My journey into entrepreneurship has been unconventional and filled with plenty of ups and downs. I’ve learned a lot and lost a lot. Most importantly, I’ve grown a lot.
Being an entrepreneur is uncomfortable. I mean that truly. It’s the most uncomfortable position you’ll ever be in, and even worse, it’s an endless loop. You never really stop being an entrepreneur – so you never really stop being uncomfortable, just less uncomfortable.
Still, I love it will all of my heart. I’m an evangelist when it comes to entrepreneurship and want to help as many people as I can transition into this amazing journey of self-discovery, problem-solving, and innovation.
Before that, I want to talk about why entrepreneurship sucks.
Entrepreneurship is over-glorified. When you see shows like Shark Tank and Silicon Valley, you’d get the impression that all you need is a good idea, and people will pay you to flesh it out. Wrong. Here are some hard truths about entrepreneurship.
1. It’s an emotional roller-coaster
I get asked a lot, “What’s the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?” For me, it’s the emotions. If you’re not emotionally stable, it will destroy. If you are emotionally stable, it will find ways to destabilize you. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation. You’ll shed some tears, and share some laughs.
One day you’ll be on a mountain, the next in the valley. My advice is never to ride the highs too high, or the lows too low. Keep a level head through it all, but don’t forget to celebrate the little wins. If you can, find someone to confide in.
2. It’s extremely risky
More times than not, you will fail. It’s easy to sit back and wonder how a company could go bankrupt. How can they just shut down and an entire business? How can the lay-off hundreds of employees? The reality is that if you’re hearing about a business shutting down, it probably was well-known. There are plenty of unknown companies in the graveyard.
Now imagine yourself having to be the person to tell your team, you can’t work here anymore. I know your family needs this income, but we’ve failed.
Even the greatest of ideas can have the worst timing or poor execution. The smartest of teams can fail to satisfy one key customer who pulls back. My advice is to manage and mitigate risk as much as possible. You’ll never eliminate them, but understanding and being aware of what could possibly go wrong will reduce the probability of it all hitting the fan. And even if it does, you’ll have a well-thought-out contingency plan in play.
You should always consider how you’ll return value back to your investors (even if you’re your only investor).
3. Raising money is hard
It’s never easy to go up to somebody with no product, no revenue, no team, and no other investor, and ask them to invest money in your company. Sometimes you don’t even have it though out, so it’s just them investing in your idea. I’ll make a separate post on how to fundraise later, but for now, just know it’s hard and painful.
One thing that Shark Tank is good for, is showing how hard it actually is to convince people to give you money. My advice here is to focus on becoming profitable. Do as much as you can with as little as possible. It’s easier to ask for money when you don’t need it. Then start with family and friends. You’ll get a lot of no’s, but it’ll help prepare you for asking complete strangers, where you’ll also get a lot of no’s, for money.
4. Recruiting people is harder
Recruiting is easier when you have money to pay them. How do you get money? See #3. It’s hard. Even with money, people aren’t always motivated by money. They want a piece of the company or equity. Recruiting veterans in your field? They want autonomy. Recruiting people with families? They want a health care package and retirement plan.
Regardless of who you need to work on your idea with you, the conversation of compensation will come up. If they’re not properly compensated, they will leave, or never come at all. My advice for this, recruit from within your friends. They’ll believe in you more than a complete stranger, and you’ll work a lot better together. Most importantly, they’ll work for close to nothing.
Pay yourself as soon as you possibly can, humbly though. Rule of thumb is that in a start-up, the founders should have the lowest salary of everyone on the team. Just know when they join, they become your responsibility, and so does their livelihood.
5. Entrepreneurship sucks
Really. It’s the craziest thing anyone can do. The risk is extremely high. The probability of success low. There’s nothing gratifying about working 80-100 hours a week on something that might not ever make you a penny – unless it’s yours. Entrepreneurship sucks, but your ideas don’t. Your dream doesn’t. That problem that you’re solving doesn’t.
You don’t become an entrepreneur to make money, a 9-5 does that way better, more consistently, and with healthcare and dental. You become an entrepreneur because you have the mentality of “If I don’t do this, then who will?”
You see a problem that’s not being solved. A product that doesn’t exist. A need not being met. Parts of the world being neglected. Customers being unsatisfied. Students missing out on learning lessons. People without an affordable yet stylish option for clothing.
The greatest entrepreneurs saw something that others didn’t. So if you can’t convince everyone about your ideas, and dreams, so be it. You’re the only one that needs convincing.
It sucks, but that’s what’s important about it. The people who fill these gaps are immortalized. They’re the Oprah’s, the Elon’s, the Kanye’s, the You’s. So stop reading this and go become everything you’re supposed to be – and society will reward you greatly for it. Choose something your passionate about. You’ll be able to convince investors, employees, and customers that this is as important to them to solve this, as it is to you.
I’ll be releasing a web series on how to start a start-up for those that understand the risks, the pains, but care so much about their idea or the problem they’re solving, that they’re crazy enough to do it anyway.