These days it seems everyone is calling themselves an “entrepreneur.” There’s a lot of talk about leaving your job, following your dreams, making money while you sleep, and living with passion.
Each of those things is fantastic. But, there are a lot of things aspiring-entrepreneurs AREN’T hearing. There are things no one will tell you about starting a business, and I think it’s time somebody tells you.
I didn’t choose entrepreneurship. I didn’t quit a 6-figure job and leave my corner office to do this, and, I didn’t go to business school to learn what to do.
I learned about business on the streets! No, just kidding. I learned about building and managing a business while building and managing a business for Dell. I worked in a cubicle, and when I got fired, I had to learn each of these things the hard way.
Starting a business is an incredible and awesome journey, but there are things no one told me to watch out for. Here are 10 Things No One Will Tell You (Ever) About Starting a Business.
1. You’re good enough to start, but not good enough to win.
You have to be always improving and putting in the work to become better every single day. You shouldn’t wait until you have all of the knowledge before getting started (you always need to be learning), but you’ll need to know more than you know now before you can get where you want to go.
The skills and talents you have right now will help you get started, but to succeed, you’ll have to get better. You can’t win the championship if you never improve on the skills that got you on the team.
2. You have to make yourself a priority.
If you’re not able to take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. That includes teaching, coaching, training, instructing, and any other activity that requires leading someone else. If you can’t lead yourself, you won’t be able to lead anyone else.
You will also have to prioritize the tasks and activities that will help you reach your goals. When you start a business, you’re both the employee and the employer. Not only do you have to decide what needs to be done, but you will also have to be the one doing it, and that includes making sure the tasks are complete at the end of the day.
As I wrote about here, no one will tell you to move forward. You must be the one to take your foot off the break and make the decision to stomp on the gas.
3. You have to be your own first customer.
If you don’t use your own products or services, why should anybody else? Plus, by using your own products you can test them, evaluate them, and know exactly how to make them better in version 2.0.
So many “experts” don’t take their own medicine. How many web designers do you know who have crappy websites themselves?
The best chefs are the ones who taste their food before they send it out to the table to be eaten by somebody else. I’m looking at myself here, but coaches don’t do the same things they’re coaching their clients to do. That needs to change if we’re going to be successful in our businesses; we have to use our products if we want other people to use them as well.
4. You have to be your own biggest fan.
If you’re not willing to root for yourself, why would anyone else? In the beginning, we have to be our own biggest fan. We have to be our own support team. We have to be rooting for ourselves and in our own corner fighting the fight.
Sometimes you might be the only one, but that’s what’s required to get started. I often see entrepreneurs who are afraid to be their own promotional team. They are afraid of being called “arrogant” or, a shameless “self-promoter.” I wrote about that here, but before anybody else can, we have to cheer for ourselves.
5. It will take more work than you realize.
No seriously. Becoming successful (not just in business but at sports, life, love, etc.), is going to take more time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears than you can possibly imagine right now.
If you haven’t yet started, you are in the honeymoon phase of your business building efforts. Your mind may wander to working on the beach, sleeping late, traveling the world, etc., but, in reality, that’s not how it works at all. Long days, long nights, long weeks, long weekends, it all goes into building a dream and a life that you are happy with.
I’m not bragging, but yesterday I worked for 13 hours straight. By the end, I was exhausted, but I loved the entire process. My point is that anything worth doing is going to take a lot of effort, and you must be willing to make the investment not only in yourself but in the success of your business as well.
6. There will be things that you have to give up if you want to win.
Almost every week I talk to someone who wants to start, build, grow or improve their business, but they aren’t willing to make sacrifices and eliminate things from their schedule. I don’t know what that thing on your calendar might be, but I do know there is something you’ll have to cancel or eliminate if you’re going to be able to spend the necessary time to make your dream and business a reality.
Yes, you can and should plan your downtime, and time to spend with family, friends, kids, etc., but you’re going to have to take a hard look at what can be eliminated so you can focus on the things that you need to accomplish.
7. Your first idea probably won’t be your best idea.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. If you’re planning to start a business, odds are, you think your idea is a pretty good one. I’m not going to tell you it isn’t, in fact, it probably is pretty good. But I will tell you that my first ideas aren’t usually the best ones I have.
Your first idea for a blog post title, for a website design, or for a new product, ya, those usually get replaced by something better. As you get more experience creating and producing, you’ll realize that your ideas will get better as they mature. Be ok with killing your first ideas and allowing yourself to give birth to something even better. Emma @ Lifehack agrees (see #8).
8. Your product isn’t for everybody, and not everyone is your customer.
In the beginning, I thought everyone would be a good fit for what I had to offer. It wasn’t until I spent the time to determine my ideal client, my “avatar,” that I became comfortable with the idea that I’m not meant to help everyone. “Everyone” is not your target market, but a specific person with a specific problem is.
Instead of trying to convince someone that you’re worth paying attention to, find the people who already know it.
9. You have to guard your calendar with aggressive intensity.
When you work for someone else, you can float through most days. Let’s be honest, when you’re an employee, you could probably get your work done in about half the time it’s actually taking, right?
No worries, I’m not here to judge. I used to be able to do my job in my sleep. If you’re going to start your own business, you have to take complete ownership over every minute of every day and only allow things on your schedule that will help you achieve your goals. Learn to love the power of “no” and feel good about it.
10. You will have to leave people behind.
You can’t steal second with your foot on first, and sometimes it’s our friends holding down our shoe. Not everyone is meant to take this journey with you, and that’s ok. Your true friends will stick with you, and the rest will fall way. If they don’t, you may have to cut the strings and leave them behind.
Your turn: What have you learned the hard way? What’s a business lesson you’ve learned that you wish someone had told you?