I was recently asked what I wish I had been told before I became an entrepreneur. Although it’s been many years since I started my very first business, I recall the early months with great clarity.
I had done all the required planning and preparation to increase the likelihood of my success. I was prepared… or so I thought. Now, I look back and realize that I was prepared on paper to manage the administrative, financial, and operational task (through my business plan and other written strategies). But I was less-adequately prepared mentally and emotionally for the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Am I writing this to scare off those who are interested in become small business owners? Absolutely not! I am writing this because I want more business owners to succeed. Having a business plan will help, but so will having an awareness of the emotional rollercoaster you can expect in the early months or years as you claw your way toward success.
- Be prepared for hard work. I probably don’t need to tell you that owning a small business is hard work. In the beginning, you are both the visionary CEO and the lowly janitor. As you grow, you find that you are required to provide more leadership and still often fill in the little jobs that get missed. Your non-entrepreneurial friends will be jealous because you are now your own boss, but they have no idea how hard you work. Most entrepreneurs I know say that they worked harder in their early years than they ever worked at a “regular” job. Even though it was hard work, it is very rewarding.
- Be prepared to make decisions. One of the biggest stressors I think entrepreneurs face (but don’t realize it until it’s too late) is the inability to escalate problems to someone else. When you have a “real job” and you are faced with a challenging situation you cannot overcome, there is the temptation (and sometimes the requirement) that you escalate the situation to your superiors. Perhaps the problem is related to a customer, a coworker, or a problem with the products that requires an executive decision. Guess what: as an entrepreneur, YOU’RE the one making the executive decisions. This becomes easier over time but I think it catches small business owners off guard early on.
- Be prepared for economic and relational hardships. During the early growth phase of any small business there are massive time requirements for small rewards. Often, new entrepreneurs are making less than minimum wage as they work 12, 16 or 18 hours just to operate their business which is not paying 12, 16, or 18 hours worth of wages each day. This will put a strain on your finances and your relationships. Your business plan will likely help to ensure that your finances won’t be rocked too hard by the belt-tightening. But your relationships are another story. Make sure that your spouse and your friends are completely supportive of your decision before you make the leap and ask for their help in letting you know that they care for you, even if you can’t reciprocate in the early months of your business. Make a point to schedule time with them because if you don’t, it’s easy to lose those valued relationships.
- Be optimistic. The first three are negative points, it’s true. But they are meant to give you a realistic idea of what to expect. Another area your business plan doesn’t cover but you should make it a point to practice is optimism. Be incredibly optimistic about your chances of success and that will help you to stay positive even when challenges seem insurmountable.
- Be fulfilled! Lastly, remember why you got into business-ownership in the first place. It wasn’t because you love the stress and challenges; it’s probably because you discovered that you could feel greater fulfillment by being your own boss and selling the product or service that interested you the most.