What should all first time entrepreneurs know before starting their very first business? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Kathy Hannun, CEO and Co-Founder, Dandelion Energy, on Quora:

  1. The problem you're solving with your business must be meaningful to you. This is because you will end up sacrificing many other meaningful parts of your life on the altar of solving whatever problem your business is going after. For me, this list of sacrifices includes: peace of mind (when I worked at Google before starting Dandelion, I never for a moment had to worry that the company would fail due to action or inaction on my part), ample time with family and friends, living in California (my husband and I moved to NY for the business), leisure time, hobbies, etc. It is worth it to me because I want to devote my time to addressing climate change, and Dandelion is my mechanism for doing this. If Dandelion were addressing an issue less meaningful to me, I'd quickly question whether all those other sacrifices were worth it.
  2. Like with any human activity, the people will be the hardest part, so choose your people well. If everyone communicated perfectly, shared the same values, and maintained composure under stress at all times, how easy it would be to solve even the thorniest problems! Being part of a start up together will thrust you and your colleagues into highly ambiguous situations where there is very little infrastructure and it feels like a lot is at stake. The stress of starting a business can be intense as it is. It's critical to choose people that not only have the skillset/expertise you're looking for, but will also be a source of camaraderie and support instead of a source of yet more stress.
  3. Being an entrepreneur is a humbling experience. People often use the phrase "I'm humbled to..." to accept accolades or congratulations with modesty, but starting a business is genuinely humbling. It quickly shows you your weaknesses, flaws, and limitations, as any sufficiently challenging endeavor will. I've made so many mistakes: hiring people at too high a position for them to be successful and then taking too long to remedy it, not measuring the right things quickly enough, not putting the right communications structures in place for the team, not managing consultants closely enough to ensure they deliver appropriate value to the company etc., etc. To become an entrepreneur you have to be willing to see your own imperfections in technicolor and you need the discipline to handle them dispassionately like you would any other part of the business by identifying the issue and quickly marshaling the resources to solve it. Otherwise, ego will make the hard things a lot harder than they need to be.

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Published on: Sep 10, 2018