The Other Side of Entrepreneurship No One Likes To Talk About
After two years, I have finally come to a coffee shop to sit, write my heart out, & take my mind off work. As I am sitting there, a gentleman approaches me & after exchanging pleasantries, he asks me what I do for a living? I told him I run a small startup & he is pretty excited to hear that. What a year to run a startup; you couldn't have had better timing. There have been 11 unicorns in India this year already & to think of it; it's just April. I am sure you guys have got easy access to a lot of funding, he chimed in enthusiastically.
I just smiled & tried to respond, but my voice failed me. My mouth was open, waiting for the words to come out, but my throat froze, so I let it be.
We went about doing our work & I couldn't help but wonder how people romanticize being entrepreneurs. I don't blame them. Media constantly fuels us with the stories of seemingly overnight successes.
People assume that if you are starting up, you don't have to work hard & you would get an unlimited supply of money. We are attuned to hear or talk about the success stories & we tend to overlook the odds of being successful.
So, I decided to dedicate this post to the dark side of entrepreneurship that's never discussed as openly as it should be. My idea with this post isn't to deter you from starting up; in fact, quite the opposite. But I want to hold out a mirror to the other side that usually gets swept under the carpet. These are the things I wish someone told me before I started up. It may sound harsh & it's not all lows, but enough and more people are talking about the highs. Hopefully, this post will help you understand better what you are signing up for.
Nobody enjoys a sob story, but it's also true that failure teaches you plenty of things. While I share the dark side of entrepreneurship that most entrepreneurs face, I am not trying to undermine the heaps of work put in by all successful companies who persevered for so long to see its glory eventually. I am merely trying to give a candid picture to someone looking to take a plunge in the entrepreneurial world.
Brace Yourself For Failure
Even before you start, you should know that the odds are stacked against you. The likelihood of you failing far exceeds the probability of being kickass. An entrepreneur unofficially signs up for failure while starting up. Failure comes in all sizes & forms. Your life is going to be a constant win-loss statement. It's not the brightest ideas that win but the most resilient people.
Money Might Take A While
It looks like almost every startup gets funded from the outside & you start making money in no time. The absolute truth is that you would spend way more than you generate & which would mean you won't be able to pay yourself for a couple of months or years. Not just that, for an entrepreneur, employees come first & you might not have enough to pay yourself after you spent it all on your employee's salaries & to clear every vendor's due. Your savings will take a hit & you might have to reconsider your living expenses, too, and that's why you need to be resilient & have a robust support system.
Your Personal Life Takes A Backseat
Entrepreneurship is a pretty lonely journey, mainly because most of your friends & family might not relate to your problem. All your well-wishers will try to help you to the extent possible, but they won't understand your struggles more often than not. This might result in a natural distance between them and you, or you just might get too caught up in your affairs. Since your startup is your baby, you have it on your mind 24x7, which might not be the case with the people around you.
An Emotional Rollercoaster
There can be days when nothing happens & then there can be days wherein the whole year's worth of work happens. Both of them bring their anxiety, the latter doesn't so much, but it's difficult for an outsider to predict the battles that the entrepreneur is fighting when you meet them socially. You will have to juggle a million things that you didn't even know you were capable of handling. The juggling will also take a toll on you & the guilt of not being able to handle everything will eat you alive & the emotions will get better of you, but you still need to put up an intense fight.
You Need To Show Up Everyday
You would hear more Nos than ever. The funding you were hoping to get, the client you were hoping to win, the employee you were hoping would join, the people you thought would buy from you & many more might turn you down for some of the other reasons. Entrepreneurs usually put up a brave face for the world to see, but deep inside, they have constant meltdowns, at least I did & the people I know did it too. But irrespective of how you feel, you still need to inspire your team, work towards your goal.
There might not be glory for everyone at the end of the tunnel & not every entrepreneur would be featured in the coveted "30U30" or "40U40" list, but that doesn't mean it's all a failure. It definitely doesn't mean you are a failure, although you might feel otherwise. It might look difficult not to take it too personally but remember to make a successful startup, many things come into play.
Despite the outcome, it's an experience of a couple of decades rolled into a couple of years, so the highs are more glorious than you ever imagined & the lows seem probably deeper than the center of the earth.
I recommend everyone to try their hands at entrepreneurship. It's the greatest joy in the world but also brings out the deepest sorrows of your life. In the end, the only things that matter is whether you how much you learned, how much you progressed & did you become any wiser. Sometimes progress might mean giving up at the right time, but that's the story for another day!