No one can prepare you for being an entrepreneur. Even Ivy League schools can't teach the challenges, mistakes, and failures you'll encounter as you step into this all-compassing role. From the startup phase to a full fledged corporation, it takes a resilient and humble individual to run the course.
Ninety-percent of startups fail. For the 10-percent who survive, they'll have the scars to prove it. It's a grim outlook to say the least, but also an incredible adventure. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson; these entrepreneurs have become household names and paved the way for budding founders, eager to make it big.
Sixteen years ago I left my cushy job and took the entrepreneurial plunge. The journey has been full of high highs and low lows. I've failed and flourished all in the same week (and sometimes in the same day). And it's been worth every minute.
If I had a chance to tell my twenty-something self some words of wisdom, I would have saved myself some time, tears, and money. Here are 3 things things every entrepreneur should know before they branch out.
1. Being respected is more important than being liked.
Many entrepreneurs learn leadership on the fly (myself included). Without prior experience or someone to help guide you along the way, managing people will be the hardest part of the job.
Back when I started, I thought being a good boss meant I had to be liked. As a result, I was hesitant to give critical feedback because I was afraid of hurting people's feelings. This frustrated my team because they didn't have the information they needed to grow and develop.
Don't get caught up in being 'the cool boss'. Lead from a place of honesty and integrity, and you'll find the road a lot less bumpy. Is it hard to tell someone they're underperforming? Yes. Do you feel awful when you fire an employee? Absolutely. It's all part of the gig. Do what's best for the company, not your circle of friends.
2. Secure money you don't need.
After a few years running my company Creative Niche, I was really finding my groove. We were landing big accounts, revenues were up, and I was expanding to international locations. It was a great place to be.
Then the recession happened. Hiring completely stopped, and for a recruitment and staffing agency, this was obviously a big blow to the business. No one was lending money, and I was seriously worried whether we would stay afloat.
Securing money when you don't need it is so important for entrepreneurs. When profits are up, you're much more likely to get approved for a line of credit. Hopefully you'll never need to use it, but incase a setback comes, you'll have a safety net to pull from.
3. You're not as important as you think you are.
When you're first starting out, you're typically a one-person show. From sales to marketing to accounting, you wear all the hats. That's why it can be hard to let go of control.
Delegating is a vital skill that every leader has to acquire. Trusting your employees is the key to growth. Otherwise, you'll be a micromanager that drives everyone (including yourself) to a breaking point.
My advice to young entrepreneurs is to embrace your weaknesses. Hire people who are more experienced than you, then get out of their way. Let them do their job and foster their growth and development. You don't need to be involved in every small decision.