I started my career as an entrepreneur three years ago when a reader of one of my LinkedIn blogs hired me to serve as a communications consultant for their organization. I didn't know it, but at that point my company was born, and a few months later I had enough clients to focus full-time on my business.
Here are three quick takeaways from my time running my company:
1. There is no substitute for real entrepreneurship (and "intrapreneurship" is not even close).
About a month ago, I had coffee with a coach and consultant who told me that she teaches "intrapreneurship," and that it essentially was the same thing as entrepreneurship. Intrapreneurship, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the process of developing a new idea, product, or business line within an existing organization.
Doing that isn't easy.
But the comparative risk taken by an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur are nowhere near the same. I have been acutely aware, every single day, of the financial risk and sacrifice my wife and kids took with me because they believed I would succeed. I have been acutely aware, every day, that my few employees depended on me for a paycheck. I have been acutely aware, every single day, of how there are some months where the debt we took on to make this business a reality just seems to grow and grow.
Those experiences made me tougher and more resilient in a way that no other professional experience could. That doesn't mean that entrepreneurs have all the answers to society's problems--but it does mean that entrepreneurship is a unique experience that has no substitute.
2. Entrepreneurship is incredibly lonely.
Here's something I didn't hear a whole lot before I took the entrepreneurial leap: Being a founder is lonely, even when you have a supportive family and great people on your team. You can't talk to your family and your employees about your concerns or worries without transferring those concerns and worries and setting off a self-reinforcing downward spiral of stress.
Find a mentor who's been there before. Get a shoulder to cry on, so to speak.
Because you will cry.
And that's okay.
3. Entrepreneurship is an amazing learning experience.
Over the last three years, I've learned to do my own payroll, do my own company taxes, and serve as my own IT manager. I hated every one of these duties with its own unique passion. I hate doing taxes. I hate doing payroll. And I truly, truly hated spending money on computers and equipment that seemed to fail on me way too quickly.
However, I'm glad I learned how to do these things. They make me a more complete entrepreneur and a more complete employee. They give me empathy for all entrepreneurs, be they Mark Zuckerberg or the owner of the sandwich shop down the street from my office.
Not everyone is meant to be a business owner.
But even if it's just a side hustle, take a chance on yourself.
The entrepreneurial experience will be hard. It will be lonely.
And you will learn a whole lot about you're made of.