The life of an entrepreneur sounds glamorous when you're on the outside looking in. Setting your own schedule, creating your own rules, and building the type of company you want to work for can be incredibly alluring.
In the 20 years I've been an entrepreneur, the perception of entrepreneurship has shifted 180 degrees. When I graduated college, everyone wanted to work for a big corporation -- that was the definition of success. Now it seems that the opposite is true. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. However, far from a way of life, entrepreneurship -- with or without success -- is a ticket to a perpetual roller coaster ride that can be nauseating most of the time.
The truth from within the trenches of being a serial entrepreneur is a bit darker than in the glow personified in publications such as Inc. or Fast Company. You should think carefully if you're considering entrepreneurship, which might mean you'll never work 9 to 5 again, instead your typical workday becomes more like 16 hours, all hours of the day and night, 7 days a week. And for what? A chance to own 1 out of the 10 startups that actually do succeed. Cold statistics like these are not intended to discourage entrepreneurs, but to encourage them to understand the realities and sacrifices you have to be willing to make to become entrepreneurs.
In fact, successful entrepreneurs tend to be idolized by the masses because they appear to be happier, more successful, and more driven than anyone else. There are a multitude of books, courses, and companies devoted entirely to selling the dream of business ownership. Yet, there's a hidden dark side to being an entrepreneur that's rarely discussed -- the lifestyle can be a setup for a variety of serious issues.
I can tell you from personal experience that entrepreneurship -- starting your own company -- is hard and emotionally draining. I started a few companies in my career, and each one is as difficult as the last. It's difficult because partners, employees, and investors are investing in you, not your company. So the better you can handle a 5 - 9 workday, and 80-hour workweeks, the better your company will perform.
So before you get too excited about becoming an entrepreneur, reevaluate your expectations and consider these facts:
1. Starting a business is never as easy or as fast as you believe it will be.
Young entrepreneurs who think to own your business leads to profits, needs a financial eye-opener. The truth is, I've spent more more than I generate in revenue, and as a result, I haven't received a paycheck for several years. I've had to rely on my savings or reserves for basic living expenses with the hope that things will pan out in the future. Even the things you can predict won't happen exactly how you envisioned. As an entrepreneur, you'll be forced to adapt, sometimes in ways, you don't want to adapt. Nothing will happen the way you think it will.
2. It's been said that "Every great achievement requires great sacrifices."
Those sacrifices usually means your personal life will suffer. And let me tell you from experience: whatever you value in your life you will have to sacrifice in some measure to be successful.
I definitely worked at least 40 percent more than a typical 9-5 corporate job. Even when I wasn't working I couldn't help but be distracted constantly, thinking about the problems my business was facing, and the financial stress I was asked t bear took its toll on my relationships.
3. The divide between what you want to do and what you have to do.
As an entrepreneur, I've had to juggle many balls. I got do some of the work I love to do, but also ended up doing more work I never wanted. I was an administrator, a supervisor, an accountant, an HR manager, and a marketer all at the same time. It was exhausting. No matter how excited I was to take on these responsibilities at the beginning of the week, this constant gear shifting always inevitably wore me down -- It will take its toll on you.
4. Failure is not an option, it's a certainty
Every successful entrepreneur fails fast, learns fast, and fixes fast. If they don't, there will be some other failure, massive or minor, that will interfere with your plans and compromise your vision. Failure is an inevitable, and essential, part of entrepreneurship, though realizing this rarely makes it easier to accept. The obstacle of failure is ever present and always daunting when you're leading a business, and working through that failure is too much for some. The ability to recover from failure is what separates successes from the rest.
Not everyone can start a business -- And not everyone should. No one wants to crush anyone's dreams, but that's not what this is about. Not everyone has what it takes and not everyone wants to do what it takes to start, launch, and scale a company of their own. The word 'entrepreneur' has become too trendy and the meaning lost in pop-cultures glamours personification.