(After reading this article and this article, both from Inc.com and also this blog post from my pal Jason Elkins, I decided to craft my own article about this kinda-swept-under-the-rug-until-now issue.)
We entrepreneurs have a few secrets that most of us won’t talk about. Like, ever. Because if you’re successful, you’re not supposed to experience this stuff, right? WRONG. Successful business owners experience this stuff, too! And if you don’t know that even the most successful entrepreneurs have doubts, uncertainties, and yes, even fear, when you do experience these things you might think you’re a) crazy, b) doing something wrong, or c) a big failure. But the correct answer is D) NONE of those things. So read on, because you’re about to feel better, just knowing that you’re not alone.
Here we go…the big secrets of entrepreneurship: what every business owner should know.
Secret #1. Owning a business is scary.
Business ownership is inherently anxiety-inducing for many reasons, chief among them that you want to pay your mortgage and, on a bigger scale, that the success or failure of the business lies squarely on your shoulders. Sure, you can hire people to help you, but hire the wrong people and your business will undoubtedly suffer. Yikes!
Plus, when you start a business, you’re stepping out on a limb and you’re never sure just how strong that branch might be. You can conduct market research all day long, but the question of “Is there a target market and will they pay for what I have to offer?” is only really answered once you launch the business.
Not to mention that when you own a business, you’re constantly thinking about where the next client or customer is going to come from…and if that next client or customer is going to come.
But it’s not all about fear. Once you get the right systems in place for lead generation and marketing your business, it’s not nearly as scary. And if you get the right people in the right positions, your business will flourish.
Also, entrepreneurship can be exhilarating! It’s one place where you can take chances and experiment. And while you might never stop being afraid (even the most successful business owners I know still experience fear), when you succeed in business, the payoff can be huge, both personally and financially.
The 7 Huge Secrets of Entrepreneurship: What Every Business Owner Should Know
Secret #2. You will have sleepless nights.
When you have a job in a company that other people own and run, you’re under the illusion that you have more security because you don’t actually see the inner workings of what keeps the business afloat. You don’t see what’s in the books. So you sleep soundly at night because you think you’re safe, and that paycheck comes like clockwork every month.
What most corporate employees don’t understand, though, is that in the best case scenarios, somebody at the top of the chain of command may be having sleepless nights (or they should be), worrying about all the people s/he is responsible for, worrying about satisfying shareholders, or worrying about whether someone in the company is doing something he or she shouldn’t. (And if they’re not worrying, you should be!)
When you own the company, you’re responsible for all of the people who work for you and making sure all of the bills get paid. If you don’t keep things going, your mortgage (and the mortgages of your employees) won’t get paid. That can weigh heavily on an entrepreneur.
But when the weight of the world rests on your shoulders, you’ll work harder to make sure you don’t fail. When you know that you bear a responsibility for your employees’ families, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure your business grows—including hiring great people who will make your business stronger.
Secret #3. You won’t have complete freedom…at least not right away.
When I first started my company, I worked whenever my clients needed me. I would schedule appointments on any day of the week and I worked every single day except Sunday. Generally speaking, at the beginning of your business, you won’t have much freedom, no matter what you might want to believe. At the beginning of any business, you take whatever work comes, you work hard, and you work when they need you. At the beginning, that’s how it works.
Plus, sometimes you might work for some jerks. We’ve all had our share of clients that were overly demanding or unpleasant. But working with this kind of client is part of this old-fashioned concept we used to call “paying your dues.” When you start your business, you might have to take business you might not love, but it’s a way of paying the bills and building your reputation on the way to the top.
The good news is that once you’ve built a reputation and have business flowing in, you’ll get more freedom (never complete freedom, but definitely a lot more freedom!) Today, unless a client is flying me in for a site visit or a meeting, I limit client meetings to specific days each week. And where I used to work 12-hour days, these days I rarely work past 5:30 PM and spend every evening with my family. Once you’re established, you’ll get more freedom.
Secret #4. Starting a business is exciting! And then it’s not.
At the beginning of any business, you’re going out on your own, coming up with the concept, the products, the services, trying to get the branding just right…it’s exciting and fun! Woohoo!
