It’s difficult to think of a time in our history where entrepreneurship has been more glamourous. Huge entrepreneurial success stories like Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook, Sara Blakely with Spanx, and Richard Branson with Virgin allow every one of us to dream of the fame and fortune that will come when we decide to stop working as employees for someone else and commit to starting a business of our own.
As an entrepreneur who works with hundreds of other entrepreneurs, I’m a strong believer in both the economic power of entrepreneurship and the social good that can come from it. However, I’ve also seen how easy it is fool yourself into only seeing an idealized version of being an entrepreneur without understanding all of the challenges. From my own experience and others, here are my top 6 myths about entrepreneurship and how you can set high goals with true expectations for great success.
I’ll Make More Money
Some people claim failure rates of small business to be 90% in the first 5 years of operating, but more recent studies have pointed to just over 50%. Regardless, there is a high likelihood of failure for early stage startups. When you think of the startup costs and the likelihood of limited income leading to the business’ failure, it’s not hard to see that there are easier ways to make money than becoming an entrepreneur. The majority of people will make more money in their lives by working as an employee than they will as a business owner, so if your primary motivation for being an entrepreneur is getting rich quick, entrepreneurship may not be the safest bet.
Despite this, I think we can all agree that the desire for more money is not necessarily bad. But you must be willing to put in the time and effort at the beginning before seeing the jaw dropping returns. And if you are able to become one of those success stories, there are undeniable rewards for not only you, but your entire team.
Have No Boss
Most of us have had horrible bosses. They’re absolutely the worst, so who could blame you for trying to avoid that situation again. But the mistake that entrepreneurs sometimes make is confusing having no boss with having no accountability. Recently I was talking to an entrepreneur and he said: “If someone had told me that I was going to trade one boss for having a bunch of employees, I never would have done this!”. Now this may be a bit extreme, and I’m pretty sure he would choose entrepreneurship every time, it does show that it isn’t always easier to be your own boss.
Because when you are the boss, you are responsible for everything, including the fate of your company (no pressure!!). In fact, you may find you are accountable to even more people than before….employees, customers, shareholders, lenders, tax authorities. But knowing this from the beginning will set you on the right path. Some of the biggest difficulties I’ve seen for new entrepreneurs is in false expectations of what should be. When you understand there may be some hard days, but it is worth it for pursuing your dream, you will be far more prepared for both challenges and opportunities ahead.
Have More Time
Not having to be in an office or cube for a certain period of time each day is extremely alluring if you’ve been stuck in the corporate grind. While entrepreneurs may not hold the same traditional corporate hours, people mistake that for meaning that there’s more flexibility to entrepreneur’s day when it’s almost always the opposite. As an entrepreneur, not only are you trying to build a product or solve a problem, you’re also the IT department, the bookkeeper, the head of sales, the recruiter, the social media manager, and a hundred other roles. Juggling all of those on a daily basis, can completely consume your calendar.
That is why setting dedicated time off throughout the year is so important for you and your family. You need time to unplug and unwind, and if you aren’t intentional about it, it is easy to let your calendar manage you. So best advice? Block out a few days at a time every quarter and tell yourself these are non-negotiable days to take some time off with you and your family.
The Best Idea Wins
There’s a notion that entrepreneurs come up with a world changing idea on a bar napkin, the napkin gets framed on the new company’s wall, and then serves as a guide for future entrepreneurial success. Coca Cola has their secret formula locked in a special vault…..what incredible marketing, but I believe that secret formula has almost nothing to do with the company’s success. Ideas are cheap, execution is everything. Anyone can dream up an idea, but nothing will ever come of it unless focus and determined action is applied. When an entrepreneur wants you to sign an NDA before they’ll talk about their idea with you, it’s usually a sign that they know they can’t out-execute their competition. You may have a great idea to help launch your company, but the only way to make it successful is to take action. So start taking action on it. Use these myths to set guidelines for what to expect, but at the end of the day, don’t let fears of the unknown hold you back if pursuing your idea is something you are called to chase.
So if it’s the not just the idea that creates entrepreneurial success, but the effort….than all an entrepreneur has to do is out work their competitors, right? Well…..yes and no. While perseverance is absolutely one of the most important traits for an entrepreneur to poses, it shouldn’t look like blind stubbornness. Almost all of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories required the founder to change or “pivot” their business model or idea. The world’s best work-ethic applied toward a bad idea or too small of a market just isn’t going to produce entrepreneurial success. What will often prove to be a winning formula is focused execution coupled with humility and the ability to make changes.
It Will Always Be Fun
Having your dog in the office, never wearing a tie again, and drinking beers at lunch are absolutely fun. Being cash strapped, dealing with employee issues, hearing from angry customers, and dealing with the IRS are… not so fun. Your new business doesn’t exist solely to make you happy. In fact, one of the critical roles that the founder is to set the culture for the company. This means it’s your job to bring fun to situations in your business that aren’t always fun. It also means that there will be times that you’ll have to be a wet blanket when it’s time for team to get serious about work. Employees and customers may be attracted to your business because it has a fun culture, but they stay with you because you provide them long-term value.