In the current age of successful entrepreneurs being treated like rock stars, who wouldn’t want to be an entrepreneur? Today it’s “cool” to be an entrepreneur and it’s a big part of popular culture, but it wasn’t always that way.
There was a time when many people looked at you funny and thought you were a misfit unable to “make it” in the corporate world if you even mentioned “self-employment” or entrepreneurship. It sure wasn’t a badge of honor to call yourself an entrepreneur and not a choice that parents wished their children would embrace.
How times have changed. Today entrepreneurship is looked upon as an admirable career goal, not only by would be entrepreneurs, but also many parents. People willing open their bank accounts to send their kids off to learn about entrepreneurship.
There are high school clubs and college classes focused on entrepreneurship. There are even universities whose whole focus in on training students to become entrepreneurs.
The current reasons touted to embrace entrepreneurship as a career path include everything from the opportunity to manage your own time, the ability to say goodbye to “working for the man”, to the potential to become wildly wealthy.
Posters of Mark Zuckerberg and the Holstee Manifesto replace rock stars and sports heroes as the decoration of choice for dorm room walls.
Tales of nomad tech entrepreneurs working remotely from beaches around the world have replaced the office cubicle in a high rise on Wall Street as the ultimate dream job.
The potential to build a company, sell it and “make it big” replaces the decades old dream of a steady paycheck.
Entrepreneurship is everywhere but is it right for you? Not everyone needs to leave their job and start their own business to be successful in life. Quite frankly, many of us shouldn’t even think about it.
It’s not for everyone and here are a few signs that might warn you that you’re not cut out for entrepreneurship as a career path.
You prefer predictability, certainty and order in your life.
Entrepreneurship can be great, but it is often unpredictable with little certainty for what tomorrow will bring, especially if you are starting a new venture. You will spend much of your time validating your idea, talking to potential customers, gaining information and then making constant adjustments to your product or service in an effort to spiral in on a solution that your customer’s want to buy.
The process is iterative and although certainty can be gained over time, there is a long path to get to that point. If not knowing what tomorrow brings makes you a little queasy then you might want to work for someone else, where there is at least the appearance of certainty. You’ll sleep better at night.
On the other hand, if you see life as an adventure with lots of exciting twists and turns, then entrepreneurship is a great choice.
You prefer working alone and are not a big fan of teams.
Entrepreneurs aren’t solo practitioners. Almost every successful venture has been started by a team, not an individual. We often recognize and remember the public face of a company and forget that there was a team behind them. The best companies usually have at least two founders, one often is on the technology side and the other on the business side. It is a rare founder that encompasses both.
Think about some of our current tech giants and their founders. Apple had Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Microsoft had Bill Gates and Paul Allen and Google had Larry Page and Sergey Brin. This holds true for most successful startups. Teams matter and are an important component of success.
So, if you prefer to work in isolation and do everything yourself, entrepreneurship may not be the best option and you will likely struggle. Instead consider a career where you can be part of a larger organization with a role that doesn’t require a ton of collaboration.
If you recognize your own shortcomings, love to work in teams and get jazzed by accomplishment through teamwork (including strategic partnerships for the free-lancer world), then entrepreneurship might be a game you want to play.
You prefer working 9 to 5 (or less), knowing you have your weekends off.
Although it is true that you may have freedom and ultimately create a lifestyle of leisure as an entrepreneur, I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t hard work. Entrepreneurship is hard work. Period. Exclamation Point. Long hours can be the norm and you need to recognize that when choosing the entrepreneurial path. It is a rare entrepreneur that starts a company by working a 30-hour work week with set hours, six weeks of vacation and weekends off.
Entrepreneurship will be hard work. There is no question about that. In the end you may build something great that enables you to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle where you can control your hours and spend lots of time on a beach enjoying life, but that’s often just a dream when starting out. Don’t fool yourself and be disappointed. Success requires hard work and many hours of dedicated effort.
If you prefer a 9 to 5 job, you are best suited to work for someone else.
If you are willing to be flexible with your time, put in the extra hours when necessary and love the accomplishment that can come from hard work, then entrepreneurship may be for you.
You prefer a world where everything is black or white.
If you live in a world where everything needs to be right or wrong, black or white, yes or no; you won’t be comfortable with entrepreneurship. Although we see more and more of what I’ll refer to as the “I’m right, you’re wrong” type of thinking on our social media feeds, the news and especially in politics; the reality is this isn’t the world we live in. The real world is full of uncertainty, partial information and lots of grey.
If you really hate ambiguity and prefer a career with clear right or wrong answers, then entrepreneurship probably isn’t a great choice and you’d be better pursuing a field where there are clear answers with little flexibility.
If you like asking lots of questions, digging for answers, A/B testing and solving complex puzzles then entrepreneurship may be just what the doctor ordered.
You prefer clear goals and checklists to drive your work day.
If you prefer that your boss gives you a “to-do” list in the morning and you get jazzed by being able to check off the boxes as you complete a task, then entrepreneurship is likely not something you will enjoy.
If you like solving complex problems and discovering what the next step is by gaining information and validating assumptions, then entrepreneurship is a career you may joyfully embrace.
You prefer to give your time and talent away at a discount.
There is a saying in entrepreneurship, “You don’t have a business without a paying customer.” I might expand that to include the word profitable, “You don’t have a business without a paying customer that is profitable”. Much of being a successful entrepreneur is understanding markets and people’s ability to pay for your product or service.
It involves market segmentation, supply and demand, cost of customer acquisition, understanding overhead and cost of goods sold. Success demands that you find a price point that allows there to be demand for your product in a crowded world of alternatives while leaving you enough left over at the end of the day to show a substantial profit.
In order to do this, you have to understand your product or services value to your customer. You’re selling value, NOT hours if you are in a service business or cost-plus priced widgets if selling a product. If there is a single reason entrepreneurs fail it is the inability to place the proper value on their product or service in the marketplace. Many under charge and it becomes the demise of their business.
If you are willing to do the hard work to determine the true value you are offering your customer, understanding the true costs of doing business and willing to endlessly test your pricing strategies in an effort to find the sweet spot that maximizes sales volume and profit then entrepreneurship will be an interesting and fun riddle to solve.
If you are not willing to learn basic finance, then don’t become an entrepreneur. If you feel bad charging people for your time or product, don’t start down the path to becoming your own boss. Unfortunately, way too many people carry their personal experience and relationships with money into their pricing decisions and woefully underprice their offerings.
There is no right or wrong. You decide.
These are just a few of the more common warning signs that entrepreneurship might not be the best path for you to follow. They are not the only signs, but if you notice any of these six in your life then you should at least sit up and pay attention before starting your own venture. Consider your decision carefully.
At the same time, entrepreneurship can be an amazing experience that enables you to build wealth, gain the freedom of being your own boss and creating jobs and opportunities for others all while pursuing your personal passions and dreams.
There is no right or wrong. You decide!