Entrepreneurial preparation and education is interesting. For obvious reasons, preparation matters; the more informed you are about the logistics of business ownership and the interdisciplinary knowledge you need to keep things running smoothly, the better you’ll be able to manage an enterprise. But at the same time, there are some things about entrepreneurship you can’t learn in business school.
To resolve this gap, many new entrepreneurs seek the mentorship and guidance of more experienced business owners. However, there’s a small problem with this, and it’s one we’ve all faced at one point or another; entrepreneurs tend to over-exaggerate some truths about entrepreneurship, which can lead to false expectations, unnecessary preparations, and in some cases, scaring people away from business ownership altogether:
1. The Genius Factor. First, there’s the “genius” factor of entrepreneurship. This is the notion that most successful business ideas are flashes of insight, or inspiration, as if generated in a moment of genius. While this is definitely true for some people and some businesses, the reality for most of us is that our ideas were forged or cultivated. After all, there’s no such thing as a “new” business idea; instead, all the new ideas are just pieced together from successful bits of older ones. You might have a new angle or a new target market, but ultimately, your idea evolved from somewhere. Knowing this can help you properly identify the roots of your idea, and push you harder to differentiate it.
2. Entrepreneurial DNA. We like to posit that some people were simply born to be entrepreneurs — that there are certain characteristics that pre-qualify certain people to be better suited at running a business than others. I’ve been part of this crowd, and I stick by that idea to an extent, but with a massive caveat to its acceptance. While there are certain characteristics that make people “better” at being an entrepreneur, most of those traits can be acquired, and are not hard-wired to a person’s DNA at birth. Essentially, you can turn yourself into an entrepreneur through force of will.
3. The Standard Formula. Some business owners will tell you that you need a certain formula to run a business properly. This is probably because they’ve used such a formula, maybe even more than once, to build a business. This perspective is biased, however, as it doesn’t give other formulas and alternative perspectives a fair shot on equal footing. The reality is, there are many legitimate ways to run a business and many potentially successful models you can draw from; it’s up to you what direction you want to take, and there’s always the possibility of creating your own path.
4. The Funding Problem. Almost every business needs funding to get things started, but funding isn’t always easy to get. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs exaggerate the funding problem to the point where it intimidates people from even trying to drum up funds. The reality is, capital is available from more corners and more avenues than ever before, from asking friends and family for early contributions to pursuing crowdfunding online. No, getting funding isn’t easy, but there are so many options available, it’s nearly impossible to exhaust them all (if you have a good idea to start with).
5. The Glory of Leadership. As entrepreneurs, we like the idea of entrepreneurship — we can’t help it! If we didn’t love the idea of being business owners, we would have done something else with our lives. However, this gives us an inherent bias; we tend to over-exaggerate the real glory and benefits of entrepreneurship, playing up how amazing or beneficial it really is. In truth, there’s real glory and satisfaction to be had in being the leader of your own organization — but only if that’s what you truly want out of life. It’s not the secret to happiness for everyone, and not everyone has the same takeaways from it.
6. The Rise to the Top. Successful entrepreneurs sometimes feel like everything happened quickly, and those outside of successful businesses often look in with a perception that it rose to the top swiftly, almost overnight. But the reality is never so quick or simple; in fact, most businesses endure years of hardship and multiple phases of evolution before even approaching success. Even simple facets, like marketing campaigns, take years to develop and grow — so even though from a high-level view or an outsider’s perspective, the path to success is a fast one,
In some cases, these over-exaggerations are beneficial; for example, over-exaggerating the demands of entrepreneurship can help people over-prepare, reducing the likelihood of failure, and playing up the “rise to the top” can provide additional motivation to work harder. Still, setting accurate expectations tends to yield more practical results than trying to skew expectations in a way you anticipate to be more favorable.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!