When a hopeful entrepreneur asks me advice on beginning a startup, my advice is always the same: Don’t do it. It’s awful.
That is not the full truth. The reality is that it’s difficult to start and run a business. It’s a tremendous investment that takes time, effort and capital. Your focus is always on the business. Fantastic highs give way to horrible lows. It causes drastic mood swings (that might seem irrational to others) and extreme financial stress that few really understand. If someone one is going to make it, they won’t listen to my suggestion and will move full-steam ahead.
If this is the path you go down, there are a few things you should expect.
Uneven Work/Life Balance
I’ve always struggled with the work/life balance ratios that people often refer to. I genuinely love the challenges that come with creating a business, so I guess you could say I’ve never worked a day in my life. How is that for balance? But in all seriousness, I am almost constantly thinking about work, whether I’m running, reading, with friends or out with my girlfriend. In the back of my head, I’m going over checklists, thinking up new strategies or applications of new technologies. This can make relationships difficult, as you’re always ducking out to take a phone call, canceling dates or are unable to totally focus on on someone. On the flip side, I’m free to make my own schedule, stepping out to take care of personal things or work remotely if I need to.
An Always Moving Finish Line
There are going to be times where it feels like everyone is trying to prevent you from getting to where you want to be. It is easy to get discouraged and swayed. Entrepreneurs must go into what I call “cut-throat mode.” You need to navigate politics, get buy-in and ultimately arrive at your goal. Chances are, until that goal is achieved, you won’t be happy. And even when that happens, a new goal will inevitably appear to embark upon. To compound matters, there may even be multiple goals at the same time. This can ultimately make it challenging to have fun or do social activities with non-entrepreneurs because there is always something more important, in your mind, to do. After all, time is money, and both can be the difference between success and failure.
To tackle this, try breaking your goals into manageable pieces so they are more actionable. Understanding everything that needs to happen and having a plan for how you will accomplish each step eases the burden.
Always Being ‘On’
As an entrepreneur, you always need to be thinking about how your business is perceived by the mainstream. Because of this, you always need to be “on.” You don’t have the luxury of disclosing issues or problems. In order to protect and propel your organization, your guard always needs to be up — prepared to spin negatives or take advantage of opportunities when they appear. For example, responding to questions like “How is the business going?” is incredibly complex. I always stay positive and keep in mind who is asking. You never know who you are going to meet or what they might know. Make sure you are representing yourself and your company well.
Most humans fail over and over, and this is generally a good thing as long as you learn from it. However, when running a business, there are a lot of dependencies, and ensuring the bottlenecks you are creating are solved can cause a lot of pressure and stress. For example, missing payroll is a very realistic possibility for most startups. Whatever the situation may be, you are the one who is generally responsible for fixing the problem, and chances are you will not always have the answer.
Is It Worth It?
Being an entrepreneur is one of the best and worst things I’ve decided to do. I’ve learned more than I could have imaged and have been faced with challenging situations I never thought I would have to go through, but I’ve also had a ton of fun. If I could choose a different career path, I wouldn’t. It’s not for everyone, but if you are the type of person who, after reading this, still wants to pursue creating your dream company, good for you. Just remember it will most likely be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but with perseverance, you might just pull it off.