Entrepreneurship is such an exciting field of study and practice. So interesting that there is still no consensus as to its actual definition. It means a lot of things to different people. However, what has been consistent and similar are the experiences and lessons of those involved in one way or another with entrepreneurial activities, either in starting up or in running an already established business. Some of those lessons taught us about the revealing nature of entrepreneurship and how it helps us discover stuff about ourselves we never knew was there, like public speaking, risk taking, empowering people, making critical decisions fast and many more. Other lessons and shared experiences from success stories also gives us a ton of reasons to want to start our own businesses such as financial freedom, being your own boss, working from anywhere, leaving a legacy etc. What we sometimes fail to see or learn though are the bitter parts of the success stories we read and hear about everyday, which are equally important to achieve entrepreneurial success. Having tried my hands at running businesses and launching a startup, below are some of my realities that I wished I knew at the initial stages before taking a plunge for you to prepare better on handling each as it applies to your entrepreneurial journey.
You will think you know but you don’t until you act
All those books you are reading on strategic planning, market forecasting, customer profiling and all those courses you are taking from top business schools or your work experiences from top firms are good approaches and routes to entrepreneurship but they can all amount to nothing if you don’t take the important step to act on your ideas fast. The real taste of the pudding is in the eating, not in reading or being told about it. Real knowledge lies in the practice of entrepreneurship and if you haven’t taken the step to actually put a product or service out there to test and start learning, you will never know the actual needs to meet and how to meet those needs in order to achieve success. So don’t procrastinate and act on your idea(s) now.
2. You will make a lot of serious mistakes
This is normal in the practice of entrepreneurship regardless of your industry experience or knowledge. You will make some costly mistakes that might even take away all your savings or substantial resources without the possibility of getting them back. It might be in your decisions, your strategy, your team, your partnership choices or your product design. However, the twist is, as stated by an author, “you do not have a story until something goes wrong”- so whenever and however the mistakes comes, just know and take it as a part of the learning process towards discovery, after all what is a good success story without those minor setbacks.
3. You will need money now and in advance too
Yes, you will and for several months in advance. I’d say for the next 12months the least because it will save you a substantial amount of stress that you would encounter once you start the actual process of business creation and management. The truth is you will never know the actual amount you need because of the dynamic nature of the entrepreneurial process but you can plan and set aside some funds for a few necessities such as to pay the wages of a small team, bills, taxes and even your feeding, transportation and other personal needs ahead, apart from what you will require now to start and launch your product or service. Without such planning, having the financial discipline needed as a new business starter might be difficult due to lack of clarity between business and personal financial resources, which can lead to misuse in fulfilling trivial needs.
4. People will doubt your capability until it’s proven
There are so many walls you will have to break through to achieve entrepreneurial success. People hardly take entrepreneurs that are just starting out very seriously. Some will even believe it’s out of desperation of been unemployed or as a result of you being confused or lost. Others will be quick to offer you career advices for roles in a proper organization instead of trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg!. Some will call your dreams an illusion and say to your face it is unrealistic. Most people will never believe you have what it takes until you prove them wrong and that takes a clear vision, time and a lot of concentrated efforts to achieve, but when you finally do i.e. prove them wrong with a breakthrough product or service, they will find it hard to doubt you on your next adventure even if it involves building houses on the moon. All you need to do is to focus and try to get it right just once!
5. You will need to sacrifice your most valuable resource –Time and a lot of it too!
Entrepreneurial success takes time to materialize and that time is dependent on how much time you are willing to invest in your business. As precious as it is, time is the one thing you have to give, and not be tired of giving, starting and running your business for success. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are examples of successful entrepreneurs that kept sleeping bags in their offices because they spend a lot of their time working continuously. They understand the value of time and what it means to spend a second of it out of building their businesses, so they gave it their all even if it means sleeping uncomfortably, just to become as big as they all are today. So be willing to immerse yourself into your business, and give it time too, for it to materialize into what you initially envision it to be.
6. People will say NO to you, give up on you and sometimes laugh at you
It is certain that you will work with people but don’t expect everyone to see or share the bigger picture with you or as clearly as you do. Although, your duty is to make them see it but not everyone will really understand your past or experience that has shaped your present and they certainly might not be as passionate as you are about a cause or the problem you are trying to solve. If you are into technology business, it is highly advisable you acquire as much technical skills or expertise that will enable you carry on incase your main tech guy walks out on the business. If your business is all about selling stuff, develop your selling skills alongside your team too. Know that people come and people go and use that to develop some skills in your core business activity area or build an important network in place, in order to keep the business running while attempting to fill the gap.
7. There will be great moments of Adrenalin rush that will result into nothing in the end.
This is the fun part of being an entrepreneur. There will be a lot of heart pumping moments in the course of building your business, some resulting in success and some in failure. Some will look like a waste of time and effort even though it started out at first as the perfect idea or business decision. Try to enjoy the ride as much as you can and never stop learning from what works and what doesn’t. You will be glad you did in the end when the dividends start rolling in, if you don’t quit that is.
8. You will spend the money you don’t have on something your business does not need
When you are just starting out, you probably don’t have a lot of cash to throw around. Without appropriate guidance or mentorship, even that little you have can be spent acquiring liabilities that won’t do your new business any good going forward. You might think you need an office when your room will do just fine for a start. The excitement of being the boss might make you want to hire for every position, when those are roles you can take up and do by yourself or delegate to current team members. As highlighted before, reading or learning about lean thinking is very different from practicing it. An experienced mentor can help you avoid or cut out such wastes as a starter until your business gains the traction that can justify your need to acquire extra resources or make certain investments.
9. Reality will set in at some point and it will make you doubt your entrepreneurial capacity or yourself
There is always that point in every entrepreneurial journey that ultimately feels like the perfect time to throw in the towel and walk away. A point when every effort will seem not to be producing expected results. You will expect a lot from people and get disappointed by them all. In fact it would seem as if the whole world is too busy and no one actually has your time or gives you a listening ear or helping hand. Resources would have dwindled and your revenue channels dried up because you aren’t making any money or as much as you’d expected. Then all the articles you have been reading on startup failure flashes across your mind constantly and you start to match your current situation to the characteristics of a failed entrepreneur. There will be such moments and what experts have said is that you are one step away from success at that exact point. If only you don’t give up but would rather try a second, third or fourth time again and again.
10. In the end, you will discover that success sometimes comes from least expected places
This is better explained by this quote: “Let your hook always be CAST. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish”. In the practice of entrepreneurship, you have to keep an open mind and continue trying without having any immediate expectations because things won’t usually turn out the way you initially planned from the start. So instead assume, hypothesize, test and learn, then repeat the process and you will be surprised at what you will discover about success that sometimes, the idea others think is stupid is actually that which disrupt industries. Just keep an open mind, explore and don’t forget to enjoy the long ride.
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