6 Harsh Truths I Learned During My First 6 Months of Entrepreneurship

On January 30th, 2015 I said good-bye to the corporate world. And on January 31st, 2015, Sam the Local went live with 10 Locals to show you amazing things in Hong Kong.

July 30th marked my 6th month anniversary of becoming a full-time entrepreneur! I can’t believe how fast the past 6 months have gone by. It’s been a defining journey, one that I look back on with nothing but fond memories. If nothing else, I have been able to meet many amazing and inspirational people and learn endless things about myself and growing a company.

Although I’ve learned many things along the way, here are 6 harsh truths that I’ve learned in my first 6 months of entrepreneurship that I hope will help aspiring entrepreneurs.

  1. I am wrong…
    …a lot. And man does it hurt. Being wrong and/or corrected isn’t something that I’ve been historically good at coping with. I’ve been known to be rather defensive. But with entrepreneurship, I would be a fool to say that I’m always right. I’ve made assumptions that have been proven wrong. I’ve made mistakes that have hurt my company.
    Those are facts that I cannot change, but I take pride in being able to say that those have all been growth opportunities for me and my company. By knowing which of my assumptions are wrong, I am on the correct path to knowing more about my company and its customers.
  2. I have to put my pride aside
    Not only have I been wrong a lot, I have had to ask for a lot of help along the way, which has been quite the beating on my pride and ego. Asking for help is not something I’ve always been willing to do. Not only am I a slight control freak, my ego tells me that I’m good enough to do anything I want. Along the way, I’ve realized and have been forced to accept that I can’t do everything myself nor is it good for my company to do that.
    In running a company, there are many aspects that I don’t know or understand. Instead of spending hours learning those things and doing it myself, it’s much more efficient and cost effective to outsource or ask for help. For example, instead of trying to figure out how to do our accounting and (inevitably) doing it incorrectly, it’s much better to just outsource it to a professional accountant and be done with it. This frees up my time time and keeps me focused on what matters most: growing the company.
  3. My company only grows as fast as I work
    In the corporate world, there’s always someone doing work to bring progress to the company. When there’s only two people (me and my co-founder) running the company though, it only grows as fast as we can work.
    A wise mentor once told me that they started being very selective about the networking events they go to because the opportunity cost of going to them is very high. The 3 hours they spent keeping their head down and grinding away at work would almost always bring a higher ROI than spending those same 3 hours at a networking event.
    There are only 24 hours in a day. I must choose the best way to spend this very scarce commodity. In the back of my head, there is always a nagging voice that reminds me that the company is not progressing when I’m trying to step away and unplug in any form.
  4. Burnout is a real issue
    I’ve heard a lot of advice about trying to keep some kind of work-life balance or else I’ll burnout really quickly. Initially, I didn’t think it could happen to me because I was so passionate about growing Sam the Local. This has mostly been true, but there are days when I really wish I could just stop talking and thinking about the company for a second, maybe a long second. For example, we just exhibited at a big 2-day tech conference in Hong Kong, and I talked about the company non-stop for about 40 hours. By the end of the second day, all I wanted to do was go home and stare at a blank wall. My throat and feet hurt, and my brain felt numb.
    Even though I’ll always have this nagging voice in the back of my head, as I previously mentioned, I need to allow myself to unplug and unwind to be in it for the long haul with this company. How do I learn the fine line between the “hustle” and the “burnout”? I’m still trying to find this balance, but I can tell you for sure that the other side does exist. Burnout does happen.
  5. There is no magic formula
    As much as I keep asking around for it, there is no magic formula that will make my company successful. I can’t customer develop for 2 months, launch, growth hack, fund raise X millions, grow to Y users, and then be guaranteed the path to “success”. Each company is different, and I must learn to play to my strengths and with the cards that I’m dealt. Tactics and strategies that worked for Airbnb or Xiaomi won’t necessary work for my company.
    While the mentors have been very helpful and willing to give me advice, I have to think about whether or not it aplies to me and my company. For example, some mentors have been adamant about only having one of us pitch but I think that two of us pitching works in our situation. There are very few things that will apply to all companies.
  6. My fate is not always in my own hands
    I’ve always been one to believe that I control my life and what happens in it. Through the past 6 months, it’s been very hard for me to accept that this isn’t always true. The more hands in the cookie jar there are, the less control I have. I must learn to trust these hands and have faith that they will deliver on what they say they will. For example, a big potential client wanted to try our service before signing on. We sent them out on an Outing with one of our newest Locals. There was so much room for error and it was impossible for me to control what happened during this Outing. As much as I wanted to be the one taking this client on the Outing, I knew it would be the right thing to do to send them out with one of our actual Locals. I’m happy to report that this Local did a phenomenal job and the client has since come on board.
    Letting go is hard for me, but it’s something I must do and have faith in in order for my company to keep growing.

Again, it’s been quite the journey. Here’s to the next 6 months of learning and hopefully many more months after that.

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