Entrepreneurship: 1 Year All In, Wins & Challenges, & Glamour

Anybody that knows me will confirm of my entrepreneurial spirit. As a matter of fact I have been entrepreneurial since the age of 14. For those counting, that’s some 20+ years in the making. Although it wasn’t until May 2016 when I decided to go “All In” on the glamorous entrepreneurial path.

Entrepreneurship — perhaps one of the most used and abused words of 2016 and thus far in 2017.

“Entrepreneurship is the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”

May 1, 2016 — It was exactly 1 year ago today when I left my full-time job and decided to work on launching my digital agency startup Razor Sharp Digital. No capital, no investor!

I had nothing more than the willpower, passion, and commitment to help companies and people by providing digital marketing strategies using a human-centric approach. Little did I know that I was about to invoke the biggest bootstrap operation in the history of EVER.

After spending 11+ years professionally working with reputable boutique agencies I believed my approach was more authentic, genuine, and transparent. During my 11+ year professional tenure I built digital service offerings, led/managed teams, and helped with execution endeavors. This included start-ups like mine all the way up to established companies who were seeking a digital transformation and better market positioning.

The Beginning of “All In” Entrepreneurship Journey

2016 was truly an odd year full of plenty of ups and downs. If you ask me, it’s precisely what entrepreneurship is really all about. In the midst of entrepreneurship pursuit my son was also born on April 7, 2016 and quite obviously it presented a new set of challenges to maneuver. As if life wasn’t complicated enough already with a newborn. As a struggling entrepreneur I was quite determined to zero in on making my digital agency startup a reality.

Moral support from friends and family are probably one of the most integral elements of entrepreneurship. Yes, there are many others but moral support is probably one of the most important. Particularly true when it comes from your spouse. Quite honestly it still baffles me to this day as to how she was able to cope with all the chaos we’ve encountered thus far.

If you’re new to the entrepreneurial game than get ready for plenty of negativity. You will receive a ton of it due to other people’s disbelief in your mission. That is perfectly OK though. Not everyone is going to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Wins & Losses of My “All In” Entrepreneurial Journey

As I look back onto 2016 the wins and losses became far more evident. It’s also something that I am currently taking into consideration so I can better determine strengths and weaknesses. Something that can attribute heavily towards future business growth.

It’s not all glamour, rainbows, and unicorns in the land of entrepreneurship. Far from it! At least in the beginning years which are full of ups and downs, uncertainties, gambles, and unforeseen circumstances.

The Wins

Bet on your strengths. Exercise what you are really good at and bank on that. Aside from trying to bank on my strengths I was quite fortunate to forge new relationship. Luck plays a factorial role in entrepreneurship. If you are extremely unlucky than you may face slimmer chances of winning. Definitely not aimed at discouragement of new entrepreneurs. Although it is something you need to take into account.

There is no shortcut to winning. Here are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to winning though during this past year:

  • Do the work. No whining or complaining.
  • Deliver on your promises.
  • Hustle and grind like nobody else. This may mean long hours, lack of sleep, and pure hardcore dedication.
  • Price yourself accordingly based on added value. It’s important to create a standard that will later be extremely beneficial to your business.
  • Use succinct communication. Straight and direct to the point. Don’t beat around the bush.
  • Be responsive. Don’t wait around to answer e-mails, calls/voicemails, tweets, or other messages. We live in a real-time world and you should get with the program.
  • Set realistic expectations for your clients.
  • Patience REALLY is a virtue. Slow down John Wayne. Not so quick on the trigger!
  • Be consistent and follow-thru.
  • Develop cohesive SOWs so that nothing backfires on you later (and that WILL happen).
  • Invest into development of legal documents that can protect you, your company, and your endeavors.
  • Consider prospects willing to forge a long-term relationship with you. These are companies who seek mutual growth over longer periods of time (i.e. get away from the quick wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am opportunities).

The above are probably some of the most intricate things I’ve experienced during my first full-year as an “all in” entrepreneur. Especially when it comes to winning new business or striving for sustainability of my current client base.

