Things No One Tells You When You Open a Business
The world is a brutal place my friends. Opening a business is messy. If you search on the internet most articles will frame entrepreneurship as a nearly impossible task, only meant for the heartiest of hearty people. Three years into owning my own business and I can attest that may all be true. Being the boss can be lonely, terrifying and unpredictable. It is also incredibly gratifying - if you are ok for the challenges you will face as an entrepreneur. In reflecting on my own journey, I wondered what were the parts that have been most difficult for me. Below is a short list of what my biggest challenges have been and some strategies I have used to work through them.
- Your concept/idea will be challenged at ever corner. People look to the entrepreneur to have all the answers, you need to rise to the occasion in those moment because being perceived as the expert is the foundation of building a successful business. As you build your business people will ask about it - some people just want to learn about what you do, some people won't understand entrepreneurship, some people may not understand your business is and some people will give you their unsolicited (negative) opinion. It's hard to feel like you need to justify or defend something you love so much and are still in the process of building. While scary, this is actually a huge opportunity to better understand how to talk about your business. Practice your elevator speech in these times to gauge people's reactions. Do they understand who you are? Do they understand what the business is? Using that feedback you will learn how to effectively communicate who you are, what you do and the value of your product.
- Your social life will change. Someone will be offended. You may lose a friend or two. Everywhere you go you are representing your brand. Every conversation could be a potential a new business opportunity or helpful relationship. That is a lot of pressure. For this reason it is important that you develop a self care routine that includes ensuring you are doing things that makes you happy. Give yourself time (and permission) to detach from your entrepreneurship persona regularly, set strict boundaries between work relationships and social relationships. And make sure you take care of those most important to you.
- You will need to build a team. You will be totally overwhelmed by the need for accountants, lawyers, coaches, mentors, interns and staff. Just start somewhere. The best way to find good help is through word of mouth (and checking references). Talk to as many business related people as possible for their insights and wisdom. Ask for referrals on good people to work with and how they built their team. Get an accountant. Save receipts. Set up Quickbooks. Staff is a great investment, just know what you need done and who is the right kind of person to do it. Get a lawyer and decide how to incorporate (LLC, Corporation, BCorp? etc.). Keep moving forward, one step at a time.
- You will be afraid. You will likely have no results and make little (or none at all) money in the first two years (at least) of business. Figuring out "what is the business?' is 25% of your time for the first three to five years, the other 75% is answering emails (I am half joking here - you should spend more time figuring out what your business is however emails will consume your life). Around the three year mark you will start to understand what makes money and then begin to test how to scale it. Then maybe by year five you will have a feel for what the business (or businesses) is and how to make money. (All approximate of course.) This is where blind faith in your vision will allow you to move mountains. Believe in your vision and believe that you have the skills, experience and support to do it. Seek out additional help for the challenges that you feel are beyond your own ability.
- Entrepreneurship can be lonely. You will read a lot of blog posts (like this one) trying to find wisdom from other people like who you that could help you figure it all out. Be intentional about building relationships with others who are entrepreneurs/doing their own thing. It's nice to hear about other people's anxieties, makes you know you are not alone.
What makes you an entrepreneur is your passion. It drives you to create something unique, doing it better than anyone else can do it because it is your vision. Entrepreneurship is incredibly rewarding, inspiring, creative and affirming. Your journey is a reflection of the things you are willing to let into your the life and the actions you choose to take. Be brave through the process and have faith in your business' success. You will come out better for it on the other side.