Whether we live in the Golden Age of Entrepreneurship is something that has been debated at length with people reaching all kinds of conclusions.
On the one hand, there are those who see all the opportunities and options that potential entrepreneurs have today that they didn’t have before and they feel optimistic for the modern entrepreneur. Others, however, think that this is false perception and that numbers tell a different story. There are also people who believe that we are actually living in the early days of the entrepreneurial boom, especially in the United States.
One thing is for sure – we are definitely seeing an increased enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, with a large number of people around the world quitting their jobs and starting their own companies, or at least seriously contemplating this. Every business-oriented website is more or less celebrating entrepreneurship as the best thing since sliced bread, almost calling everyone who isn’t starting their company suckers.
In reality, however, things really are not that rosy and there is a lot of rough sailing in the early days of every company. Soon enough, new entrepreneurs learn some truly sobering lessons that they really should have been aware of earlier.
A Great Idea Is Not Everything
One of the favorite entrepreneurial myths is that all it takes is a single fantastic idea and that everything else will fall into place easily. It is easy to understand why this is such a dearly held belief. It makes people feel like they are a single burst of genius away from fame and riches.
If this was true, we wouldn’t have a situation in which startups are failing at a staggering rate and where more businesses are being closed down than started (in the United States), as indicated in the Gallup report we linked to above.
A perfect example of this is the self-driving car. It is a fantastic idea, right? Cars that will drive themselves and dramatically reduce the number of traffic accidents? Yes, please! A driving experience where you can sit back, relax or do something else? Fantastic!
It all sounds perfect?
Unfortunately, the real world operates a bit differently. We will have to wait years before self-driving cars become an everyday sight. There are simply too many other aspects to consider, from government regulation of self-driving vehicles to infrastructure, insurance and legal issues, as well as cybersecurity worries. And even when all of this is solved, it will still take a huge amount of time before people agree to quit driving.
Running a successful company is so much more than just a fantastic idea.
Things Go Wrong All The Time
Okay, most new entrepreneurs are aware that things can go wrong when one founds and starts running a company. No one is naïve enough to believe they will be the first company owner in the history of business never to hit a snag.
One thing they are not aware of is how often things get wrong and how varied these problems can be.
For one, there are the really huge problems such as finding out that one’s idea, product or service is not everything they dreamed it would be and that people simply do not want it. Or that funding is really difficult to come by. Or that the competition is just too stiff to break through.
Then, there are the everyday problems that are experienced by every working company. These will include employee errors, vendor mistakes (or worse), the inability to get paid, intracompany conflicts and anything else you can think of.
Of course, there are also those truly unexpected things that simply happen and that can wreak havoc on a young company. For example, you might find yourself having to weather the world’s direst financial crisis in a hundred years. Or, you might find out that the neighborhood you chose as your base of operation is falling in disrepair faster than you can start Googling new office space.
The sheer amount of problems that new entrepreneurs encounter on a daily basis (and it is a daily basis) is sometimes too much for a person. Not everyone is equipped enough to deal with one obstacle after another.
Personal Lives Suffer
Starting a company and guiding it through its infancy is not a 9-to-5 job. And while punching that 9-to-5 clock is often seen as tantamount to being a dunce, it definitely has its advantages over the workhours of an entrepreneur.
It is no myth that entrepreneurs are on 24/7, 365 days of the year. Their company really does become their life. Or at least it has to in order to survive those fragile early years.
Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and man generally recognized as the father of the lean startup philosophy had a very simple and a very blunt answer when asked by his wife about which was more important to him – his family or his job. In short, he soon found himself divorced.
The following is a quote of his:
“Entrepreneurs think that family and work life are separate spheres – family life shouldn’t intrude on work. Only after you have screwed it up or lived through it do you realize that’s wrong.”
It is essential that future entrepreneurs understand that their new venture will take a toll on their private life, as well as the lives of their family. Rushing into entrepreneurship believing that they will be the one to finally solve the company-family problem is simply wishful thinking.
Reading back, this article may seem like a bit of scaremongering, but it was never meant to be this. It is a collection of cold, blunt truths that future entrepreneurs will be better off learning sooner than later. It will be better for them and for the people around them.