hard lessons

Hard Lessons I Learned on My Journey as an Entrepreneur

Simply put, starting your own business is a roller coaster of emotions. You get to control your own destiny, you have the freedom to build what you want, where you want and with whom you want, but it doesn’t come without challenges. Highs are high, lows are low, and it takes dedication and mental strength to persevere and achieve the goals you set for yourself and your business.

With that being said, there are lessons that I learned the hard way and hopefully some of the challenges I faced can help you avoid them.

Being the owner doesn’t mean things are always in your control.

I always said to myself that I wanted to start my own business and be in “control” of my own destiny. I learned that I had to acknowledge from the beginning that you are not in control of everything just because you are the owner of your own business. You are in control of decisions you make for the business, but you are not always in control of the outcome. You get to decide how much money to spend on marketing or what type of campaigns to focus on, but what if they don’t work? Fact is, most things don’t work the first time, you have to make adjustments, stay optimistic and keep trying! There is a balance between analysis paralysis and doing enough research to make a good, educated decision, but even then, you can be wrong.

Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in Their Business Journey

Entrepreneurship isn’t glamorous, it’s hard work.

Every entrepreneur has family, friends and former colleagues who say “you’re so lucky to be your own boss.” I always find it funny when people say this because they don’t know what being an entrepreneur is like. Yes, we are prideful, but we have work and stress that people don’t see. As the owner of your own business, especially in a startup, you are the HR department, the marketing department, the finance department, customer service, the list goes on and on… And, this is before you figure out how to be the salesperson to generate revenue so you can actually stay in business. I learned early on that entrepreneurship isn’t always glamorous, it’s roll-up-your-sleeves work. Enjoy it or being a business owner isn’t for you.

Surround yourself with the right people

I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t know all the answers. I’m also not afraid to admit there are people with more experience than me. It’s important to create a sounding board of trusted people/advisers early on in your business. These people can be your family, friends or colleagues you’ve previously worked with. You’ll be surprised when you sit at Thanksgiving dinner by how many of those people are actually in the room with you. You need to stay committed to a decision-making process that includes looking to others who may have been faced with similar decisions.

Commit to your plan and stay focused.

There are thousands of business ideas, don’t forget the reason you chose yours. People build successful businesses in all different ways, there are countless ways to make money, support your family, and build a great company. I spent the first six months having a constant identity crisis. What did I want to build? Why don’t I switch gears and build something like this or like that? After six months of flip-flopping, I ultimately ended up building what I wanted to from Day 1. Sometimes you have to put blinders on and take your business step by step. Comparison to others will drive you crazy.

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Do the best you can to be properly capitalized.

If you have the ability to plan before you start your company, you should focus on being properly capitalized before you take the leap. Spend a few extra months working for someone to build up cash reserves. Pressure to focus on revenue instead of building can cause you to go backward instead of forward. Every business needs revenue and I am not saying don’t focus on revenue, but when business and personal bills stack up, stress builds and every day of being an entrepreneur gets harder. If you have the ability to have cash reserves before you start up, do it. If you don’t, you can look toward business financing options that will allow you to launch and grow your business. Not all financing is the same and it’s important to know who you are working with and make sure you understand the impact financing will not only have for you today, but in the future.

Finally, one of the most important lessons I learned from a friend of mine was to wake up every day expecting to encounter problems. Expect that things aren’t going to go as planned. Expect that you are the person to come up with the solutions, to solve those problems and to keep your business moving forward. I changed my mindset from “why me” to accepting that I made the choice for it to be me to solve problems and start my company. Now I wake up and say, what problems am I going to solve today?

This article was originally published in 2022.

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