You often hear entrepreneurs say that owning their own business is the most rewarding thing they've ever done - that it somehow fulfills their independent spirit. After four years of running my first startup company, I completely agree. There’s absolutely nothing more satisfying than seeing an idea come to life under your leadership – after dedicating everything you have towards the mission.
The job is undeniably special but part of what makes it so rewarding is the hard road that every business owner must go down to reach success. As a first-time entrepreneur slugging it out in the ultra-competitive world of digital advertising, I’m proud of how far I’ve come -- but it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. I often wish there was someone who would have warned me about the underwhelming aspects of being your own boss. That said, for you brave spirits considering taking the entrepreneurial plunge, here’s your warning:
1. You never stop working.
The success or failure of the business rests on your shoulders. You’re the ultimate decision maker and the face of the company. Dinner with the family or beers with friends quickly turn into rescheduled interviews and catch-up work. Up until a recent (forced) vacation that my board of directors demanded I take, I had been heads-down working without pause for four years straight. Your effort is the one thing you have 100 percent control over and you wouldn’t want your business to fail because you didn’t give it your all.
2. It’s often lonely.
To start and expect to have success in this industry you need to have relentless passion, drive, and a ruthless tenacity that keeps your mind solving problems during all hours of the day. You encounter challenges and issues that most of your inner-circle wouldn’t understand, so you are left without an understanding and empathetic outlet. Find a way to process and reflect on each day – writing in a journal works for me.
3. You make mistakes.
You have to check your ego at the door. As the everyday decision-maker of a startup, you’re constantly being challenged by circumstance and scenario. Because your team and investors look to you to make tough calls, you can’t let the fear of being wrong paralyze you from being the leader. Indecision can be the worst choice of all, so be confident when marching the team forward.
4. Progress can be frustratingly slow.
Most people just see the entrepreneur at the finish line: holding his trophy. What they don’t see is the hours of fruitless work and the uncountable attempts it took to get there. It’s hugely important to not overdevelop a product or rush the process. Remember, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to start a company and just as much persistence to keep it going, but if you grow with every experience and have the resolve to accomplish your goals, the trophy is just that much more meaningful.
5. Outsiders won’t understand.
Most startups are attempting to either create something that hasn’t been done before or vastly improve something that’s already been established. To others, that idea is so foreign that they can’t imagine it’s possible. Believe in your mission and drown out the nay-sayers.
For a first-time entrepreneur, there’s a lot of hurdles you must be prepared to overcome. You’ll face challenges on a daily basis, and it’s important to know that there will be some tough times. However, if you really believe in yourself, the business, and your team, you’ll seize the opportunity. Take it from me, running a startup can be the most rewarding decision you’ve ever made.