Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lesson #101: Plusses & Minuses of Entrepreneurship

Posted By: George Deeb - 9/28/2011


& Comment

I finally made it to my goal of writing 101 Startup Lessons, with this being my last lesson of this series designed as a handbook for entrepreneurs.  But, instead of a tactical lesson as my swan song, I thought I would speak more from the heart on the emotional plusses and minuses of entrepreneurship, and long term implications of starting your own business.


Being Your Own Boss.  Once you get the taste of being your own boss, it is very difficult to ever go back to being a "cog in the wheel" within a big corporate environment.  Nowhere else can you get the thrill of making senior level decisions across a wide range of business topics (e.g., strategy, finance, marketing, technology, operations).  The buck stops with you (literally!), and the success or failure of your business falls squarely on your shoulders, based on the decisions made by you and your team.  That may sound a little daunting, at first.  But, trust me, it is very exciting.

The Speed of Doing Business.  Startups move at "light speed" compared to the procedural, political and bureaucratic morass of big corporations.  If you want to do something as a startup executive, you make a quick decision within the snap of a finger, without multiple layers of approvals and procedures.  This can make for a really exciting environment, watching the twists, turns and outcomes from your actions in "real time".

The Feeling of Accomplishment.  Launching and building a successful startup is the equivalent of having and raising a baby.  And, when your startup achieves its desired outcome and long term success (just like seeing your baby grow into a well-mannered and respected college graduate), it truly creates a real feeling of accomplishment, looking back and saying "hey, I did that!".  Nobody really appreciates how hard it is to turn a "piece of paper idea" into a thriving business, unless you actually have done it yourself.  So, don't be afraid to pat yourself on the back, for taking the hard road and a job very well done.


Living Like a Pauper.  Let's face it, it is not easy plowing all your hard-earned savings into a risky startup, not getting paid in the early months of getting the business off the ground and not being sure where your next paycheck is coming from.  Unfortunately, unless you are wealthy from other means, launching a startup with hopes of a long term payback, often comes with the strings of living very frugally until the business gets its "sea legs" beneath it.  If you need the comfort and security of bi-weekly paychecks to cover your bills or lifestyle, don't get involved in the early stages of a startup.

High Stress Level.  Obviously, with weak cash flow and other business constraints, comes constant worry and stress.  Launching a startup was a big gamble: (i) you quit your comfortable job; (ii) you put all your savings (and those of your friends and family) at risk; and (iii) you will end up with nothing but life lessons learned and a "black eye" with your investors if the business goes under.  That is a big burden to carry around each day.  So, if you are not good when dealing with stressful situations, a startup is not right for you.

Impact on Your Resume.  Before being an entrepreneur, I was a big-bracket investment banker to Fortune 500 executives.  Nobody told me after 12 years of being an entrepreneur, that big company recruiters would label me an "early stage guy", making it very difficult to break into any business generating in-excess of $100MM of revenues.  Don't get me wrong, I love being involved in startups.  But, I would at least like to control my own career destiny, if I ever desire to try my hand at being a CEO of a bigger business.  The longer you are involved with startups, the more difficult it will be at turning back from a lifelong career in early stage companies.

Being an entrepreneur is not right for everyone.  Make sure you have a real appetite for the risks at hand, a real passion for your product and an unbridled confidence in your ability of building a great business, before jumping in.  But, once you do make the leap, hang on for one of the wildest rides of your life!!  As starting and growing your own business really is one of the most-rewarding life experiences you can have.

I hope you have enjoyed these life-learned lessons.  Make sure to keep these 101 Startup Lessons handy, and reference them as business challenges arise.  And, be sure to share them with your entrepreneurial friends who may also find them useful for building their own businesses. 

It has been a real pleasure having you share this editorial adventure with me. 

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