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Want to be an entrepreneur? Bunk these 4 false expectations

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Most entrepreneurs have these 4 expectations. But what is the reality of the life of an entrepreneur? Do you have what it takes?

Entrepreneurship is a high risk-high reward venture. In today’s world, more and more individuals are shedding conventional wisdom about securing the 9-to-5 and going out there to chase their dreams.

People like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are revered around the world. Few actually manage to succeed, though -- as many as 9 out of 10 new enterprises fail. Many people romanticise entrepreneurship and underestimate the sheer amount of effort that goes into building a business from scratch.

Entrepreneurial hero-worship is a problem: calling an entrepreneur a genius is, in a very real way, a grave insult to the hard work and dedication they’ve put in. There are a lot of misconceptions people have about entrepreneurship. Reality is often far from expectations. Let’s take a look at some of these:

Expectation 1: You will be in control of your things. You will have more time for those vacations you’ve been postponing, you will have more cash at hand and, of course, nobody could say a word to you since you’re your own boss.

Reality: You will be working harder than you have ever worked in your life. Everything you own belongs to the company now.

For the first several months or even years, your business won’t generate significant revenue and you will have to live on the edge. Your personal life, relationships, health, and finances will all be hit hard.

And the customer, your boss, will rarely be polite, reasonable, or even pay on time. However, always remember that your business is an idea that’s worth fighting. You’re in for a world of pain, but buckle up and face the challenges head-on to achieve success.

A note of caution, watch out for your credit card bills, unexpected personal and business expenses will max out your credit cards.

Expectation 2: Everything will work out smoothly. Investors, friends, and family will love it. Customers will shower me with millions of dollars.

Reality: A good business idea is only worthwhile when executed properly. Execution is the difference between success and failure, and it is the number one hurdle most new entrepreneurs fail to overcome.

You need to have a solid game plan to accommodate every possible contingency: How do you approach investors? How do you market your product? How and where do you source supplies? How do you find the right team? How do you deal with government compliance?

You will have to find viable answers for thousands of questions like these ones. And even when you have a good plan, things might not actually go according to it. There is a significant element of chance. You need to be prepared and you need to have backup plans (and backups for your backups!) to ensure resiliency. Not all great ideas turn out to be great when they hit the market.

Expectation 3: The investors love me! They’re my pals: they believe in my idea, we hang out together and it’s going to be an easy ride.

Reality: Any relationship involving money is inherently fragile. It’s important to develop a strong relationship with your investors, but it needs to be based on trust and your ability to deliver.

While a great elevator pitch might be enough to secure your first round of funding, remember that investors are investing their money with an eye on the returns. Building long-term investor confidence means building and executing a business plan that actually succeeds.

The trickiest part of being an entrepreneur is your company ownership and structure, most businesses need more cash then you can ever plan. You should know the difference between when to raise equity vs debt. Many founders in a few years own very little of the company they start and are in similar positions as professional CEOs who earn ESOPs but with added risks and responsibilities.

Expectation 4: I have the best idea it will change the world I need to only focus on this till I succeed.

Reality: Your product is not the world. Every business involves so many interconnections and relationships that go far beyond your product.

Even if your product is a game-changer, you’ll need to account for all of these factors if you truly expect it to succeed. You need to hire the right people to build an ideal core team. You need to ensure reliable relationships with both suppliers and retailers. You need to build promotional campaigns that are data-driven and based on consumer insights. Engage with other stakeholders like interest groups and the government and build strong relationships. And while doing all of this, you need to balance your finances and ensure you have the operating capital to keep things working on the ground.

Even giants like WeWork have gone bust due to maladministration. You need to also focus on your health, both mental and physical, even when everything is going right. If you have family, they need your time too. Companies are built over years of hard work panning and things panning out right, but in between that don’t miss your child’s first word and first step, don’t neglect your partner, parents and friends.

Success would be empty if you can’t enjoy it with your loved ones.

At the end of the day, success doesn’t come easy, and it isn’t assured either. Still, if you have the grit and you’re willing to put your future on the line, entrepreneurship offers rewards unlike any other career path.

Become an entrepreneur if it’s the right path for you, but be aware that the reality might not match your expectations.

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