Don't start your own company. I'm an entrepreneur, and yes, that's the advice I would give to other entrepreneurs. I'm not trying to be a jerk. Let's just face reality for a second here: Only four percent of new businesses manage to stay alive after ten years. In other words, the odds are against you.
Look, I love being an entrepreneur. But, working for someone else's business has tons of benefits too -- like stability, for instance. And, if you are great at what you do, the financial rewards are there: I have friends who make six figures a year as employees.
If you still think of quitting your job and go full-time entrepreneurship, do a reality check and ask yourself these three questions first:
1. Am I ready to go through all the ups and downs as an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster. One day you are the king of the world. The next day you just want to run to your mother's arms and cry like a baby. And you will get both days in spades.
Here's the biggest thing you will realize when you go from employee to entrepreneur: the lifestyle changes. You will work more than you ever had. You will not have a paycheck in some months. Are you okay with that?
The key is, set the right expectations for yourself, so that when you leave your job and become an entrepreneur you won't crumble under stress.
I once asked this same question to a technician who wanted to start his own business. After he thought about the sacrifices he had to make as an entrepreneur, he decided to work for me instead. (Today, he's one of the best people in my company.)
2. Why do I want to be an entrepreneur?
Want to be your own boss, make tons of money and change the world? Great, but you need a lot more than these reasons to succeed in business.
You need to know your 'why' as an entrepreneur. Why start this business? Why solve this business problem? You need to be passionate about the business you're going into. That's what keeps you going even during the worst times - times that you just feel like completely giving up.
When I meet entrepreneurs who are just starting out, I can usually tell if they have a chance of being successful or not, simply by observing how they talk about the business problems they solve. Even the smartest person in the world will struggle to build a successful business if s/he is not in love with the problem.
For me, having a deep understanding of my 'why' helps me make the right decisions as an entrepreneur, and keeps me focused on my business vision. I guarantee it will be the same for you as well, independently if you choose to be an entrepreneur or an employee.
3. Am I a great salesman?
An entrepreneur never stops selling. (Yes, even if you're the most technically minded person in the room.) You have to sell your products to your customers, so that they buy from you. You have to sell your vision to your team and/or partners, so that they follow your lead. You have to sell your idea to investors, so that they invest in your business. And, especially when you're starting out, closing deals with customers is what will determine your survival.
This means that even when you're drinking a cocktail at the bar, you should be thinking about selling. Be comfortable with the idea of selling 24/3, because you will always need to find opportunities that give your business that extra edge. I love sales, and I look for opportunities to sell in every possible situation. Even a casual conversation can turn into a business discussion. I can't count the number of times I made deals in the golf course, just because I chatted up my golf buddy.
Last few words
If you answered those three questions and think entrepreneurship might not be for you right now, that's 100 percent okay. You can still do great work as an employee.
If you're still convinced that entrepreneurship is for you, then you have me as your first supporter.