Whenever I hear aspiring entrepreneurs talk about how they can't wait to work for themselves so they can travel the world, take long vacations, and spend more free time with their friends, I remind them that all those rewards come at the very end--not the beginning.
If you want to build a successful business, you need to make sacrifices. That's the harsh truth. You're going to trade your 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a more demanding 5 a.m. to 9 p.m schedule. You're going to have to say no to things like going on vacation for a week, or meeting up with your buddies for a few hours after work.
You're going to spend a lot of time alone. You're going to have to build your entire schedule around what it is you're working toward, and you're going to have to learn to be OK with not being able to make everyone in your personal life happy.
Not everyone is going to understand why you're doing what you're doing.
When I look back on my own entrepreneurial journey, there are a handful of sacrifices I can pinpoint that I needed to make in order for me to build what it was I wanted to build. In fact, a few decades of sacrifices is really what inspired me to write my book, All In. I wanted the next generation of doers to know, firsthand, what the tough road of entrepreneurship really looks like.
Before you take the leap and pledge your allegiance to the road of entrepreneurship, make sure you're going to be all right with giving these five things up:
1. Free time
When you're an entrepreneur, there really is no such thing as free time.
Here's where you have to be really honest with yourself. If you're not willing to be plugged in 24/7, 365 days a year, then you might not be ready for the demands of entrepreneurship. I know a lot of guys and gals who say they're "all in" on building their dream company, but don't put in enough time to be a good employee, let alone an entrepreneur.
If you want to build something that is going to stand the test of time, and be around for five, 10, 20 years, then you need to realize up front how much time it's going to ask of you. You have to be willing to put in the time now, so that the business can survive and continue to grow later.
This is one of the hardest things for new entrepreneurs to deal with and learn how to manage.
Family time is essential. I remember when I was building my first business, and how important my family was to me. When I was in town and I wasn't traveling, I left the office at 6, came home for dinner, enjoyed some time with my wife and kids, and then I was right back working at my home desk until I was about to pass out. And Saturday mornings, I'd go to the office to work more.
That was a commitment I knew I had to make--and I had to work on helping my family understand that as well, without making them feel forgotten.
This is a balance that takes time, but it's also one that is going to ask you to really assess your priorities. There were days where I wanted to see my family but couldn't. That's just part of entrepreneurship.
3. Risk versus reward
If you want to make a good living, entrepreneurship might not be for you. And even if you want to be wealthy, entrepreneurship still might not be for you. There are plenty of other ways to make a lot of money without inheriting the financial risk that comes with starting your own business.
One thing I tell any aspiring entrepreneur is that, for the first 18 years, I didn't make much money. I had $20,000 in the bank when I sold half of Wilmar Industries and got a $20 million check. That's how big of a jump it was, because I was constantly investing everything I made back into the business.
But what if things hadn't turned out that way? What if I had invested the best years of my life into a business that had ended up failing? I mean, I always knew I was building something great, but what if?
That's a risk. That's a sacrifice. And you have to be all right with "what if?"
4. Handling failure
So many entrepreneurs quit after their first failure.
Another sacrifice you have to be willing to make, in order to become a successful entrepreneur, is to relinquish any fears or doubts you have--about yourself, your ability to deliver, and your business. And along with that, you have to be willing to pivot at any time, to give up what clearly isn't working and embrace what might work better.
If you aren't able to give up these fears of yours, you will never become successful. Most of the time, it's not even the actual business challenges that keep entrepreneurs from moving forward. It's their own insecurities, fears, worries, and inability to move past themselves.
Give it up. Give it all up, and go all in on yourself.
And, finally, as someone who has "made it" as an entrepreneur, let me tell you: It's lonely at the top.
You can always hire lawyers, accountants, advisers, but at the end of the day, they all have their hand in your pocket. Part of the journey of being an entrepreneur, and sustaining yourself as a successful entrepreneur, is knowing who your real friends are, and letting go of the ones who just want a free lunch.
I have been lucky to have had friends even more successful than me, people I could talk to, learn from, and turn to when I needed advice. Because, on a day-to-day basis, when you walk into your office of five, 10, 1,000 employees, whom do you talk to? Whom do you share your real problems with?
Because you will end up spending so much time working, and with the people with whom you work, keeping a close circle of friends will be a challenge. So it will be up to you to choose your friends wisely.