Every entrepreneur enters business thinking they’ll get more time, more money and less stress.
But most of the entrepreneurs I’ve met and spoken with experience the opposite. They suffer stress, anxiety and all sorts of emotional highs and lows.
Entrepreneurship was meant to be fun, it was meant to be a route to islands, endless parties and even space travel.
Where did things go wrong?
Whenever I meet with a forlorn-faced entrepreneur, I share these seven harsh truths with them. On the surface my advice isn’t motivational. In fact, it seems downright depressing and makes you want to go back to a day job. But, delve a little deeper and you’ll see that a formula for being a lot happier in business is easier than you expected.
1. It’s hard and it gets harder. You’re solving problems – at scale!
You are taking on problems for your customers, for your staff, for your family and your investors. This responsibility is something that your family and your staff won’t or can’t grasp (and nor should you try to make them – it’s your journey, not theirs).
On day one you have the problem of finding your first client. A few years in, you have to find 27 clients a month just to cover the office running costs. A few years after that, you have to find all those clients and also deal with a stupid compliance issue, a credit application, a childish dispute of some sort and still keep focused on your plan.
Not only is it hard, it doesn’t end. Entrepreneurship is like boxing – each victory gives you the opportunity to face an even bigger, stronger opponent.
2. No one is coming to save you.
This is your business and you’re in charge.
There’s no entrepreneur coming to “take you to the next level” – they are already building their own business. There’s no world-class manager coming to join your team and fix every problem – they already work for Google and they want crazy money to leave.
There’s no investor who’s going to drop a big cash injection into your business because they believe in your vision. There’s no big company coming to buy you out for a life-changing sum of money.
In every way, you are in the driver seat and everyone is looking to you. Great people on your team are great because you made them great – you trained them, developed them and believed in their potential; often while they made mistake after mistake.
Removing the hope that someone is coming to save you leaves you the reminder that this business is in your hands. You better make it the way you want it and only take on investment with your eyes wide open.
3. There’s no BIG win.
A lot of incremental progress gets you a win.
You’re going to get a big win only after you’re operationally excellent for five years in a row. Within the context of the hard work and risk you take on, the big win will seem relative. Others might call it a big win but you’ll describe it as a narrow victory that was hard won.
The good news is that soon as you accept that progress is all that’s needed, you can keep moving forward and stop getting distracted by the nonsense.
Little wins start to compound, success is built brick by brick, but if you stay with it you can build something remarkable.
4. To do the work you love, you must win the work you love.
Everyone gets into business because think they can do a damn good job at looking after clients. Most people start a business because they worked for an “idiot” who just didn’t understand how to deliver value. Very few people start a business because they think they can become more efficient at winning the work. Many businesses are started based on delivery capability, few businesses are started based on sales skills.
Here’s the problem: in order to do the work, you need to win the work. You have to get a client to transfer the money, sign the cheque or enter their PIN. Until that happens, it doesn’t matter how good you are at delivering value to a client.
There’s no easy sales system that generates clients passively. Great companies with billion-dollar brands still need excellent sales professionals to secure new business.
5. Nothing works for very long. You must constantly innovate.
There’s no fool proof system, there’s no magic bullet and there are no people who just work hard without leadership. Every system will need to be refined, every cutting edge strategy will become commonplace, every hot product will cool off, every ace team member will need training.
If you expect people, systems or things to just work, you’ll be upset and constantly let down. Business requires you to juggle and there’s no such thing as a ball that just stays in the air, there are only people who get good at juggling. No one thing will work, but you’ll get better at working things.
As soon as you give up on the expectation that things just work, you suddenly embrace the challenge of dealing with more and more complexity.
6. You’re not entitled to rewards based on effort, time or passion.
You’re here to solve problems for others. Your most rewarding work will be in the service of others, delivering meaningful but challenging outcomes.
You might not get recognised for this work, the credit might go to someone else who doesn’t deserve it or the people you help might not be grateful at times. It doesn’t matter because you’re not entitled to any rewards for your work.
It just so happens you’ve already won the human lottery. By virtue of the fact you’re alive at this moment, you’re educated, have access to technology, have food and clean water, you’ve already got the rewards. You’re luckier than 99.9% of every human or animal that has walked the earth. Now it’s time to bring your A game for helping others.
As soon as you give up on the idea that you’re doing this business for a payoff, and you just serve others as best you can and as sustainably as you can, you’ll start to gain huge satisfaction from the work itself.
7. You’re now unemployable. Entrepreneurship is addictive.
You’ve woken up a part of yourself that yearns for creativity, freedom and adventure. Despite the fact that it can be hard, lonely or unrewarding at times, something about entrepreneurship is addictive.
After getting a taste for this life in the driver’s seat, it will be almost impossible for you to go into a corporate career. You might find yourself collaborating on projects or working alongside other entrepreneurs but deep down inside you’re running your own show now.
Business is tough, but it’s great.
It’s a challenge that forces you to perform at your best and it won’t tolerate anything less. The main thing that makes business miserable is juvenile expectations. If you want it to be easy, it gets damn hard real fast. Paradoxically, if you embrace the struggle, it’s a lot more fun.
If you’re experiencing any of these things, come along to one of our half-day events this year, where you can learn how to overcome challenges in your business and accelerate its growth, and have more fun.