I see a lot of people who are jilted on their entrepreneurship journey. They suffer stress, anxiety and all sorts of emotional highs and lows. Entrepreneurship was meant to be fun, it was meant to be a rout to islands, endless parties and even space travel. What happened? Where did things go wrong!
Whenever I meet with a forlorn faced entrepreneur I have six harsh truths I share based on my personal experiences.
On the surface my advice isn’t motivational, in fact it seems down right depressing. Delve a little deeper and you’ll see a formula for being a lot happier in business. I personally started to love my entrepreneurial journey when I accepted these six harsh truths.
1: It’s hard and it get’s harder.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy; you’re taking on peoples problems. You are taking on problems for your customers, for your staff, for your family and your investors. This responsibility is something that your family and your staff won’t or can’t grasp (and nor should you try to make them – it’s your journey not theirs).
The problems don’t stop, if anything they get bigger. On day one you have the problem of finding your first client. A few years in, you have to find 27 clients a month just to cover the office running costs. A few years after that, you have to find all those clients and also deal with a stupid compliance issue, a 44 page credit application, a childish dispute of some sort and keep focused on your 3 year plan.
Not only is it hard, it doesn’t end. Entrepreneurship is like boxing – each victory gives you the opportunity to face an even bigger, stronger opponent.
Rather than hoping for the day it’s effortless, you embrace the challenge. Realise that you aren’t digging ditches or scavenging for food. Your problems are of your own making and you are engaged in a meaningful struggle to bring your vision to the world. When you stop looking for reprieve, you start making things happen.
2. No one is coming to save you.
There’s no entrepreneur coming to “take you to the next level” – they are already building their own business. There’s no world-class manager coming to join your team and fix every problem – they already work for Google and they want crazy money to leave.
There’s no investor who’s going to drop a big cash injection into your business because they believe in your vision. There’s no big company coming to buy you out for a life changing sum of money.
In every way you are in the driver seat and everyone is looking to you. Great people on your team are great because you made them great – you trained them, developed them and believed in their potential; often while they made mistake after mistake.
The investors buy into you and your plan and they want a discount. They will want constant reassurances and as soon as their money clears they’ll only be thinking of their risk and returns.
The exit won’t come until the day you truly don’t want to sell. Only when the business is world class and highly profitable will someone offer you money for it. At that point the money will seem a bit disappointing. You’ll have to be the one driving the sale that you aren’t sure you even want to complete because ultimately you have to give your investors a return.
Removing the hope that someone is coming to save you leaves you with the realisation that this business is in your hands. You better make it the way you want it and only take on investment with your eyes wide open.
3. There’s no big wins only incremental progress.
You’re going to get a big win only after you’re operationally excellent for 5 years in a row. Within the context of the hard work and risk you take on, the big win will seem relative. Others might call it a big win but you’ll describe it as a narrow victory that was hard won.
Game changing deals are never as game changing as you thought, big moments quickly fade and huge clients come with big obligations.
The good news is that soon as you accept that progress is all that’s needed you can keep moving forward and stop getting distracted by the nonsense.
This harsh truth will set you free because the belief that a big win is coming sets you up for disappointment. Little wins start to compound, success is built brick by brick but if you stay with it you can build something remarkable.
4. In order to do the work you love, you have to win the work.
Everyone get’s into business because they think they can do a damn good job at looking after clients. Most people start a business because they worked for an “idiot” who just didn’t understand how to deliver value. Very few people start a business because they think they can become more efficient at winning the work. Many businesses are started based on delivery capability, few businesses are started based on sales skills.
Here’s the problem, in order to do the work, you need to win the work. You have to get a client to transfer the money, sign the cheque or enter their PIN. Until that happens, it doesn’t matter how good you are at delivering value to a client.
There’s no easy sales system that generates clients passively. Great companies with billion dollar brands still need excellent sales professionals to secure new business.
You’re business will always have to win business, it’s always going to be hard at times to meet targets (if you have ambition to grow) and it never ends.
As soon as you accept this idea, winning business becomes fun. You can come up with great ways to surprise and delight people, you can create brilliant presentations and work on your communication skills. You can inspire a team of people who help win business and you can find your groove when selling.
5. No one thing will work.
There’s no fool proof system, there’s no magic bullet and there’s no people who just work hard without leadership. Every system will need to be refined, every cutting edge strategy will become common place, every hot product will cool off, every ace team member will need training.
If you expect people, systems or things to just work, you’ll be upset and constantly let down. Business requires you to juggle and there’s no such thing as a ball that just stays in the air, there’s only people who get good at juggling. No one thing will work, but you’ll get better at working things.
As soon as you give up on the expectation that things just work, you suddenly embrace the challenge of dealing with more and more complexity. You discover a rhythm of preempting what needs your attention and you begin to fix things just as they begin to break rather than waiting for them to completely get destroyed. Just like a great juggler, you can keep 10 balls in the air and make it look easy.
6. You’re not here to get rewarded.
You’re not on this planet to be the recipient of riches and great rewards. You’re not entitled to travel, to have a big house, fancy cars or to enjoy endless creative freedom or financial security.
You’re here to solve problems for others. Your most rewarding work will be in the service of others, delivering meaningful but challenging outcomes.
You might not get recognized for this work, the credit might go to someone else who doesn’t deserve it or the people you help might not be grateful at times. It doesn’t matter, because you’re not entitled to any rewards for your work.
It just so happens, you’ve already won the human lottery. By virtue of the fact you’re alive at this moment, you’re educated, have access to technology, have food and clean water, you’ve already got the rewards. You’re luckier than 99.9% of every human or animal that has walked the earth. Now it’s time to bring your A game for helping others.
As soon as you give up on the idea that you’re doing this business for a payoff, and you just serve others as best you can and as sustainably as you can you’ll start to gain huge satisfaction from the work itself. Everything on top of the opportunity to serve will be a bonus.
You’ll also stop waiting for people to reward you and you’ll start rewarding yourself when you chose to based on your own standards.
Business is tough, but it’s great. It’s a challenge that forces you to perform at your best and it won’t tolerate anything less. The main thing that makes business miserable is juvenile expectations. If you want it to be easy, it gets damn hard real fast. Paradoxically, If you embrace the struggle, it’s a lot more fun.
Be brave. Have fun. Make a dent in the universe.
Original Author: Daniel Preistly