Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner points out that “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Of course, the idea here is that anyone who takes the plunge and commits to the crazy amount of work of starting a business must be passionate about what they do. They’re choosing to remain in control of their own destiny, instead of being tied to the cubicle in some office job they hate. The trade-off, in other words, is low risk and low reward for high risk and high reward.
Those extra 40 hours a week are the price of that freedom. For many, it’s well worth the cost as long as they can achieve their dreams. 80 hours pursuing something you love is 10X better than 40 hours in something you hate any day of the week.
Business building is very hard and comes with long days and nights, no vacations, and without the guarantee in the end that you’ll even get any new customers. What do you do then? Ratchet things up even further or throw in the towel? Gary Vaynerchuk and other successful entrepreneurs call this kind of relentless drive hustle (redefining a traditionally negative term into something useful).
The old adage also serves well here: “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Well, in fact, it does seem like everyone is starting a business these days . . . but it’s certainly not easy. Far from it! Another expression that comes to mind seems apropos here: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”
Okay, so we understand that business building is hard, and intuitively we understand why. It’s a new path, there are tons of people doing it, masses of information on how to do it, and everyone wants to change the world, got it.
But there’s more to business building than just being the most arduous task you’ll likely ever do. We need to drill down deeper. Let’s take off the mystique about the difficult nature of launching a startup and get to the heart of why exactly it’s so hard and why you should expect the journey to be one long uphill battle with few initial returns.
1. Nothing Comes Easy
It’s a law of the universe that any new learning path or skill takes a significant amount of time to acquire. No one learned to ride a bike on the first try nor did anyone play “Chopsticks” at the piano out of the gate. Science has shown, in fact, that whenever the brain learns something new it changes in a substantial way.
It’s no different for launching a business. If this is the first time down that path, then there are a host of new things to learn – from signing up for web hosting to social media to networking and branding. It’s all a new game involving skills that need to be processed and adapted into our daily routine.
Freelancing sites like Upwork have made the process of outsourcing these tasks much easier than ever. But even then, it’s still important to understand elements of the technical lingo so you know what to request.
2. That Thing Called Money
Dealing with the lack of finances is probably the single hardest thing about launching and growing a business. The person who has planned and saved up for launching a business is a wonderful anomaly and should be congratulated, because this is really the best way to go. But the reality is that most people who bootstrap their business rely on loans and credit cards. And when things get really tough, such as going the first 3 months or more without a customer and without a way to pay the bills, then it really tests your mettle.
But there’s hope! Many have fought through and come out the other side to share the universal truth that “what didn’t kill them only made them stronger.” They have pushed through and found a way to make things work despite roadblocks and detours along the way.
3. We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
There is certainly no cookie cutter approach to business success. Every startup is unique with different sets of conditions, markets, and talents. However, there are core principles that are essential for success, such as tenacity, having a great team, knowing your market, listening to a mentor, and focusing on the customer.
But unless you’ve already been down the road of business building before, you won’t know what to look for and will invariably fall flat on your face, double back, and lose time and money. It happens to everyone so don’t be overly concerned. It is just the price of admission to the greatest show on earth – your startup!
Fortunately, there is tons of easily consumable information out there on how to gain the upper hand in the battle for startup success.
4. The Competition is Fierce
The blazing rate of technology change over the past 8 years has meant a renaissance in the way people work and communicate. Innovation has become the new watchword, and anyone with a computer and a reasonable amount of creativity can spin up a successful business.
While the opportunities for launching a business have never been more plentiful, the reality is that everyone and their friend’s brother’s uncle is also doing the same. This means that the competition is obviously very high. Just remember that someone, somewhere in the world is working overtime to put you out of business.
5. Information Overload
Among other challenges, launching a startup has been described as drinking from a firehose. Everyone today is inundated with more information they know what to do with. There are more tools, technologies, and social media platforms on the market than ever before. The head-spinning experience can leave one in a daze.
The key then is to find a method to document the tools that are most critical to your work and move on. You’re never going to master everything. The truth is that unless you set boundaries, the unending supply of technologies on the market today will easily become a big distraction from getting your business launched.
6. It May Well Fail
While businesses failure rates are high, it’s not as gloomy as once thought. In fact, more recent stats from the Small Business Administration (SBA) indicate that nearly 78% of small business startups survive the first year and about 50% of all employer establishments survive at least five years.
Nevertheless, business failure rates are high enough that we need to take notice. Typical reasons for failures are poor planning and execution on the business strategy, poor team dynamics, insufficient capital, and failure to understand the market.
None of us are immune from tanking a business and that means we must continually learn to do more things right than wrong.
If you’ve learned anything from this blog, then hopefully comes the realization that business startups are hard and that they’re meant to be for a reason. Learning a new skill takes time and energy. We’re not meant to learn how to play the piano in a day. It’s takes lots of practice. Likewise, starting a business takes a lot of sacrifices of time, money, and resources. But doesn’t that make the end goal worth it? Won’t it be all the more meaningful, once you cross that threshold and achieve the dream of being your own boss?
But then again, consider the alternatives! Going to a job that you don’t like is hard. Dealing with the long commute is painful, not to mention the mean boss and annoying coworkers. If you really stop to think about, life in general is full of challenges. You cannot escape that reality but you can decide how you’ll respond to circumstances. Will you be a victim or will you be victorious? The choice is yours.
If you need a sounding board to bounce off ideas or some advice about taking your business to the next level, feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation. I’ll be happy to talk through your business strategy and help identify any blind-spots that may be holding you back.