Without fail, I hear this every month: "I've got a great idea. I want to be my own boss. I'm ready to launch a startup." Whether it's a question from an audience member or a comment from a reader, the same conversation erupts every time I share my experience in building HireVue. With nearly 70 percent of Millennials expressing that they want to work for themselves, it's probably a conversation you've had as well.
With every dream comes a reality. Starting your own business isn't for the faint of heart. If you're toiling with starting your own business, you've got to understand the reality of it all too. Sure, there will be incredible moments of success and accomplishment, but for most, the reality of success is slim to none. I'm not trying to crush any dreams, but simply provide a little perspective from the unglamorous side of entrepreneurship.
Four Reasons Not to Start a Startup
1) Your Risk Tolerance Isn't High Enough: According to the Small Business Administration, only one in three small businesses will survive its first two years. Beyond that, the underlying story of failure is simple: It's harder than most think. Ultimately, you need to honestly assess your comfort level with failure. Inevitably things will go wrong and you'll understand why risk isn't for the faint of heart.
2) Your Work/Life Balance Will Be a Joke. Being an entrepreneur doesn't end at 6 p.m.. During the early days of HireVue, nearly every dinner with Amber was interrupted by a phone call from a candidate who needed help with their digital interview. And while we now have more than 200 team members, in the early years, everyone wore multiple hats. If you're not willing to spend an insane amount of time in each and every role across your business, this isn't for you. And relationships? When the startup becomes your priority, you will cease being dependable to your family and friends. Without a doubt the startup life is hard on relationships, families, children and spouses.
3) Your Bank Account Will Be a Bigger Joke. The people I know who've made it to the point of actually banking a salary went through years of zero dollars, heavy debt and tons of stress. In every forecast you build, you plan to start paying yourself "just enough to get by." In most cases, it won't be enough and you won't end up being able to get by on little to no money.
4) Your Gut Will Be More Predictive Than Your Idea. There's no such thing as a career as an "entrepreneur"--it's instinctual. For all the reasons above, the people that flourish are born with the right tolerance and tenacity to do this day in and day out. Unfortunately, circumstance -- not opportunity -- breeds many late in life entrepreneurs (lost job, no jobs, need to earn extra money to make ends meet), and many find out the hard way that it's just too difficult to "learn."
If you want to determine if you're an entrepreneur, ask yourself these simple questions:
- Did you naturally figure out ways to earn money growing up that wasn't a function of hours x wage?
- Are you comfortable weighing risk and reward?
- Are you relentlessly resourceful?
- Can you live through ambiguity?
I love speaking at startup events and classes, and I am so thankful for the journey I've had. However, my advice to most people out there who would love to "start a startup" or "hit it big" is this: Figure out how to do it while you're a part of something rather than trying to do it yourself. Those of us that have been through it are a sadomasochistic bunch and it's not for everyone.
What reasons not to start a startup would you add to my list?