Everyone wants to start a business. Everyone wants to be their own boss. It’s a lifelong dream for many people, but when reality kicks in, there are some days when the dream seems like a nightmare.
As the director of a streetwear brand, I’m in the midst of the red ocean (the meaning of this is explained in Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim) and although my brand story has a lot of heart, it also faces a lot of unexpected twists and turns.
Here are 5 realities of being an early-stage entrepreneur that I’ve learned first-hand:
1. You will be forced to learn about everything
If you’re working for someone else, chances are you’ll have a clear set of responsibilities and only be in charge of a single role or two within a department.
While you may still have some knowledge of how other departments work, and even help them out where you can, you may not know what goes on and what decisions are being made behind the scenes.
As an early-stage entrepreneur, not only will you learn about business functions you didn’t think you’d need to know about, you will discover new roles you never knew even existed.
Sure, your accounting software may be up-todate, but do you know exactly how GST/VAT/Tax works? Sure, you have a few marketing strategies up your sleeve, but do you understand the full scope of SEO? Sure, you have your website aesthetics down pat, but have you read up on the latest privacy act?
Accumulation of new knowledge is actually quite a blessing, as you may not need to learn these things if you’re working for someone else. It may seem like a truckload of responsibilities, but it contributes to your higher purpose for doing what you’re doing, and simply acts as a stepping stone to your business’ success.
2. You may lose a lot of friends
It doesn’t happen to every early-stage entrepreneur, but it’s not uncommon. Your newfound lifestyle whilst growing your new business is going to cause you to make many sacrifices, including spending less time with friends and family. While family can be more understanding, friends can completely change their opinion of you.
Your entrepreneurship journey will at times feel completely solitary, but if you’re pursuing your passion and your purpose, then friends will become secondary. I lost my best friend during the earlier stages of my business venture due to my new demanding work schedule.
While we do our best to make time for our loved ones, they have to play their part in realizing that we are becoming who we’re meant to be. If they don’t believe in your journey, then maybe they never genuinely valued your friendship in the first place. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but discomfort is necessary for your success.
3. Your days will merge together
If you’ve got your schedule down, chances are you’d still get an adequate amount of sleep, even the recommended 7-8 hours (depending on who you ask). However, since you’re practically working from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, a lot of tasks will continue onto the next day.
Do this long enough and the days will feel like they’re merging; weeks will pass without notice and your 7-8 hours will just feel like extended naps. This is even more prominent if you sleep fewer hours than recommended.
The best way to overcome this is to establish a revitalizing morning ritual and schedule some down time right before you go to bed. As you learn to separate your days, you will sleep a lot better and be properly energized for the next busy day.
4. Your wage (if you have one) doesn’t reflect your timesheet
So, you’re logging all of your hours and realize that your 80-hour work week should be paying you generously. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and you’re barely making minimum wage – or no wages at all when you startup.
You’ve got all of these business expenses, you have employees to pay (or freelancers and independent contractors, if you’re an early-stage entrepreneur), and you have to put money back into the business to get a marketing edge on your competitors.
Having the tenacity to believe in the long-term result is what will keep you moving, even if it means tapping into your savings or getting a part-time night job. As the late Zig Ziglar said, “When you do more than you get paid for eventually you’ll be paid for more than you do.”
5. Your stoicism will be tested
The long-term result is essential, and your stoicism will be tested every single day. Stoicism is basically your ability to tolerate hardship, and hardship is one of your greatest advisors during your entrepreneurship journey.
There will be roadblocks every single day and you have to make the final decision on how to come out of it. If you can’t continue to tolerate the tribulations, your business will fail. It may sound like I’m being harsh, but I’m also being honest.
Knowing all this, some people wouldn’t be irrational enough to go on an entrepreneurial journey. But you’re not rational, are you?
You’ve read this far, so I know you have what it takes to go after what you want. The early stages of the game are hard, it may get harder even when you’re a veteran, but the return on investment is worth playing for.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Hoang (Hunter) Bui graduated from Industrial Design at the University of Technology, Sydney. He has always had a passion for expression through words and design. He currently runs an Australian streetwear label, Latch Apparel Co, and seeks to discover more about his entrepreneurial self. Connect with @latchapparelco on Twitter.
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