businesses to pay right away or within a few months. The truth is: it’s hard to find a business that pays back within months let alone a year. Research has shown that businesses breakeven from 18 – 36 months onwards.
10) 90% Chance of Your Business Failing
Statistics on start-up business failure rates are discouraging. Forbes.com cites 90% of start-ups failing due to various reasons. You are not special. Chances are that you will easily be in the 90% list of start-ups that fail. The odds are not on your side.
11) Your Investment in the Business Should be an Amount You are Willing to Lose
There is a 90% chance that you are going lose it all. If you are rational, make sure that your investment in the business is an amount you are willing to lose.
12) Cash Will be Hard to Come By
Unless you have a lot of money at your disposal, at some point you will run out of reserves. As an entrepreneur, there will be no guarantee of cash at the end of the month like in the case of employment. Your business may still be in the early stages and not generating money. Even if it is, most of it will be ploughed back into the business and also to pay debts. You will need to learn how to bootstrap. You may have to adjust your lifestyle significantly. Spend less and only on the bare essentials. Occasionally you may have to take odd jobs so that you don’t sleep hungry.
13) The Temptation to Get Back to Employment is Real
When you realise that your reserves are quickly being depleted, the temptation to go back to employment becomes real. You will go back to taste the good old life: medical cover for you and your family and a guaranteed salary at the end of the month will be there beckoning you to get into the corporate door. These benefits are too tempting to forego. You will go back to employment. But if your desire and passion for business is too strong, you will quit again (most probably when the reserves are enough). And the cycle continues.
Related post: Is Passion Important in Life?
14) When You Make it, Friends Will Come Back
You have gone through all these years, patiently running your business and finally, it has picked up and you are a success story. You get special invites to events because you are recognised as a market leader in your area of specialisation. Your product is the talk of town. The tabloids are talking about your story of how you turned Kshs 10,000 into a multi-billion empire. Suddenly, everyone knows you. Your former classmates, workmates, acquaintances, they now want to be associated with you. How do you handle success? That is a story for another day.