This may be the hardest easiest question I've been asked, and it came from a wide-eyed interior design student who attended a small talk we recently gave on branded spaces.
The immediate answer (post-cackle) is, of course, "Yes." But that doesn't seem to do the entrepreneurial journey justice. It's not a response you can end with a period, but a comma.
Yes, it's hard.
Building something from ground zero is hard.
Crafting a product or service that people need and want is hard.
Positioning yourself as someone who knows what they're doing is hard.
Selling is hard. (For some people, very very hard.)
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
What's not often talked about are the "intangibles" of business: the emotional stress of constantly worrying about the cc machine reading "DECLINED"; if your power will stay on long enough to send just one more email; how you'll put gas in your car to make it to this potentially awesome client meeting. Then there's the dynamic of having a business partner, maintaining some sort of balance between work life and personal life, and dealing with your new identity as CEO.
This is not to say that every business owner goes through these struggles, but it's common enough that it needs to be discussed. Not as a warning to future entrepreneurs, but as an ongoing conversation about what may lie beyond the glamour of 'being your own boss'.
Issues need to be brought to the light before support and solutions can be put in place.
But then, of course, running a business is also easy.
Scheduling when you do and do not work is easy.
Doing what you love and getting paid for it is easy.
Making your own business decisions is (usually) easy.
So to you, 20-something college student, I say, "Yes, running a business is hard. But so is going through life hoping/wishing/dreaming of building something great and never acting on it." That, to me, is the hardest thing of all.
Should you decide to take the entrepreneurial leap, a few words of wisdom from this ever-learning business owner:
1. Failure is a speed bump, not a dead-end.
Failing hurts, and it hurts deep. Imagine sending your first child off to school and learning they got beat up on the playground. That's how it feels when your business gets rejected, slandered, or just plain ignored. At first your angry, even personally offended, but you have to look for ways to overcome the failure. Consider this "constructive criticism" and adjust as necessary. These are the perks of being a startup.
2. Before you jump, build a support net.
The entrepreneur community is a strong and supportive one. Spend time during your R&D phase to locate online and offline groups and start building relationships. You'll be amazed how many biz-related questions they can help answer when you don't know where to look, and have your back should you ever need motivation when (not if) times get tough.
This net can also be a financial one. If you're no good with numbers, hire someone who is. Figure out how many units (of your product or service) you need to sell per month in order to survive and set goals on how many you need to thrive. If you're thinking of quitting your day job to pursue this full time, get real with how long you can last before you need consistent revenue.
A good business is a profitable business.
3. Have an outlet.
You need to have a way to process your emotions when the going gets tough. Some business owners I know would give a blank stare if you asked what their "hobbies" were (because who has time for that), but most of them have a way of releasing anger, stress, or even joy that doesn't involve working. Find a group fitness class, locate a nearby walking trail, join a bar trivia team. Whatever you need to do to get away from your business and interact with "normal" people: do it.
Would you guys like to read more semi-personal posts about the trials of a business owner? If so, drop a comment below and we'll make a habit of it.
- Erica, Co-founder of Flourish Collaborative