10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Entrepreneur
You need to seriously consider these tips before making the move.
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.” — Roy Ash
The past year has been both the most difficult and rewarding year of my life.
The most difficult because I quit my job — my single source of income — and transitioned into the realm of entrepreneurship.
The most rewarding because I did exactly that.
This entrepreneurial experience was proof that even though we don’t always know what we’re doing, we must never lose confidence in our abilities to figure it out.
We must keep biting off and learning how to chew.
It’s that fearlessness to try — that’s the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Here are 10 things you should know before you make the move.
1. Entrepreneurship is not Glamorous.
The media has a way of packaging the entrepreneurial life as a sexy dream that’s within your reach. The reality of entrepreneurship is way off that mark.
When you’re on the outside, the grass looks green and lush. But when you’re on the inside, it’s a different story.
When I first started my journey, I had trouble sleeping at night. I would wake up 3–4 times a night, reach for my notebook and jot down new solutions for the many challenges I was facing.
It will be hard to tame your mind because it will be consumed with figuring out how to grow your business so you can pay for rent next month. Your time will most certainly be spent alone, behind a desk, analyzing data, prospecting, reading, researching, figuring things out and desperately trying not to go broke. Add to that an emotional rollercoaster of self-doubt, uncertainty and a non-existent social life... This is the reality of an entrepreneur.
It’s not so glamorous, is it?
2. Overnight success is a myth.
Starbucks started with one shop and it took them 16 years to start expanding outside Seattle. The Airbnb founders sold cereal boxes to fund their lives and keep their startup dream afloat. Reid Hoffman’s Linkedin achieved profitability in its 9th year.
We are wired to expect progress to be linear and success to come quickly, but in reality, it’ll take you years of trials and failures before you can see any sustained growth in your venture.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, calls it the Plateau of Latent Potential. It’s this idea that “habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance.” It’s the same in entrepreneurship. You need to keep going until you cross that plateau — and you certainly won’t cross it overnight.
There’s no such thing as “passive” either — it’s going to take years of consistent, committed hard work to become “successful”.
3. You’re going to fail, but that’s a good thing.
The makers of Angry Birds built over 51 games before getting it right. Steven Spielberg was rejected from 3 film schools before breaking through. Tim Ferriss’ “The 4 Hour Workweek” was turned down by 25 publishers.
You’re going to fail along your journey, but that’s a good thing. I’ve learned that now and I’m much more receptive to failure than I was a year ago. See failure as a teacher and catalyst for growth and you’ll begin to understand what Seth Godin means by:
“If I fail more than you, I win.”
Failure means you learned what doesn’t work, which means you’re now more likely to succeed the next time around.
4. Think big, but start small — do one thing and do it really well.
I came across this Russain Proverb recently:
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
I know you have a brilliant vision for your idea, and I know it’s “big”. But don’t let your enthusiasm get the best of you. Don’t do everything at once. Start small and devote your entire energy onto one thing; go deep in that thing and become known for it. Only then should you consider expanding into other areas of business.
5. You need to stop thinking like an employee.
Entrepreneurship is a different ballgame that requires a different mindset.
Going from employee to entrepreneur is a process that requires you to shed your older beliefs and habits and bridge new ones into your identity. You need to start thinking like a business owner and make decisions from data-driven validation not just “gut feeling”. You need to monitor your finances meticulously and be accountable for everything you say.
No one will be there to pick up your slack or cover for you.
This mental shift is essential — I only came to realize this later in my journey.
6. Build the habit of monitoring your finances.
I first struggled with this and it came back to bite me. I only managed to control my finances when I adopted the lesson mentioned before and began to think like an entrepreneur.
You need to be frugal and cut your unnecessary spending. You must build the habit of staying on top of every dollar spent and every dollar earned. If you're not able to adjust spending to avoid running out of cash, you’ll find yourself destined to fail.
Cash is the oxygen of business. If you cut the cashflow, the business dies.
Learn to live on a shoestring budget until meaningful revenues start to flow in.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others.
A writer at the start of his career, cannot compare himself to a New York Times Bestselling author. Each one is playing on a different level of the game.
The same applies to you. Don’t compare your chapter one to someone’s chapter 20.
I compared myself to the present-day versions of the successful entrepreneurs and thought “I’m not working hard enough, I’m not moving fast enough, I’m not being good enough” which placed heaps of needless pressure on myself.
Don’t compare — stay in your lane, do your work, monitor your progress and try your best to study and learn from the greats in your field.
8. Your idea will take you twice as long to build, and it will cost twice as much as you had forecasted.
But don’t get discouraged. Remind yourself of this quote by Bill Gates:
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
And on that point, I want to add this:
You cannot do it alone.
You cannot build a great company alone. You need a team — a support system. You know why? Because you’re only as good as your weakest link. What’s faster — a car with four fully functioning wheels or a car with one flat tire?
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Learn to ask for help when you need it. You cannot do it all alone — focus on your strengths, excel in them and hire a team that excels in your weaknesses.
9. Minimize your risk… don’t quit your job to start a business.
I quit my job and then got started on my business idea. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I say build your business while you’re still working. And the reason is simple — you mitigate your risk. As per Adam Grant’s Originals:
“The best entrepreneurs are not risk maximizers… They take the risk out of risk-taking.”
If you cut your source of income, how can you sustainably finance your startup AND your life at the same time? Ask yourself these four questions before you quit your job to start a business.
10. Growth happens through the process.
I would confidently say that building a business was the ultimate personal development journey. Perhaps the biggest lesson it taught me was this: success is not somewhere we get to when our goals are achieved. There is no destination to “arrive” to. There is no “end goal”.
Success is in how much you grow in the process of working towards your goals. And that expansion and growth happen through the consistent work you put in the process. The result is simply the outcome.
Your only job should be to enjoy the journey and grow through it — stop obsessing over the results.
Stop thinking about starting… Just do it.
I learned all these lessons because I stopped talking about becoming an entrepreneur and I just did.
There is never a perfect time to launch a startup. There is only an abundance of ideas and in their execution lies their true potential.
Stop thinking or talking about starting — just do it. Take the first step to building your business, even if it’s only part-time while you still have a paying job. Seriously. Because in five years' time you will either look back and say “I wish I did” or “I’m glad I did.”
This was originally published by Omar itani on medium.
Date of publishing: Feb 15,2020.