Is Entrepreneurship Really For You?

The life of the entrepreneur may be for you, but you need to be realistic about how starting a business can affect your life and your life plans.

There’s nothing like the thrill of becoming an entrepreneur – starting a business and nurturing it into something at least viable and possibly successful. What would we be doing here if we didn’t believe that? When you’re pursuing your passion every day at work, the excitement can just keep on unfolding, creating a sort of euphoria that just can’t be duplicated.

That’s the good news. But before you quit your job, sell the house, cash in your 401(k), or trade in your BMW for seed capital for the new business, sit back for awhile and consider what impact this drastic change called entrepreneurship might have on your lifestyle and your life plan.

In doing so, you may think twice – or more – about whether you really want to go through with it. Here at StartupNation.com, we’re all about promoting the dream and the reality of business ownership for everyone we can help. But we also understand that, while pursuing entrepreneurship may fulfill a fantasy for you, it also can greatly interfere with the reality of the rest of life: how you spend your time, your finances, your relationships.

Here’s how you can think about some of the lifestyle factors involved so that you can make the right decision:

Lifestyle Factors the Entrepreneur Should Consider

First things first: The issue of “workstyle” is the most important part of lifestyle. So more than anything else, you have to answer this question: Will I actually enjoy being responsible for, and to, mainly myself? You must think about what it actually means to become an entrepreneur. This is not a free ride.

You will, for one thing, spend more hours “on the job” as a totally dedicated entrepreneur than you would in a corporate role. This will include hours when you’re lying in bed at night with your eyes closed – but with your mind buzzing about what you can and should do as you start a business and agonize over making it a success. Because when you stop thinking about your business, the world stops thinking about the business. You are the fuel. The sun never sets on an entrepreneur’s “empire.”

Take another look: With that perspective, it’s possible to look at your current situation in a different way. Your corporate job, for example, may not be all that bad after all. Though job security is at an all-time low, you still may want to work in a setting where there are a lot of people on your team, where to some significant degree the tasks are handed to you, and where someone else defines your priorities and your performance.

Of course, there are also all those perks, like 401(k) plans and health insurance. And there may be the opportunity for you to become an entrepreneur-like dynamo and change agent as you move up and through the corporate environment – be the intrapreneur in your company. In the old days, that – not owning a business — was the American Dream, and there’s still a lot to say for it.

Add 20% to that: It’s human nature to be optimistic, but in our experience a new business always costs more and takes longer to get off the ground than you might project. This reality is practically as reliable as the rising sun. So one of the most important skills you can bring to your venture is patience, and its constant companion, persistence. You’re going to have setbacks or delays or challenges or all three, and resilience must be part of your character if you’re going to make it as an entrepreneur.

You say you’re my sister? Relationships almost inevitably suffer or change for the dedicated entrepreneur, because starting a business places such great demands on the initiator. Sometimes these relational changes can be for the good, often in cases where, for example, a couple or a sibling combo start a business together. One of you could be Mr. Outside, focusing on the sales aspects of the business, while the other is Mr. Inside, making the back room hum.

But especially in the beginning, a startup demands intense focus and exhausting hours, leaving little time for – and often stunting – your relationships. So you must inventory the relationships that are important to you and determine if they can stand the strain. If not, reconsider.

That money thing: The typical new business requires $6,000 in startup costs. Where are you going to get that? And how are you going to live in the meantime? If it’s pocket change, that’s not a problem. Often, with a couple, one spouse can continue a job or career while the other peels off to start a business.

But for many would-be entrepreneurs, amassing the capital required to launch their dream requires putting at risk some significant material assets. You may have to pull equity out of your home or tap into the kids’ college fund. Or maybe hold your nose while you ask your wealthy brother-in-law for a loan. In any event, reckon with the fact that once you allocate these funds to the business, they’re either going to turn into thousands more dollars – or evaporate. That’s a serious down side, requiring a huge reality check all by itself.

Eminent domain: Since most startups begin in the home, you can probably count on turning your pad upside down to get things going. So you must be prepared to deal with the disruption and even the transformation of your home into a business-operations center. We ran our first company out of Jeff’s home for a decade, and instead of a home-based office, we ended up with an office-based home.

In the balance: Overall, the aspect of your life that could most be threatened by the demands of entrepreneurship is balance. When you are pursuing your passion, and it’s unfolding every day in new ways, it can be exciting – but it also can lead to an unsustainable method of operating that will only burn you out, in time. So even in the face of an all-consuming business opportunity, you must find a way to balance it with family, fun, fitness, faith (for more on this, check out our advice on creating your life plan when starting a business) – whatever other important elements in your life that demand attention. If you’re by nature a disciplined person, you’ve got a leg up in that area; if not, be extra cautious.

Our Bottom Line

Hey, we’re StartupNation – so far be it from us to discourage your entrepreneurial urgings. But if you’re going to take the plunge, make sure you’ve calculated the demands and the costs for the rest of your life. You may end up with a different conclusion than you thought you would when you decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship.

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