I want to start by being blunt. Starting a company from scratch is not easy. Actually, let me rephrase that. Starting a company is hard. Think about it. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? Also, being an innovation consultant providing services for startups and SMES, I would be out of work. Even though you might see a ton of people claiming to be entrepreneurs, take a closer look. How many of them have actually started a company from scratch? How many have identified a scalable business model? How many are solving a REAL problem?
Being an entrepreneur and an innovator is not about starting a business. Starting a business is actually an administrative activity that requires some money and entails a couple of procedures. However, doing this extremely well will not guarantee success.
We already saw that being an entrepreneur implies a learning mindset. At the end of the day, you want to solve a problem for people who are willing to pay for it and to find a repeatable and scalable model. Make the right decisions and you will be able to build a profitable company later.
Validate First, Build it Later.
Are you an entrepreneur?
If you are going to start building your dream, you must be aware that it will be extremely challenging and intense. Pursuing this path is not only a career choice but a lifestyle choice. If you are starting up only to gain money or power, you will not likely achieve success. You will need more drive, motivation and resilience than you ever thought you had. I highly recommend starting by doing an introspective exercise. You have to make sure you are an entrepreneur.
Some people are not entrepreneurs!
And that is fine. If you are not an entrepreneur, you can still do amazing stuff! Innovation within a corporate, intrapreneurship, (new) business development, the list goes on and on…
You must be prepared to face adversity. People naturally react in one of two ways, they either feel intimidated or they are resilient and keep on pushing. Look back at your life and identify moments of adversity, how did you react? Remember the way you felt and how you acted. When intimidated you may give up or hustle on feeling stressed, doubtful and fearful. If resilience is a characteristic of your personality you probably view adversity in a healthier way and understand it is only a temporary setback.
How do you deal with pressure? Once again, do an introspective exercise. As an entrepreneur, you will be subject to stress from all sides. Family, friends, clients, leads, partners, etc. You will be the focal point for many people that are relevant to your business; be ready for it! Moreover, you’ll have to deal with a level of accountability you may not be used to. There is no boss to rely upon or to get advice from. You may develop a network of like-minded individuals or resort to advisors and coaches (which I highly recommend). But at the end of the day, you are accountable for all decisions. You are responsible if anything goes wrong. Are you ready to deal with that amount of stress?
You may also feel quite lonely. You are the one in charge and you must always seem to be in control and be a leader. However you may feel, you must be able to show you are a capable leader and entrepreneur. The long working hours, high level of accountability and not much free time demand that you are able to handle some degree of loneliness. Anything that is worth fighting for comes at the cost of something else. It is quite common for entrepreneurs to struggle with coping with the loss of friendships and relationships. It is really important that you learn how to identify the effects of loneliness to take some personal time when needed and that you stick to your business decisions even when misunderstood or criticised by others.
I truly recommend reading this article by Neil Patel: “7 Signs That You Are Not Cut Out to Be an Entrepreneur“. Another great resource is an article by Marcia Layton Turner: “15 Signs You’re an Entrepreneur“.
Be sure you have a safety net!
Do you remember what I said about focusing on learning and building a company later?! You must have a plan on how to survive if you are not making money for some time. Depending on the country and city where you’re living you may be able to get some subsidies, grants, etc. However, you are still overly dependent on third parties. Remember, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. Prepare your personal finances. I would generally recommend having enough for 24 months without a steady income. Don’t forget that this also includes the money needed to start the business.
It is really important that you realise that the performance of your venture will most likely strongly determine the amount of money you make and the kind of future you can build for yourself and your family.
Having said this, it actually depends on what type of entrepreneur you are/want to be and on the business you dream of building. I will explore the different types of entrepreneurs and startups in another post. Interested? Click Here for free early access.
Nevertheless, if you are striving for a less risky venture, it’s always good to have a safety net. Simply put, find the right balance for yourself, your lifestyle, your family and your dream venture.
Having a safety net can also help you avoid seeking external investment too soon. By the way, I strongly recommend entrepreneurs bootstrapping as long as possible. This protects you from not being selective about who you want investing in your business, choosing the wrong angel route, not getting familiar with timing and objectives of investors, not having your data ready, signalling that you only care about the money and so on. Best case scenario? The stake you keep is smaller than it would be with proper preparation and planning. And it tends to get smaller with time. Equity dilution will, most likely, make you regret not preparing in advance. Worst case scenario?! Your company dies. It’s as simple as that. Bye-bye dream of being an entrepreneur.
Define your goals!
It doesn’t really matter whether these are personal growth, income, self-improvement, lifestyle, ego gratification or company growth. Just make sure that they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) and balanced: long and short-term. Keeping track of your progress will help you stay motivated when times get rough. It is also a great way to have an overview of where you started, where you are and where you are headed.
You need all the support you can get!
Finally, get support from your friends and, especially, family. This will definitely help in staying motivated and having self-confidence. It is also very important that they understand this journey you are about to embark on. Feeling lonely is very common for entrepreneurs; mainly solo entrepreneurs. Really take your time explaining your loved ones what you are going to do and why. When times get tough, they will be there for you and know what to say.
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At the end of the day, be sure that this is what you want and that you understand what becoming an entrepreneur really entails and its consequences in your lifestyle. Here is a quick reminder of what I have been talking about.
Signs that you are not an entrepreneur:
- You stay in your comfort zone
- You think it’s a quick money scheme
- You’re a procrastinator
- You feel intimidated by adversity
- You can’t deal with pressure
- You can’t deal with high levels of accountability
- You are scared of being lonely
- You can’t stand by your decisions when they are polemic
Signs that you are an entrepreneur:
- You take action
- You like to take risks
- You act first and ask permission later
- You’re fearless
- You’re malleable
- You are motivated by adversity
- You recover quickly
- You have a huge drive
- You’re motivated
- You’re accountable
- You deal well with pressure
- You stand your ground
- Learn how to identify the effects of loneliness and take time off when it happens
- Build a 24 months financial safety net first
- Define SMART goals ahead
- Understand the type of entrepreneur you are and the type of startup you want to build (more here)
- Gather all the support you can get from family and friends
What do you think? Leave a comment, I would love to get your feedback and answer any question.
Last but not least GOOD LUCK.