Michael I. Kaplan
Oct 1 2014
When I launched my first business start-up 25 years ago I was absolutely clueless.
It didn’t take long for reality to slap the visions of instantaneous success and immense wealth right out of my mind. In spite of the pain and suffering I experienced on a very steep learning curve, I continue to champion the entrepreneurial cause. I’m masochistic like that.
One of the most important lessons I learned along the way is that entrepreneurship isn’t a job that you do, it’s a lifestyle that you live. It’s a special mindset that isn’t for everyone. Don’t believe the glorified stereotypes portrayed in film, either … there’s nothing glamorous about having $10 in the checking account and having to choose between gas and food.
If you’re dedicated and possess an unshakable commitment to your new business, the tough times will pass and you’ll stand a fighting chance of becoming incredibly successful. I certainly wish that for every new entrepreneur.
That said, even the most successful serial entrepreneurs are smart enough to steer clear of tall buildings and sharp objects when launching a new start-up venture.
During the start-up phase of your new business you’ll lose customers and clients as a result of mistakes you’ll make along the learning curve. You’ll have disagreements with partners and associates over your policies and procedures. You’ll probably lose friends.
You’ll eventually face staffing problems, increased competition and slow economic periods in which making payroll will be difficult. This is simply a fact of life as a business owner. Accept that reality and move ahead with determination.
The fact that you will make the following sacrifices is not in dispute. How you handle them, balance them and to what extent you are willing to accept these sacrifices will dictate whether or not the entrepreneurial lifestyle is the right choice for you.
- A Steady Paycheck. When I was a college student studying managerial economics, the professor was adamant that business owners should “always pay themselves first.” That works really well in the halls of academia, but in real life that doesn’t happen. When you create your own business you are the one who gets paid last and at times that means you forego a paycheck. If you doubt this for a minute, pay yourself first instead of paying your employees, vendors or monthly rent and see what happens.
- A Mental Comfort Zone. Being an entrepreneur in charge of a new business can be anything but comfortable. In addition to the foreseeable risks there will always be unforeseen challenges around every corner. Early in my business career when people asked me what I did for a living, I would not so jokingly respond, “I come up with last-minute brilliant solutions to impossible problems created by other people.” I eventually shortened my response to “entrepreneur.” It means the same thing.
- Quality Sleep Time. In the first stages of your entrepreneurial career you’ll constantly hear the following question: “Why do you always look so tired?” Restrict your desire to choke these people to death – they’ll never understand until they pursue the path of small business ownership. When not physically involved in the operation of your business, you’ll probably be thinking about it or having a conversation about it with others. The issues that need to be solved have no respect for the time clock. Alarms go off in the middle of the night, employees call in sick at 3 am and customers have emergencies that must be dealt with at their convenience, not yours.
- A Social Life. Do you enjoy going out with friends until all hours of the night and having fun that you may not remember unless someone shows you a picture? As a new business owner and entrepreneur those times are gone for the time being, assuming of course you actually want your business venture to succeed. A social life becomes secondary to your entrepreneurial life in the early stages of your start-up business. When you are able to set aside some quality social time for yourself, be neither upset nor surprised when a business issue presents itself and interferes.
- Your Pride and Ego. There is nothing more humbling than being an entrepreneur in charge of a new business. You’ll find yourself compromising in situations you never thought possible, negotiating with people you never imagined and swallowing your pride more often than aspirin for your headaches. It’s one of life’s amazing ironies: you become an entrepreneurial business owner for yourself, but end up serving the needs of everyone else that will make your business successful. If this doesn’t sit well with you perhaps you might consider pursuing a dictatorship in an evolving third-world country. Hey … that’s a valid job as well and you may be great at it.
All of these sacrifices are a r uirement of any new business in varying degrees, so accepting this reality will help you decide what business idea to pursue. Eventually your business will mature and stabilize and the need to make these sacrifices will lessen substantially.
Do you still want to be an entrepreneur? Excellent. It’s worth every bit of the sacrifice and suffering you’ll experience.
Michael Kaplan is the founder and CEO of Phase 2 Advantage, a consulting company that provides entrepreneurship and business management training for military and academic organizations. His most recent book, The Prior-Service Entrepreneur: Providing Military Veterans with the Competitive Skills to Start a Successful Business, has earned a 5-star rating on Amazon and is currently used as a course textbook in numerous business and entrepreneurship training programs throughout the United States.