Many believe that entrepreneurialism and/or being a business owner is a glamorous thing. Where the cash flows freely, time is abundant and everyone is always happy, amazing and awesome. The truth is that being business owner and/or a entrepreneur is an emotional roller coaster that not everyone can handle.
Today I was reading an article in May issue of Inc magazine entitled “I Thought I Knew You. Entrepreneurship changes people- and not always for the better”. There is a story of a married couple who were on the brink of divorce because of the husbands failed business, another couple who never seemed to get along anymore and yet another whom seemed to drift apart because where was no more attention to family. If you’re thinking that these are extremes you are correct, they are. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a semi-common occurrence.
I’m not saying that most people’s relationships are families are ruined by starting a business, I just want to provide you with the knowledge and prepare you for the real wold of entrepreneurship and the things to watch out for.
I’ve seen time and time again the things owning a business can cause. A very dear friend of mine is, for the lack of a better phrased, forced into slavery of the family business. Another lost his family because of his work, and yet another was driven to despise people. How did this happen?
The first friend, the one with the golden handcuffs, is now part of the family business. His family makes more than enough to have overall rather comfortable lives, have many expensive toys, travel a decent amount and the freedom to do what they wish with their business without limits. Sounds great right? The problem is they work rather long hours each day, travel largely for business and only get small vacations each year. And each vacation always has some business aspect to it. They have nice toys, but it’s been many decades of the whole family accumulating things over time at auctions, demolition sales, from friends … overall buying stuf for cheap and selling some of them refurbished in-order to keep the family afloat. My friend simply cannot walk away; if he does he and his whole family will pretty much loose everything. With ailing grand-parents, parents and siblings it’s not a luxury he can afford.
The friend to despises people? He’s been burned (figuratively), lied to, cheated on, harassed, stolen from and even physically attacked. He now has a general apathy for everyone and doesn’t trust anyone new. For the longest time he gave people the benefit of the doubt, treated people fairly and was an overall good guy. But over the years and the constant abuse, he snapped and stopped caring. It was sad to see his own business turn him from an overall caring and out-going guy into an apathetic dictator.
The 3rd friend, I’ll spare you the details for his sake and mine as it was heart breaking to watch it all unfold, had his business tear his family apart. Both sides are now left with a bitter taste and nothing to show for it.
As for me, I guess I’m one of the lucky. I’ve had many downs, and a fair number of ups. My lowest lows came from defeat, after defeat after brutal failure only to be followed by they another disaster and failure. I was cold, bitter, always angry and generally not a friendly person to be around. It was my rock bottom when after two months of working to get a significant contract, after being the “#1″ choice for said contract the prospect put a stop to the whole project, blamed me for it and took several of my clients from me in the process.
The entrepreneurial path is not easy. You’ll be: – Responsible for every. Single. Thing. that goes on ranging from the good all the way to the bad. – Underbid – Over worked – Under appreciated – Blamed for many things (your fault or not) – Asked to step of and handle things outside your confort zone even if you don’t have the resources to do so – Creating your own problems and failures and then be forced to take responsibility for them and solve them. Meaning, you’ll have to man up eventually and take charge. – Forced to take some work you don’t like – The source of problems for clients – The reason why you lost the contract/bid/project – Responsible for market. And sales. And service. And HR. And … everything in between. – Depressed and kicked while you’re down simply because others will want to step on you.
And oh so much more.
But the real question is, can you handle it?
You don’t have to have a thick skin. I don’t. I get sad/depressed and stressed many times. And I’m ok with it.
I believe it’s how you respond and react to the bad stuff life and business throws at you that matters. So yes, you WILL have lost sales, bad weeks, and shitty clients. But know that that’s ok. Since you are in control you can change the course of the ship and sail in another direction when need be. You, and only you, will be able to pick yourself up from the depth.
So, if you aren’t willing to take many, many punches, brutal beating and life threatening and changing situations I recommend you stick to your 9-5 job because being an entrepreneur and owning a business is one hell of a scary, dark side.
The good news is there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The even better news is, you decide how only you’re in that tunnel.
There many ways to solve your problems, you just have to be able to accept it. It may be through friends, family or even a spouse. Or it may be help from a business friend or a stranger. Or it might be a lot of self-reflection on where you really want to be in life. But that’s a story for another time.
For now, know that the new ‘in thing’ of being an entrepreneur isn’t all peaches and roses. It’s a lot of dirt, thorns and blood. It will break you, it will hurt you and it certainly will do some damage. If you’re ready to get hurt, grab a helmet and go. Otherwise, steer clear.
Once you get started, do what you can so that YOU run the business and you learn & grow from those failures and beating.