It is always an interesting exercise to look back over the past 6 years and analyze how my psychology has changed from employee to entrepreneur. There were so many things I “thought” I understood when I first became a business owner. But, like many aspiring entrepreneurs, what you read in books and what you see from a distance when you observe people who actually own businesses… never truly prepares you for what it is really like.
Now… I’m in a position to be a mentor and coach to people who are in the same boat I was in 5 or 6 years ago.
As I have more conversations with people looking for advice to get their businesses up and running, naturally I see some very common themes emerging from these conversations.
Among the biggest — understanding what it really takes to become a successful entrepreneur.
(By the way, when I use the word “successful”, I am talking about someone who can build a business that has sustainable growth and can pay the business owner(s) a healthy salary to live and thrive on.)
Estimation Of Effort – Phase 1
In general I have noticed that aspiring entrepreneurs adopt one of 2 mindsets:
- They incorrectly underestimate the amount of effort required to build a successful business
- They incorrectly overestimate the amount of effort required to build a successful business
People in group 2 generally talk themselves out of actually “going for it” before they can ever develop enough self belief to attempt starting a business
So for this discussion I want to focus on folks in Group 1…
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had an experience similar to this.
- You come up with a great business idea that fits well with your skill set and interests.
- You know exactly how you want to build and grow the business.
- You may even have some partners involved and they too buy into the exciting new vision.
- Before you know it, you start making 3,6,9 and even 12 month sales projections. You are convinced that this thing can write hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars of new business once the market sees what you’ve come up with
- Your enthusiasm and excitement are through the roof and it feels like nothing can stop you from making this plan a reality
This is usually about the time where the actual work begins. Where you take your visions, plans and ideas and begin working it into an actual business entity that sells.
Soon after this point, the first roadblock occurs. Usually something completely unanticipated. This immediately knocks the enthusiasm level (of you or your team if you have one) in about half. Right away, the big bold sales projections you had drawn up on the whiteboard begin to look more like a dream than a reality.
To make things worse, roadblocks #2,3 and 4 are often right around the corner. Within a matter of days or weeks, what was originally an exciting, motivating, invigorating vision of the future is now looking like a HUGE chore with very little hope of success.
(Note: This happens on all scales from starting a blog to launching a big company.)
This is where 90% of the dreamers are weeded out (I actually have no idea what the percentage is. I’m just guessing but I think 90% is a safe assumption based on my observations and experience).
For the small number that decide to stick with it, THIS is the point where the entrepreneur is actually created. There is a distinct shift in the mindset of the person who proceeds at this point. A committed decision that says “I will find a way no matter what.”
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
— George Bernard Shaw
Estimation Of Effort – Phase 2
With enough creativity and persistence, the entrepreneur who sticks with it long enough eventually finds some success. The kind of success that can be replicated and built upon and this is typically where things start turning around and looking more optimistic again.
This new entrepreneur is probably feeling quite proud of himself for sticking with it and making some money despite the fact that things were looking pretty doom and gloom not so long ago.
But it is only the beginning…
A new phase begins where the reality of the situation kicks in and the entrepreneur realizes that the hard work, determination and persistence that was required to make it through phase 1 is actually a way of life for the most successful business owners.
Adopting the entrepreneurial spirit isn’t a one-time event but rather a change in personality. Instead of becoming discouraged by challenge, the true entrepreneur thrives.
Setting Your Expectations Correctly…
If you are in the early phases of your entrepreneurial journey, here are some important distinctions to keep in mind…
1. No matter how good/powerful your idea is, it is going to take a huge amount of effort and overcoming challenge to get your business idea off the ground.
2. Remember that any successful entrepreneur you look at also went through similar struggles despite how easy it may look from the outside. I guarantee you they overcame huge adversity and challenge to get where they are. This should help you respect and admire those entrepreneurs even more (so that you can learn from them with an open mind).
3. Creatively overcoming challenge and thriving in the face of adversity is what makes an entrepreneur. Instead of being discouraged by the challenges that come your way, look at them as your opportunity to practice getting better. Each battle you win (regardless of size) adds more fuel to your success bank.