When you’re thinking about taking the plunge and becoming and entrepreneur, for the first few weeks and months of your entrepreneurial journey, the prospect of being your own boss and investing in your own enterprise is exhilarating. You read stories about overnight successes and other business leaders finally feeling fulfilled in their work and think that you’ll experience the same level of success or fulfillment as soon as you get started.
While these positive and exciting elements of entrepreneurship are certainly true and make the job worthwhile, you have to remember there’s also a dark side to entrepreneurship. It isn’t all fun and games, and those “overnight successes” are almost invariably the product of exhausting behind-the-scenes work and years of practice and failure.
Before you get too excited about being an entrepreneur, temper your expectations with these seven dark truths:
1. You won’t make money right away. Raising capital for your business is tough, and usually serves as a financial eye-opener to hopeful young entrepreneurs who think business ownership leads to quick profits. The truth is, for most businesses, the first few years of operations are spent getting your infrastructure up and running. You’ll spend more than you’ll generate in revenue, and as a result, you probably won’t receive a paycheck for several months. You’ll have to rely on your personal savings or reserves for basic living expenses and hope things pan out in the future.
2. Your family and personal lives will suffer. No matter how optimistically you charge into the role or how committed you are to prioritizing your personal relationships, they are going to suffer as you continue building your business. You’ll be working long hours, sometimes at home, and you’ll be on call for resolving business problems on nights, weekends, and holidays. You’ll be distracted almost constantly, thinking about the problems your business is facing, and the financial stress you’ll bear will take its toll on your relationships.
3. Trying to juggle everything will take its toll on you. As CEO of your own business, you’ll wear many hats. You’ll do some of the work you love to do, but you’ll also be an administrator, a supervisor, a technician, an HR manager, and a marketer all at the same time. No matter how excited you are to take on these responsibilities at the beginning of your time as an entrepreneur, this constant gear shifting will inevitably wear you down.
4. Your emotions will get the better of you. There will be times where your emotions well up and get the better of you, even if you try to suppress them or find a healthy outlet for them. You’re too invested in your own enterprise for this not to happen. You may feel depressed and discouraged about your progress, or fearful that you won’t make a profit in a reasonable amount of time. When your emotions get the better of you, you’ll feel miserable and you’ll make worse decisions.
5. Nothing will happen the way you think it will. Your business plan might carefully detail out every step you envision for the first few years of your company, but no matter how much research you’ve done, you won’t be able to predict everything. Even the things you can predict won’t happen exactly how you envisioned. As an entrepreneur, you’ll be forced to adapt, sometimes in ways you don’t want to adapt.
6. You’ll make decisions that will haunt you. As an entrepreneur, you’ll serve as the primary decision maker for your company and you’ll have to make hard, stress-inducing decisions throughout your tenure. Some of those decisions will stick with you, even if you make the logically correct one. You’ll have to change company direction. You’ll have to part ways with partners. You’ll have to sacrifice part of your vision for the company. You’ll have to fire people. These decisions are never easy, but must be made, and they will haunt you.
7. You are going to fail. Your entire company might go under. If it doesn’t, there will be some other failure, massive or minor, that will interfere with your plans and compromise your vision. Failure is an inevitable, and essential, part of entrepreneurship, though realizing this rarely makes it easier to accept. The obstacle of failure is ever present and always daunting when you’re leading a business, and working through that failure is too much for some. However, the ability to recover from failure is what separates super successes from the rest.
I’m not trying to talk you out of becoming an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is, and should be, an exciting and rewarding endeavor for anyone who chooses to pursue it. Instead, my intention is to help a new generation of self-starters prepare for the sometimes harsh realities of business ownership so they can better understand the obstacles ahead of them and realistically prepare for the journey.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!