Then your company launches. Still exciting! But a few months in, the excitement of the launch has died down, and that’s when persistence is key. Once you settle into the business of growing your business and, well, staying in business—now we’re talking about getting clients and customers, marketing, delivering your products and services—let’s face it…that’s not as exciting as the initial launch phase was. Until you get your business going and figure out which marketing strategies and systems work best for you, you can be stuck in this part for quite awhile. And it doesn’t always feel quite as fun as it was in the beginning.
But remember, now you’re living the dream! You’re doing what you love, you own your own business. And while there’s usually that period that can be a little slow and dull (and because you’re so focused on marketing that you may not get to do as much of what you love), once you figure out the strategies that work to bring in clients and customers, you’ll get to do a lot more of what you love. So hang in there, if you’re in that phase. Things will pick up!
Secret #5. Complete balance with massive success is a myth.
We have this idea that we’re supposed to be able to have it all, and then we feel horrible when we can’t quite manage it. Phooey! Even the people who run around teaching people how to have it all don’t have it all! I don’t know a single hugely successful entrepreneur who hasn’t made sacrifices to get there.
I used to work 12-hour days in the early days of my business. But when I got married, my priorities changed, and I decided that my family needed to come first. That meant that I had to fit more into the time I was working, so I searched out ways to improve my productivity and get more done in less time. As a result, I stop working every day by 5:30 and spend the evening with my husband.
If I wanted a global empire instead of a successful consulting and coaching business, then I probably would have to work a lot more hours and spend far more time away from home. But that isn’t the life I want. That’s why in Business In Blue Jeans: How To Have A Successful Business On Your Own Terms, In Your Own Style, one of the first things I start with is, “What do you want your life to look like?”
Very few people, if any, have it all. Many entrepreneurs who are on the speaker’s circuit travel around 200-250 days a year. That means 2/3 of the year or more away from their families. Is that the life you want? Let’s be real here—even Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week doesn’t work just four hours a week to maintain his success level.
So while, yes, you can have some balance, make no mistake about it, you have to make choices to get that balance. And that means if you want to be a business celebrity, you probably won’t have the strongest home life on the way to getting there.
Secret #6. Entrepreneurship can be lonely.
It’s lonely at the top. If you’re just starting out and don’t have employees yet, you’re on your own, which can be lonely, especially if you work from home. You may, for example, find yourself in far too many conversations with the grocery store clerk (hypothetically speaking, of course—that never happens to me).
If you do have employees, when you’re the boss true camaraderie with co-workers is a thing of the past. And that’s as it should be – your employees need to know that you’ll make the hard decisions, so you can’t and shouldn’t be their friend. That’s one of the biggest mistakes business owners make!
So instead of looking for friendship in your business, look for it in your personal life. And if you’re still lonely in your business, find the right mentors, coaches, and mastermind group members to discuss questions or concerns, commiserate now and then, and support you as your business grows (and try not to weird out the grocery store clerk. Again, hypothetically).
Secret #7. Sometimes you’ll fantasize about getting a job.
Everybody has bad days. And even successful entrepreneurs get tired. So sometimes, even when you’re successful and enjoy having your own business, the stress will get to you and you’ll think about throwing in the towel and getting a job. Because, really, how bad could it be to work for someone else?
And that’s about the moment when you’ll laugh at yourself, wrap up the pity party, and get back to work. If you’re truly meant to be an entrepreneur, those moments will be fleeting. So hang in there when the going gets tough, frustrating, annoying, stressful, exhausting, and once in awhile, gets to be just a little too much. Because it won’t be long until it passes and you remember why you started this thing in the first place.
BONUS Secret. Entrepreneurship is magical.
Most of the things I’ve covered in this post might be considered the “bummers” about business ownership. But you know what? Entrepreneurship is awesome!
Even though I personally don’t camp out on the beach every day (nor would I want to), I actually do have my dream life. Every day I get to help other business owners and entrepreneurs to do what they do more and better. I spend every evening with my wonderful husband in our beautiful home, relaxing, laughing, cooking together, dancing in our kitchen, and every so often, we go on a global adventure. We contribute to causes we care about, spend time with friends and family, and generally just have a good, pleasant, happy life. This is the life I want. And entrepreneurship makes it all possible. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.
So even though sometimes we business owners might be lonely, frustrated, annoyed, stressed out, scared, or uncertain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Would you?
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