Working with entrepreneurs has been one of the most interesting things I've done in my career. Particularly because I've been working in this space for nearly 10 years, before it was cool and your friends and family actually looked down on you for striking out on your own. Over the past 4-5 years there has been a surge in interest but there are a ton of misconceptions floating around. To be frank and from my perspective, a lot of these misconceptions are in communities of color. Though we're no spring chickens to entrepreneurship, we are as it relates to starting technology or technology enabled businesses. While I may be biased since my work focuses on minority entrepreneurs, it seems as if social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat have given many new entrepreneurs a distorted view of what it means to be an entrepreneur. I'd be remiss if I didn't set the record straight on a few things:
Raising money doesn't mean you're ballin'
If you happen to be one of the lucky few who are successful at raising money you already know this isn't true. But to everyone who is celebrating your success they may think otherwise. In short this is how it works: You build something of value, you get lucky enough to get investors to grow what you have, your investors want to see consistent growth and an exit at some point, 7-10 years down the line if you exit your investors get paid back before you do. In the meantime you get a salary and are an employee of the business. To outsiders or starry-eyed new entrepreneurs that shiny new investment means you've made it. Don't play yourself. You haven't.
Just because you start doesn't qualify you as an expert
These days there is no shortage of business experts. I've seen it time and time again. I'll work with entrepreneurs in my accelerator NewME and 3 months later they are an "expert." Just because you have started doesn't make you an expert in the least and to that note, speaking on panels doesn't make you an expert either. It takes significant practice (tactically and empirically) to be an expert, some would argue more. I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, we all have some knowledge that can help others, however I increasingly see young entrepreneurs getting caught up in speaking on panels as if it is their full time job. Check yourself before your business does.
Freedom will still be elusive
It's true, having your own business you have a lot more freedom and flexibility than working a regular 9-5 but you're not putting in any less work. In fact, you'll be working more. The only thing you really have control over is how you work, read location and time of day, and to be honest this is only partially true. Depending on the type of business you are running and the scale of it you can easily create a 9-5 for yourself rather than checking into someone else's. You will only have real freedom as an entrepreneur if you are lucky to recruit the right people and set-up the right team that will allow you to set the strategic direction while they execute. This is a skill not many master.
Your metrics matter, a lot
If you don't know how much you are growing, your acquisition costs, burn rate, and customer lifetime value to name a few you don't know your business. It's disheartening when I have conversations with entrepreneurs and they don't know these basic things off the top of their head. It's your job to know and you are doing yourself a disservice if you are having conversations professionally and don't know these things like you know your social security number.
Everyone can't be a boss
Look, everyone should absolutely try their hand at entrepreneurship at least once in their life. There is a lot to be learned about life and yourself through the process of starting and growing a business. However, the reality of the situation is that not everyone will be a "success." This is ok. I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who think that the job they left to start their new business is the last job they will ever have. This would be great but not everyone will have this luxury. Not to mention that growing businesses need employees. It's ok if entrepreneurship isn't for you or you have to go back to work. You reap some of the benefits of entrepreneurship by taking your talents to growing startups. The lessons you've learned in your own business including the work ethic you've likely developed are major assets.