So let’s keep it real right now, and I’ll start with this disclaimer.
DISCLAIMER: My goal in writing this article isn’t a rally for you to go into entrepreneurship.
I’m writing to tell you the pitfalls and demanding lifestyle of being a glorified risk-taker. If you’re looking for a “how-to” be an entrepreneur, this may or may not be for you. And no, I’m not trying to be overdramatic. I want you to know this is a lifestyle, not a hobby. In 2020, I put out a five-minute podcast, Tip 199: Entrepreneurship Ain’t for Everyone. Click here for the iTunes version. The Stitcher version is at the bottom.
Being an Entrepreneur
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 15 years, starting in 2004. Since starting my own company, it was super hard to always “fall in line” and play the game in the jobs I’ve had. For me, entrepreneurship is hard because you’re always going against the norm, and not everyone understands. Those who love a guaranteed paycheck, which I very much do too, choose another path. A regular salary doesn’t exist in this lifestyle. Kiss any of those essential benefits and perks you have or had at your current employer goodbye. Those are now extra expenses. Seriously, they’re a luxury item for a startup without any financial capital. I used to take that stuff for granted because one of my first jobs was in the military. Military benefits are a standard issue, so you don’t think much of it. One of the best gifts was the freedom my job gave me.
My Marine Corps career has had something—really a lot—to do with my inability to maintain and hold onto a corporate America career because I do hate to be micromanaged. And yeah, I’ve been fired several times. On the flip side, I advanced extremely fast for my successes in Corps. They gave me complete autonomy in my niche, and it was something that I always craved from all my future employers but never received. The journey of any entrepreneur comes because they’re a self-starter. You might be an entrepreneur in the making if you answer yes to the following questions. – Do you like solving problems? – Are you good with overcoming obstacles? – Does your vision conflict with your employment? – Tired of working for someone else’s way of life? – Wanna retire with multiple streams of income? – Not able to keep a job? In my journey, I’ve learned we tend to be looking for problems to solve and stand out because we’re not looking to fit in the crowd. If you’re looking to go this route to get rich, I heavily caution against it and how that is a wrong decision. Running a business requires you to make many sacrifices beyond what you could ever imagine. There are plenty of sleepless nights, and where are you some days. There’s no guaranteed source of income unless you create it. Therefore, you need to be highly disciplined to stay focused.
The focus needs to be on your vision because you’ll be reminded of how you’re not succeeding by others. To only ‘put salt in the wound,’ your business needs its customers to pay the bills, not your other income. Those who don’t have this experience (e.g., multilevel marketing schemes, trust fund babies, franchise models, etc.) won’t understand taking something from anything. Not having any startup funds make the struggle that much more difficult, but not impossible. No matter what, the rejection of hearing ‘yes’ will dwindle when you get outside your comfort zone. The countless denials and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. Therefore, you have to sell. Selling a product or service to friends and family members is one thing, but selling to strangers is another level of confidence and growth. I call this failing forward. – You have to sell every day. – Selling requires you to develop a pitch. – Your message and pitch are non-stop. The rejection of each ‘no’ will improve your sales plan.
We see many people laughing and having a good time in the movies, but that’s not real life. That’s entertainment. Entrepreneurship is boring with a lot of failures. There’s more pain than pleasure. However, the joy is seeing the progress with the small wins that lead to the more significant victories. As a new kid on the block, you’re entering a ring of fierce competitors, and they see you about to eat their lunch. Hence, why is it called free-market competition? Just as personal bills are due regularly, monthly business bills are due simultaneously, and they tend to be less lenient without any grace. I had a late fee of a couple of hundred dollars, and there was negotiation.
One thing that’s undeniable about entrepreneurship is that it involves sales to the highest degree. To ensure your business goes beyond the startup realm, you have to sell beyond your family and friends. It does not matter what type of product or service you have or how great you think it is. Your business isn’t going to be a viral sensation that blows up overnight. Overnight success never happens. You may think you can defy all the odds, but making it overnight success won’t be one of them. To get sales, you’re going to have to promote yourself and your business, and promoting your business calls for you to have a marketing strategy. You don’t have to get all fancy and create a marketing plan that’s 10 to 20 pages long but at least has something that covers the four Ps of marketing. Your main goal should be to earn customers to cover the significant financial aspects of your business. The second ‘P’ is the ‘price‘ of the four Ps, and young entrepreneurs make many mistakes, including operations and salary. They fail to include a marketing component due to its complexity. The marketing world is intimidating at first, but it’s not incomprehensible. Get familiar with the terms as fast as possible, and hire an expert when you’re ready to grow. Every great successful company has a strong marketing team. A well-branded product will make everyone’s life easier in the company, so don’t try to do it all on your own. Ask Phil Knight how far he would’ve gone without the “Just Do It” campaign. To be iconic, you must start with the basics of building a solid infrastructure.
A Solid Foundation
The best advice I ever received was starting a business was the easy part. It’s sustaining the company is the hard part. That information has served me well throughout the years. Even today, you can find thousands upon thousands of books and resources on how to start a business, but not so much on how to scale and evolve a business. I’ve learned the key to a successful business has a lot to do with the foundation and leadership throughout the years. The foundation starts with the actual reason someone becomes an entrepreneur, which is to solve a problem. In the business world, we call this a value proposition. Then, the leader solves this problem with a strategy of using resources and people.
In short, he or she has started a business and continued to provide the value proposition to the world. In other words, you have a solution to a problem. COVID-19 has shown the world a new crop of businesses taking advantage of us being home, so with stuck using technology. Unfortunately, not all companies want to use technology, and they’re paying the price. Having a great idea started with an unsolved problem. If you believe you have the next best idea to solve a problem, this journey is for you. You’re ready to be an entrepreneur.
Nathan A. Webster, MBA