If you’re a young entrepreneur thinking of starting a business, ask people who have done it first. Even then, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. Starting a business is hard, plain and simple.
A business is all about solving a problem and finding a way to profit from it. That is not easy. There is a difference between a great idea and profitable one. Yet, there is so much more than the idea itself. It’s the financial and social capitol. Before you quit your job to make your fortune, consider the sharp realities and lessons of entrepreneurship.
In fact, the first lesson is not quitting your job. Don’t end your current source of income until you have a reliable stream of revenue. What if your current job is a conflict of interest (as was the case when I started onCapHill.com)? Get one that isn’t. You can’t build an empire if you can’t afford to live.
Which brings up the second point, living. Your current lifestyle will cease to exist. You might be successful, but not for a long time. It’s not just about the exhausting number of hours spent; it’s the stress, your relationships, your priorities. People who have not been there will not understand, including your friends and family. Regardless of their support or lack thereof, your relationships with people will change.
It is for this reason you must be a disciplined person. The dedication and passion is admirable and all, but if you lose balance in your life, so will your business. Make a short list of personal priorities. The first one needs to be sleep. That to-do-list will never end, but your sanity might if you don’t get rest. Beyond that, make a short list and institute a plan to keep them.
If you go to church, go to church. If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend…good luck. But seriously, it’s that much more important to schedule time with them. Real time. Go do something and leave your phone at home. If someone calls or emails, voicemail still exists and Google has a fine record of not crashing. Those consistent hours of sleep and few hours away from work will result in a more productive business owner and better person.
You can’t do it by yourself. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, a functional business demands the skills, support, and advice of others. That’s not to say, “You didn’t build that,” but rather that the most capable mind is at its peak when it listens and delegates action to others. Build a team. Don’t do it on your own.
Don’t be dependent on one thing for you or your business. There is no single way to make your business successful. If the one thing your business relies on fails, so does your business. Whether its relying on one contractor or a specific revenue stream, don’t put yourself in that position.
Be honest, on time, and responsive. Unfortunately, few businesses do this, but all of them will appreciate it. The most disappointing reality I found as a small business owner is my experience with other businesses. The golden rule should still apply in business.
Lastly, “anyone who starts a business is either crazy or stupid” — so said my uncle, who started his first business at the age of 19, when I asked about starting my own. His point was that a sane person wouldn’t start a business if they truly knew what they were getting themselves into. Not everyone is cut out to start, own, and operate a business. If you decide you’re not, make someone else’s business better. If you think you are, welcome to America. We built this country.
Luke Kenworthy is a small-business owner from Indiana. Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.