The Challenges & Losses

It’s not all that glamorous as most people make it out to be when you’re an entrepreneur. Especially in the beginning. You will face plenty of challenges or losses and must understand that it’s a part of the game. Building up towards residual income that ultimately supplements the weekly or bi-weekly paycheck you were so used to takes time. This is a key component to understand when making the shift from the 9–5 into full on hustling and grinding.

Losses? I’ve definitely experienced and still handling certain challenges but no actual detrimental losses (thankfully). In your scenario though the outcome will most likely be quite different. Here are the challenges I’ve faced this past year to give you an indication of how harsh entrepreneurship can be on you.

  • My house was nearly foreclosed on due to inconsistent income. Still dealing with this currently but at least have some options to consider.
  • My car was almost repossessed due to inconsistent payments.
  • My credit score took a hit since I fell behind on bills.
  • Putting food on the table became more challenging than ever before.
  • Taking care of a newborn is a whole new game. Making sure my son Hudson had diapers, clothes, formula, and anything else he needed was a huge financial challenge to rectify.
  • Keeping the lights on. Paying the utility bill never seemed so real. Or unreal for that matter in certain months.
  • Battling negativity from others. Check out my friend Chris Brogan’s article on entrepreneurship and depression. Let that simmer in!
  • Encountering over $12,000 of unexpected car expenses (as if things weren’t bad enough already). Something that I ended up paying out-of-pocket obviously. Planning for the unexpected is simply not feasible.
  • Collections and unpaid balances.
  • Borrowing money from family to make ends meet (yes, that happens unfortunately).

No, entrepreneurship is NOT glamorous. Is it worth it? Yes, in the long-haul but building up to it takes time. During that time you will encounter many challenges and losses similar to the ones I mentioned above.

“99% of entrepreneurs FAIL due to lack of sustainability, courage, & willpower.”

Glamour, Bling-Bling, & Accomplishments?

All of that will come in time. Is that what you are seeking? Believe it or not many entrepreneurs set out to build companies for the wrong reasons. Sure, glamour, bling-bling, and strong cashflow would be nice. Particularly since I have a 1-year old now for whom a college savings fun has been forged and requires nurturing.

On the other hand, my wife and I wouldn’t mind traveling the world, seeing new places, and for me particularly ensuring my family’s financials are taken care of. I was never the flashy guy with high demands or extreme expectations.

So, for me, I launched Razor Sharp Digital to help companies with their digital governance in the marketplace using an industry-leading human-centric business approach. I’ve experienced first-hand the mistakes other marketing agencies make over-and-over again. One of them being the inhuman approach to business like it’s a skinning contest.

The chances of being a human are about 400 trillion to 1. Yes, that is a very high probability. Although, for me and my digital startup we feel privileged to be alive, breathing, and have the ability to make an impact using a human-centric business approach.

Current Endeavors

There are so many things I’ve learned this past year. Quite certain that I’ll learn many more as things progress. If you pay close attention to the challenges I mentioned above you might have second thoughts about entrepreneurship. If you’re one who enjoys your job, the 9–5, and collecting a paycheck every 1–2 weeks than that’s great.

Although, if you want more out of life, seek to help others, and want to think bigger than entrepreneurship is probably up your alley.

How are things currently?

Well, that’s a bit of a bland question but here is a glimpse to cure your curiosity. It can always be better. Which is precisely why I’ve focused on setting higher standards so that added value is appreciated. You’ll be quite surprised at how quickly clients can underestimate or degrade your potential for the sake of undercutting the price tag. I have a silent business partner who brings forth seasonality in the digital marketing realm. Also an investor who even though now valiantly plays within the investment game has still shown interest in partnering up with me.

Having said that 2017 looks bright already. Several new business opportunities are on the table. The pipeline is slowly getting filled. We are looking to hire our first potential full-time employee.

Moral of The Story

Is entrepreneurship for everyone? NO, it is not. Can entrepreneurship be learned or taught? Yes, although the really good entrepreneurs have entrepreneurship woven into their DNA. It’s a behavioral and personality thing that can be emulated but never duplicated. They understand what it means to be a true entrepreneur.

Would I ever go back to a 9–5 gig? I’ve turned down 6 figure salary already.

“Define your purpose, follow your passion, and discover untapped business potential.”