The reality of owning & running a business

You'll need dedication, motivation, and a bit of luck.
You'll need dedication, motivation, and a bit of luck.

You’ll need motivation, dedication, and a bit of luck.

The thought of business is sometimes laughably the opposite of what it really is. Many pursue the school dream of being an entrepreneur, but few can follow it through successfully.

Realize what you’re getting yourself into, and learn what to do to support yourself and your business.

WHAT TO EXPECT: 

1. Years of little or no success.
Business takes time. Sometimes your vision will never materialize – but that’s something you have to plan for before you get into the entrepreneurial world. Accept that there may even be long periods with an unsteady income.

2. You’ll have to handle people.
If you’re a one-person show, you might think that this won’t happen. But what about your customers? And accountants, assistants, etc.? You might start off doing it all on your own but as the business expands, things will become more and more demanding, and it’ll require more people. 

3. It will get very lonely.
Seems like a contradiction, given the previous point, but essentially, you’ll face most things by yourself: decision-making, struggles, and even successes may have to be borne alone. Even if you have a partner, there are times when you’ll feel that you have to deal with it all on your own.

4. Being an all-rounder.
Especially at the start, you’ll most probably have to do all the bookkeeping, marketing, and strategizing. This will take away from your focus on the product/service that you offer, but running a business is also about being the jack of all trades.

5. Setbacks & failures.
I’m not saying you should believe these will happen, but keep them in the back of your mind, and plan for them. These could be financial, related to your business goals, or even something wrong with what you sell. 

6. A change of lifestyle.
Family life? Affected. Social life? Affected.  Other goals and dreams? Forget it. A business is like a baby: it demands time, effort, and money to grow; reading a book about it is very different from the real thing; there’ll be times you wished you never had one but times where it’s the only thing that matters; it’s a long-term commitment; and since there’s very little sleep involved, you’ll get tired – really, really tired.

7. A standstill.
There’ll come a time – or many times – when everything seems to stop. No progress, no regression, just nothing. Sometimes this is worse than when there’s a hurdle, because the latter gives you something to focus on fixing. At this point, you might run out of ideas, your confidence will waver, and you’ll question whether you want to go on with the business or not.

HOW TO PREPARE YOURSELF & WHAT TO DO:

1. Learn about and understand money.
This sounds tedious especially if you’re not money-minded. But finances are a major part of business, and if you don’t familiarize yourself with the concepts, disaster may be in store. Taxes, statements, cash flow – it’s time educate yourself.

2. Seek advice from the best.
Got any friends or mentors that currently or used to run a successful business? Ask them how they did it. That’s not to say that you should use all their tips. Every business is unique after all. But maybe they can help with a specific problem you’re having, whether it’s related to customer acquisition, team management, and more.

3. Don’t hire the first person you find.
When you’re scrambling for a team, it’s tempting to invite anyone who seems like they’d do a good job. But their expectations and future plans may not align with yours. What will you do then? Don’t forget that once your bring a person onboard, you’re responsible for his/her work output, career growth, and livelihood. You’ll have to monitor the job and provide guidance and feedback. And you have to fire them if it all goes wrong.

4. Customers. Deal with them.
Your clients – they can make or break your success. Always listen to what they need or want. Don’t decide that for yourself, unless you’re an exceptional businessperson. Underpromise and overdeliver; exceed their expectations. Be patient and put yourself in their shoes – if you provide excellent customer support/service, they’re more likely to forgive any blunders you might make and recommend you to others.

5. Manage yourself.
Owning and running a business is all on you. You’ll have to supervise, motivate, reward, and reprimand yourself!

6. Take a break.
I don’t mean go on a year-long vacation when business is at a critical point. I mean have a rest – jump off a plane (with a parachute, of course), read a fantasy novel, go camping – whatever makes your unwind. Just getting in a nap or two could do wonders for your physical health and mind.

7. Create a business plan.
This may be the last point but it’s the first thing you need to do. Conduct market research, strategize, and outline the plan. It will help you monitor progress and anticipate any problems; it’s the key document for any business.

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