Despite having fought the old adage of “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”, there certainly is some truth to the idea of enjoying the work you do. For me, I really enjoy the process of writing blogs and creating content on a regular basis. I like the work of putting together a new talk, bringing it from concept to fruition, and breathing life into it.
What I am doing my best to avoid this time around is the gut-wrenching process of leaping into a new venture with the reality of “I have ____ dollars in the bank and ___ time to make this work before I am in the red”. I have done this several other times, and in retrospect without full knowledge of what I was getting in to at the time. This is the same thing most entrepreneurs do; a large majority of business ventures don’t get venture capital money to start out. This means you are boot strapping your way forward. Bootstrapping = spending the money of friends and family as well as your own trying to survive until profitability.
Sounds like a daunting task. The key is to find something that you like enough that you don’t mind the grind. For some, the ability to start a business and run things exactly the way you see fit is what they are looking for. Whether it is an idea that new and exciting, or an improvement over an existing offering, sitting at the helm of your own company is very appealing to some. Building a business from the ground up is not for the feint of heart; it is a never-ending cycle of playing fireman and cleaning up the mess others make. As the owner of the business, you are responsible for EVERYTHING that happens, whether you did something directly or not. Everyone you employ is under your jurisdiction, and every action they take not only reflects on you, but you bear responsibility for. Every lost sale, pissed off client, missed delivery deadline or wrong order has your name stamped on it. The bathroom sink is leaking, that’s your problem. The building has been purchased and you need to relocate, that’s your problem too. Hitting the sales numbers to make sure the business if profitable, ultimately that is you too. It never ends, and you need to be aware of that before you dive headfirst into a business venture. This is the part most people forget to consider:
There is no off switch as an entrepreneur or owner.
You can hire the right team around you to share some of these responsibilities, but that comes at a financial cost. No one is going to have the same level of commitment that you do. This is your baby and you stand to gain far more than anyone else if it is a success. If it fails, you bear the burden of that. Your employees will go find another job elsewhere, and be back on their feet in no time. The best you can do is pay the team around you well so that they are willing to carry some of the burden of the business for you. But at the end of the day they, too, are employees of yours. You as the owner don’t have the luxury of blaming someone else. It is your name that is on the front door, and you must live every day with this in mind. You must consider all of this carefully when entering into a business venture; can you stomach to loss of money, firing employees, closing the doors and doing something else to recover from the failed business venture?
Lots of people say they want to be an entrepreneur these days; all the cool kids are doing it. The reality is that VERY few people are equipped with the right acumen to run a business. Some are great idea people, but can’t run the business. Others may have a good business acumen, but bringing an idea to fruition is not a task they are well-suited for. Most ventures are under-funded and should put off starting until they can change that. A standard rule of thumb has always been that you have enough money to run the business for a year without making a dime. Personally, I would look for three years of money before I would dive in, based on what I have experienced. There are so many unknowns that you need to prepare for, that twelve months of cash flow just doesn’t seem nearly enough of a safety net. I have come up short on entrepreneurial ventures three times, and all three of them would have been successful if there was more money to get us through that start-up phase. But I fell short.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a profession that pays the bills, is enjoyable, and that you look forward to every day. Many will tell you this is a dream; that is why most live for the weekend, acknowledge “hump day” and look forward to Friday’s just to get away from their job. Whether you went to grad school and then got a corporate job, or started working right after high school, there are many who suffer through work to make enough money to get by, have a little left over, and try not to lose their sanity in the process. Working for someone else can leave you with the feeling of helplessness, that someone else is dictating your fate, but branching out on your own is no easy task either. Most people do not take the risk of doing their own thing and having the heavy burden of their name on the front door, and that is because it is tough sledding for sure. Like I said, this particular game is not for the feint of heart, so please look at EVERY aspect of the definition of being an entrepreneur, not just the glitz and glamour that the rare few who hit it big showcase.
I wish you luck in whatever your chosen endeavor may be.