Being an entrepreneur is all I’ve ever known.
After a failed stint at uni (it was too slow and all I wanted to do was get out there and make my own way), I started my first business at the age of 18. Back then I don’t think I even really knew what an entrepreneur was. It certainly wasn’t presented to me as a career choice. In fact, I’m sure my parents lost sleep over my decision, and prayed each night that I’d either go back to uni or get a ‘real job’.
Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, and in a way I’m grateful for starting out so young. I started on this journey when I had nothing to lose, when I was fearless and bulletproof. Here are some things I’m glad I didn’t know when I first started out.
1. You’ll doubt yourself
Even if you have all the confidence and self-assuredness in the world, there’ll be plenty of times that you’ll doubt yourself. Your resilience will be tested time and time again, and you’ll ask yourself if you’ve got what it takes. Hopefully these feelings of self-doubt will be short lived, but they’ll creep back in from time to time. Remember that the game is just to get up more times than you fall over. Easy.
2. From time to time you’ll need reassurance and praise, but you won’t get it
You’ll spend your time telling your team that everything is going to be ok, that their efforts will pay off, that they’re on the right track. You’ll reassure your partner that those epic hours you’re putting in will be worth it in the long run and you’ll reassure your bank you’ll hit the targets you promised. While you’re busy reassuring everyone else, and being that rock that they need, there will be moments where you need the same for yourself. You’ll want someone to turn around and just notice that deal you did, that idea you came up with, how hard you’re working.
It’ll be a long time between drinks for that though, and you’ll come to realise that if you’re committed to this entrepreneurial journey, you’re going to have to master positive self-talk like you’ve never mastered before. You’ll need to learn to slap your own back, as well as the invisible high five, and the fist pump when no one’s looking. You’ll learn quickly that the encouragement you need to sustain your efforts will come from within, so keep telling yourself you’re great. You’ve got this.
3. People will let you down
If you look hard, and do all the right things, there’ll be no shortage of amazing people to surround yourself with. You’ll hire them, partner with them, and be regularly uplifted by their commitment and passion. Mostly you’ll marvel that people believe in you enough to join your vision and go along for the ride, but every now and then, mostly from completely left of field you’ll be let down. A staff member will leave for $5,000 more somewhere else. Your accountant will miss something that costs you $50,000 one year. Your partner will give you grief for that trip you have to take. This is all natural. It’s life. But because you hold yourself to such a high standard and can see into the future of where you want to be, you’ll be let down when people can’t see it too. Don’t spend your time in angst over this. You can’t control people and their behaviour. All you can control is you.
4. The more successful you become, the more people you’ll upset
In my world, this sentence doesn’t exist. I don’t understand it. You bought a house? Great! Well done! Go you! You’re pregnant? Amazing! You’ll make a fab mum! You’re expanding overseas and have a big new distribution deal? Unbelievable, you so deserve it! But sadly this thinking is not the sentiment of most of the population. The more you achieve and the more you dare to talk about it, the more arrogant they’ll think you are. When you say no to something, you may well be called superior. The more wealth you create for yourself and your family, you’ll be called materialistic. The challenge is shaking off these comments and staying true to your values. I’m still learning this.
5. You’ll never get time off
Having my own business has afforded me so many experiences. I’ve swam in the waters of the Maldives on my honeymoon, walked the streets of Nepal and India with a backpack on my back, traveled to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and on a recent family holiday to Fiji I lay by the pool for hours on end. From the outside it all looks idyllic. You’ll think the distance you constantly put between yourself and your business will lead to relaxation, and sometimes you’ll pull that off, but mostly you’ll lie on that sun lounge thinking about what’s next. Wondering if you’re on the right track and questioning if you could be doing more. Is my team having fun in my absence? Should I have called that client before I left? Most of the time, the first thought you have in the morning is about your business and over the years, you’ll endure many sleepless nights. The good news is that it gets better. As you grow older and wiser, you’ll get better at perspective and learn to relax more. The bad news? You’ll never really get rid of thinking about the business, even if the thoughts become smaller.
6. You’ll be over-optimistic
It’s the way of the entrepreneur to be ultra-positive. You’ll truly believe that anything is possible, and you’ll be that person who sees the best in everything. Here’s the thing though. Your business idea will take way longer to get off the ground than you originally anticipated. You’ll need more money than you first budgeted for. You’ll experience the intensity of cash flow challenges, possibly many times, and you’ll get frustrated at how long things take to get done. You’ll be pulled back into reality and need to adjust your expectations at times (as challenging as that may be.)
7. If you’re female, lots of people will think your success is due to a man
Seriously. I’ve had people ask if my dad gave me money to start my business (um, no) and I can’t tell you how many people have asked if I’m in business with my husband. It’s not malicious or deliberate – it’s a covert, unconscious stream of thinking that a lot of people vocalise. For some people, the fact that you’ve singlehandedly navigated your way to success is unfathomable.
8. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do
Whether you’re in business for yourself for a short time, or forevermore, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. You’ll grow as a person. You’ll find capacity that you didn’t know was possible. You’ll surprise yourself over and over and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, you’ll find more energy and more reasons to keep going.