Entrepreneurship is romanticized in our culture, and it’s easy to see why. We live in a capitalistic society that values the creation of ideas, the unlimited potential of business, and of course, the prestige of attaining wealth and power.
On top of that, we have entrepreneurial celebrities like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg inspiring countless waves of new entrepreneurs striving to achieve the same level of success they did.
This is a good thing — mostly — startups drive economic growth, and the entrepreneurial journey is valuable in almost any future application. However, too many young people (and people new to business ownership) end up over their heads because they believed in these common entrepreneurial misconceptions:
1. Entrepreneurs are born to lead. It may seem like some people were born natural leaders, or were born with better traits to become entrepreneurs, but in reality, entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s possible to acquire the necessary traits to become a successful entrepreneur no matter how you started out. Introverts, extraverts, “idea people,” and grunt workers have all had equal stakes in business ownership and development; anyone can be an entrepreneur with the right mindset and dedication.
2. The idea is everything. It’s true that a sexy idea can give you a head start in the entrepreneurial world. You’ll attract more investors, whether you seek private investing or crowdfunding, and you’ll have a more profitable and/or sustainable foundation on which to build your business. However, even the best ideas can end up failing if they aren’t properly supported. And by that same token, even mediocre ideas can, with the right team and enough adaptation, end up surviving. Your idea is bound to change, and is tied to many other variables, so don’t get too invested in it.
3. You’ll have unlimited freedom. Many people are drawn to the idea of entrepreneurship because of the potential freedom it brings. It’s true that you’ll be the one setting most of the rules; you can abolish the 9–5 workday if you want, enable remote work options, dress casually, and declare your own vacations, but don’t forget that you’re also responsible for making this business profitable. Oftentimes, that means making tremendous personal sacrifices, working long hours, and getting stuck at the office far longer than you’d like.
4. It’s an easy way to get rich. Entrepreneurship is a path to wealth building with strong potential for success; with the right variables lined up, there’s no upper limit to how much you can earn. However, you can’t think of entrepreneurship as a get-rich-quick scheme. You’ll need to invest significant resources into your business, including both time and money, and even with all the right things in place, there’s no guarantee you’ll have the timing or the pacing right.
5. Success will come fast or not at all. The portrait of the successful entrepreneur is usually one whose business skyrocketed to success overnight. The reality is, of course, it takes many months — or even years — of hard work and countless struggles before the payoff hits. Because of the looming failure rate of startups, too many entrepreneurs believe it’s an all-or-nothing bid, but success and failure come in much more diverse shades than that.
6. It’s all on your shoulders. Entrepreneurs often get the most credit for building their businesses because they’re the faces of their respective companies, and the original founders. However, no entrepreneur ever found success completely on his/her own. There’s always a mentor, an investor, a partner, a team of employees, or at least a supportive family member who was/were there to help make their dreams a reality. Don’t try to do everything yourself; learn to accept and ask for help from others, and your potential will only grow.
7. You know the secret to success. Most excitable new entrepreneurs believe they have the secret to success — they know their idea can’t be competed with, or they think they have the perfect timing, or they have a “secret weapon” that will make them successful. This is almost always a delusion. Businesses succeed or fail based on a number of different, interacting variables. To reduce it all down to one variable is arrogant and short-sighted. If there was a straightforward secret to success, we’d all be mega-rich entrepreneurs.
The reality of entrepreneurship is different than the one you see frequently portrayed in biographical articles and economic headlines, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse or that it’s not worth pursuing. All it means is that you have to be better prepared for the hardships and the side of entrepreneurship that isn’t as blatantly discussed.
The better prepared you are, the better your odds of success will be — so talk to as many people as you can who have experienced business ownership before you decide to pull the trigger on our own business idea.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!