Entrepreneurship Won't Make You Rich and Other Hard Truths
You hear it all the time: The entrepreneurial community is extremely supportive. It's like one big love fest, a giant hug, a place to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Yet, just because there's a strong community offering a solid support system that doesn't make the entrepreneurship road any easier. Very few people are going to define the downsides of being a founder. This is because your peers are experiencing the same fears and insecurities that are running through your head: Will my product work? Am I going to go bankrupt? Was this the right move?
As a serial entrepreneur, I have been bombarded with all sorts of situations and have learned some valuable lessons about what it takes to succeed. Before you set out on your journey, here are five hard truths:
1. Nice is overrated, trust is key.
Being nice is a trait that gets beaten into everyone. Angel investors will be kind during your first in-person meeting, potential hires will be pleasant during an interview and customers will be cordial until something goes wrong. You need to accept that being nice doesn't always matter. Deals will go sour, employees will burn out and customers will leave.
Instead of focusing on the nice factor, concentrate on who you can depend on. Build your business around trustworthy people who establish their value under pressure.
2. Pats on the back don't cut it.
Startups are an extension of the founder -- it's their vision, their passion, their livelihood. This strong connection makes dealing with criticism tough for some young entrepreneurs. But don't let feedback hurt your feelings. It's better to hear the drawbacks of your concept early, instead of waiting until it's too late.
When pitching your product to someone either online or in person, it’s important you don’t ask them to just give their opinion. You need them to pick it apart. Challenge people to find as many flaws with your product to the point it gets insulting. It's tough to hear, but honest criticism will help improve your product by a huge margin.
3. "No regrets" is the worst phrase.
Regret is an emotion experienced by everyone, and it’s more acutely felt by entrepreneurs. Opportunities will arise and at some point you are going to make the wrong decision -- the product from a project you passed on got picked up by Yahoo or you hired the wrong engineer.
Saying you have no regrets about the decisions you made, doesn't make you a better person. Instead, it renders you incapable of reconciling your flaws with your insecurities. Everyone has regrets, it's just the successful entrepreneurs who learn from them and make changes moving forward.
4. You will be judged.
By announcing you’re becoming an entrepreneur, you put yourself on the line for an idea. You’re inviting friends and family to critique your move, which means your social circle might become either jealous, confused or spiteful. If you succeed, it’s dumb luck. If you fail, you were never that bright.
Take criticism with a grain of salt. Your network may have some good points, but they're out of the loop on your plans, which could result in off-base feedback. Acknowledge their opinion and keep working.
5. You aren't going to get rich being an entrepreneur.
The breakout successes in small business are more like freaks of nature than reality. A perfect combination of timing, innovation and connections have to work together to make your product an overnight success.
People hoping to retire early or land a million-dollar mansion may be in for a rude awakening when they realize getting struck by lighting is a more likely outcome. Often, running a startup ends up being more like a 9 to 5 job, except you are working longer hours, have higher stress levels and more responsibility than you’d experience by taking the safe, corporate route.
Taking the first steps into the entrepreneurial world are rough but discovering tough truths early on will help you land on your feet.
What other challenges should aspiring entrepreneurs know about? Let us know in the comments below.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.