The other day I managed – unintentionally I’d like to add – scare quite a few people with my blog “From Employee to Entrepreneur: what I wish someone had told me before I quit my job at Goldman Sachs”. The intention wasn’t to scare anyone, but to slap aspiring entrepreneurs with the reality check hand in the face before making the leap.
The feedback made me think that perhaps I was too harsh and might scare some potential entrepreneurs from making the jump. So in this sequel (movie rights pending). I’d like to give you the other side of the coin… the thing that makes being an entrepreneur so incredibly worthwhile. This feedback isn’t just based on my personal experiences: it is a collection of experiences of all those entrepreneurs that I meet on a weekly basis, whether through my involvement in mentoring, coaching, speaking engagements, funding assistance, or alcohol anonymous meetings (kidding about the latter!).
Yes… being an entrepreneur is an incredibly demanding role. On the outside you have to pretend all is well and display confidence galore, when on the inside you are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills. You employees (if you have any) are looking at you for guidance and inspiration as well as for being the anchor in the typical turbulent growth times… on the inside you are panicking. It takes years for the perception of success to be matched by the reality of it… So then why do it? Why not just enjoy a monthly paycheck with all the resources at your disposal in a nice and relatively safe 9-5 job?
Here are my reasons:
1. Job security. Being an entrepreneur in my experience is actually more safe than being employed. I am not saying there are no risks. I am saying that when you are employed you have no control over your future. If the company retrenches you for whatever reasons there is very little you can do. When you stop working in the company, there is no more income stream. At least when you own your own business you can see the trouble coming and – to a greater or lesser degree – can start doing something towards it (e.g. try and sell more, reduce your prices, lower overheads, etc).
2. The satisfaction of being in charge of your own future. I can’t stress this enough. On the downside, there is no-one you can blame when things don’t go well (hence why I believe entrepreneurship is a true slap in the face in terms of reality checks)… on the upside, when things go well or you are making progress, you did it. You created it. You mastered all the spectrum of skillsets needed to run a business and created something despite the odds being against you. It is akin to when you managed to solve a computer problem without the assistance of anyone else… there is a sense of incredible satisfaction that can make months of struggle (if not years) all worth it.
3. The idea that you have no boss is somewhat farcical in my view. You will always answer to people, whether your employees or your customers. They are your new boss. You have a responsibility to them so the myth that being an entrepreneur is something for people that dont wish to be accountable to anyone is nonsensical. Having said that,
4. You can work the hours you want… sort of. If you love what you are doing (and I certainly hope so) then you will end up working 18 hour days 7 days a week. You’ll be constantly working. There is an old joke that an entrepreneur is someone who quit working 8 hours a day for someone else so they can work 18 hours a day for themselves. Painfully true but you’ll hear yourself saying that this isn’t work – this is living! 🙂
5. By the very nature of being a business, you managed to solve a customer’s need (and if you are not solving a customer need and only working on an idea, you are not a business owner – you are a hobby owner). The day when a client buys your solution is probably one of the most exhilarating experiences. It is a day when you are being told by someone that you are adding value to their lives. The sense of satisfaction is astounding. In corporate it is often easy to just be part of the system. In entrepreneurship it is nigh impossible to hide in a corner… so when things go well you can proudly say “I did it”.
6. It is incredibly fun. You will be stressed (VERY stressed), but the whole idea of doing your business is to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.
7. There is a sense of liberty… You think filing documents is useless and there is a better and more efficient way of doing it? Easy. Do it. No-one to ask. You can do things immediately and without requiring approval from anyone. Want to try a new solution? Go for it. Screwed up something? No problem – learn and move on.
8. It is measurable…. Yes. I mean it in terms of money. Not that I am driven by money (I drive a 2nd hand Toyota and fly economy class), but money is a nice tool to measure success of a business. And yes, there are other means of measuring success, including impact etc. But having your own business means that when you do succeed it was thanks to your and your teams’ effort. The money is just a measure.
9. It gives you a wonderful sense of perspective… Because you become a master at so many different things, you’ll start to understand much better the ecosystem in which you are operating. While perhaps before you were doing 1 job, now you start to understand how all the different parts fit together. In this context, in my experience, the sooner and entrepreneur understands the value he/she provides in that ecosystem the sooner the probability of success (the reason is quite simple: if you know where you fit with your solution or product, then you can price and pitch that product more accurately vs current marketing shot gun approach).
10. You can learn to be yourself again and not be someone who just pleases people. I would add to this that being an entrepreneur is possibly the most introspective thing you’ll ever do… you will learn a lot about yourself. You will be stretched out of your comfort zone many a times, but grow so much stronger so much faster. People who were used to your snail pace development will be taken aback at how much you’ll have changed and how confident you’ll have become (confident does not mean arrogant – never ever be arrogant: there is a old saying painted on the wall outside Zurich’s train station: it is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice).
11. It is sooooo cool! You’ll be amongst a club of like-minded people all over the world. It is not an official club… it is a club based on attitude, for entrepreneurship is not a job description but an attitude to life. It is an attitude that shouts out loud that “I got off my chair and gave it my best shot at making a difference”. Regardless of whether you succeed or fail – you tried it. For that you deserve a huge round of applause.
All the best in your entrepreneurial journeys my friends!