So you want to start your own small business? You feel like you can make a dent in the world, as Steve Jobs would say. You have an idea, a vision, and maybe even a plan. You’re not sure if you should go ahead. You’re waiting for the right time. You wonder how it would feel to just go with it. You daydream about it.
Dreaming is good but let me tell you what you won’t hear in all those entrepreneurship classes, online classes and even inspiring quote cards. Starting and running a small business is tough, even if you succeed. It is full of paradoxes. Unfortunately, there is no other way to break it to you.
So why even bother? Because if you do, that means your entrepreneurial bug is stronger than anything in the world and you have to honor that. And if that is your situation, I feel a compelling urge to tell you 3 truths about small business ownership. Here they are:
1. You will be riding the roller coaster of your life
You think you know what I mean, but you don’t. I didn’t either. Now that I’ve lived 10 years of it, I sometimes think it was a bad dream when it was bad and a great movie when it was good.
You will go through so many emotions that you’ll stop counting. Emotions in relation to money, your spouse, your children, team members, and yourself. And, you will know these emotions stem from YOUR decisions. By design, your hundreds of weekly decisions will impact your life, your business life and the lives of your team members. You will wonder if it was the right decision or if you should have done it differently?
Not only will your own decisions create turmoil at times but the world is also waiting for you. Your competitors, the economy, the exchange rate, Uber, and who knows what else is lurking in the dark right now to test your small business.
I went from being on top of the world when I closed my first $50k/year deal to fantasizing escapinging the pains of my financial woes (I was losing $12k a month) by becoming a monk in Tibet with no one to take care of and no financial responsibilities.
So, imagine a compounding effect of constantly figuring out what to do and how to do it with the unpredictable challenges the world will throw at you. This combination makes it the wildest roller coaster of your life.
2. You will be running after cash. All. Of. The. Time.
I don’t know as I write these lines if you have stashed a mountain of cash to start your business, or if you are just going to wing it. Maybe you have a wealthy partner pitching in, or you live at your parents and have no expenses (good, stop reading this and start your business now!). Maybe you have a family of four to feed AND an expensive lifestyle.
Whatever the case may be, you will need cash. Now, later, and even after that. You will need cash to start it. But that will not be enough because being an entrepreneur is seeing all the opportunities out there and at some point you will want to spend cash on new things to “improve” your business model.
You then generate profits? You want to make sure you keep making more to be ready for dire times. So you spend and invest in a new line, new product, new décor. You’ll need more cash.
You close that amazing big deal which will make you rich? You’ll need cash to finance it.
Your spouse sees that you rewarded yourself with a new expensive gadget to celebrate a milestone? She is entitled to be pampered too because she is by your side no matter what. Cash.
Even when you retire, you may want to pass on the business to your kids, or maybe sell it. Guess what? You’ll need cash to get the transaction done. Even Trump can’t sell his business to his kids outright. Unfortunately, it would take too much cash to do the deal.
3. You will grow, even if your business does not
You may think my first 2 truths are somewhat pessimistic. They might be, however it is by design: If you are still here, that’s a good sign. Maybe you have the resilience to make it. That leads me into my third dirty truth of starting your own small business: No matter what happens with the business, you will grow personally and become a better person.
I can only think of the skin analogy for this truth. Your skin is your largest organ (it’s true, google it). It is an amazing feat of nature: Flexible and waterproof yet pretty resistant to wear and tear. Skin even comes with it’s own self-healing mechanisms and regenerates quickly.
Skin also “remembers” the toughest challenges it has been through. Scars, cuts, burns and even tattoos. It thickens with repeated usage, creases under duress and might discolor with time. But skin still covers your body and protects you from the world of bacterias and viruses. It is your best ally.
Starting and running your small business will constantly test your strengths. As skin would, you will adapt, self-heal and remember your toughest challenges. You will get better at it. You will grow.
Now, let’s say your business drains money and you have tried everything. You decide to pull the plug, or someone else does it for you.
Did you fail? No you didn’t. You just rode the roller coaster of your life and paid a steeper price for it. Was it all for nothing? No it wasn’t. You just trained and grew those muscles for the next round. Especially if you have that entrepreneurial bug in you and it is stronger than anything in the world.
Do you have what it takes? What makes you believe you can succeed?