Entrepreneurship and small business management is such an exciting field of study and practice. So interesting is it that there is still no consensus as to its definition today. It means a lot of things to different people. However, what has been consistent and similar are the experiences and lessons of those involved in one way or another with entrepreneurial activities, either in starting up or in running an already established business. Some of those lessons taught us about the revealing nature of entrepreneurship and how it helps us discover stuff about ourselves we never knew was there, like public speaking, risk taking, empowering people, making critical decisions fast and many more.
Other lessons and shared experiences from success stories also gives us a ton of reasons to want to start our own businesses such as financial freedom, being a boss, working from anywhere, becoming famous etc. What we sometimes fail to see or learn though are the bitter parts of the success stories we read and hear about everyday, which are equally important to achieve entrepreneurial success. Below are 10 ugly realities of entrepreneurship you need to know before you decide to take the plunge and how to handle each:
1. You think you know but you don’t until you act
All those books you are reading on strategic planning, market forecasting, customer profiling and all those courses you are taking from top business schools or your work experiences from top firms are good approaches and routes to entrepreneurship but they can all amount to nothing if you don’t take the important step to act on your ideas fast. The real taste of the pudding is in the eating, not in reading or being told about it. Real knowledge lies in the practice of entrepreneurship and if you haven’t taken the step to actually put a product or service out there to test and start learning, you will never know the actual needs to meet and how to meet those needs in order to achieve success.
2. You will make a lot of serious mistakes
This is normal in the practice of entrepreneurship regardless of your industry experience or knowledge. You will make some costly mistakes that might even take away all your savings or substantial resources without the possibility of getting them back. It might be in your decisions, your strategy, your team, your partnership choices or your product design. However, the twist is, as stated by an author, “you do not have a story until something goes wrong”- so whenever and however the mistakes comes, just know and take it as a part of the learning process towards discovery, after all what is a good success story without those little setbacks.
3. You need money now and in advance too
Yes, you will and for several months in advance. I’d say for the next 12 months the least because it will save you a substantial amount of stress that you would encounter once you start the actual process of business creation and management. The truth is you will never know the actual amount you need because of the dynamic nature of the entrepreneurial process but you can plan and set aside some funds for a few necessities such as to pay the wages of a small team, bills, taxes and even your feeding, transportation and other personal needs ahead, apart from what you will require now to start and launch your product or service. Without such planning, having the financial discipline needed as a new business starter might be difficult due to lack of clarity between business and personal financial resources, which can lead to misuse in fulfilling trivial needs.
4. People will doubt your capability until it’s proven
There are so many hard concrete walls you will have to break through to achieve entrepreneurial success. People hardly take entrepreneurs that are just starting out very seriously. Some will believe it’s out of desperation of been unemployed or as a result of being confused. Others will be quick to offer you career advices for roles in a proper organization instead of trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg!. Some will call your dreams an illusion and say to your face it is unrealistic. Most people will never believe you have what it takes until you prove them wrong and that takes a clear vision, time and a lot of concentrated efforts to achieve, but when you finally do i.e. prove them wrong with a breakthrough product or service, they will find it hard to doubt you on your next adventure even if it involves building houses on the moon. All you need to do is to focus and try to get it right just once!
entrepreneurship and small business management
5. You need to sacrifice your most valuable resource –Time and a lot of it too!
As mentioned above, entrepreneurial success takes time to materialize but demands more of your time invested too. As precious as it is, time is the one thing you have to give, and not be tired of giving, to birth your dreams. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are examples of successful entrepreneurs that keep a sleeping bag in their offices because they spend a lot of time working continuously. They understand the value of time and what it means to spend a second of it out of building their businesses, so they gave it their all even if it means sleeping uncomfortably, just to become as big as they all are today. Whenever someone asks why you are wasting your whole time building your business, answer him or her nicely by saying- only time can tell, we would just have to wait and see!
6. People may say NO, give up on you and sometimes laugh at you
You need people to work with but the ugly reality sometimes is that the most loyal teammate can give up on you and quit at a time you needed him/her the most. This is because not everyone will see the bigger picture with you or as clearly as you do. Although, your duty is to make them see it but not everyone will really understand your past or experience that has shaped your present and they certainly might not be as passionate as you are about a cause or the problem you are trying to solve. If you are into technology business, it is highly advisable you acquire as much technical skills that will enable you carry on in case your main tech guy walks out of the business. If your business is all about selling stuff, develop your selling skills and not trust it completely in the hands of someone, who can as well wake up one morning and quit on you. Know that people come and people go and use that knowledge to build your business around what your core passion and skills are instead of thinking someone else can totally build it for you and all you want to do is to sit and manage. It usually doesn’t work out well that way especially for starters.
7. The great moments of adrenaline rush that will result into nothing in the end.
This is the fun part of being an entrepreneur, the activity levels. There will be a lot of heart pumping moments in the course of building your business, some resulting in success and some in failure. Some will look like a waste of time and effort even though it started out at first as the perfect idea or business decision. Try to enjoy the ride as much as you can and never stop learning from what works and what doesn’t. You will be glad you did in the end when the dividends start rolling in, if you don’t quit that is.
8. You will spend the money on something your business does not need
When you are just starting out, you probably don’t have a lot of cash to throw around. Without appropriate guidance or mentorship, even that little you have can be spent acquiring liabilities that won’t do your new business any good going forward. You might think you need an office when your room will do just fine for a start. The excitement of being the boss might make you want to hire for every position when those are roles you can take up and do by yourself or delegate to current team members. Reading or learning about lean thinking is very different from practicing it. An experienced mentor can help you cut out such wastes as a starter until your business gains the traction that can justify your need to acquire extra resources or make certain investments.
9. Reality may make you doubt, may expose your entrepreneurial capacity or yourself
There is always that point in every entrepreneurial journey that ultimately feels like the perfect time to throw in the towel and walk away. A point when every effort will seem not to be producing expected results. You will expect a lot from people and get disappointed by them all. In fact it would seem as if the whole world is too busy and no one actually has your time or gives you a listening ear or helping hand. Resources would have dwindled and your revenue channels dried up because you aren’t making any money or as much as you’d expected. Then all the articles you have been reading on startup failure flashes across your mind constantly and you start to match your current situation to the characteristics of a failed business or entrepreneur. There will be such moments and what experts have said is that you are one step away from success at exactly that moment. If only you don’t give up but rather push yourself a second, third or fourth time, you will soon discover that light is always at the end of every tunnel.
10. At the end, you may feel that success sometimes comes from least expected places
This is better explained by this quote: “Let your hook always be CAST. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish”. In the practice of entrepreneurship, you have to keep an open mind and continue trying without having any immediate expectations because things won’t usually turn out the way you initially planned from the start. So instead assume, hypothesize, test and learn, then repeat the process and you will be surprised at what you will discover about success that sometimes, the idea others think is stupid is actually that which disrupt industries. Just keep an open mind, explore and don’t forget to enjoy the long ride.
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