Hustle Loft
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Hustle Loft

How Do I Know if Entrepreneurship is for Me?

Starting your own business vs. working for someone else can be a crucial decision. Let me help you make the right one.

How it all started

As of writing this, I’m 42 years old. I got my first real job at the age of 20, while I was still completing my bachelor’s degree in business administration.

In the beginning of 2000s, a person with tech skills and some managerial education could easily find a job. I had worked slightly more than a year before deciding to start my own business. Throughout my 22 year work journey, that was the first and the last time when I worked for someone else.

Within the two decades I have started or co-founded a number of startups. At some point I have failed miserably but also had two successful exists. Both the failure and successful exists have taught me a lot.

The most important question that I will try to address in this story is this: how do you know if entrepreneurship is your thing? Let’s dive in.

You value freedom

Most jobs come with very little freedom. You and your fellow co-workers are literally bolts and nuts in a big machine. You might be paid well, have many benefits and perks, yet, you lack the most important thing — freedom. Of course you can find a job where you will have a lot of freedom but you will never have it to the degree when you work on yourself.

You like control

One thing that unites all entrepreneurs is that we like to be in control of things. Of course when you run your business, you cannot control everything. Like every system, your business is operating in an environment and you have to adapt to it. However, as a business owner you have more control vs. being an employee for some organization whose management makes key decisions. Sometimes these decisions ruthlessly affect hundreds of individuals. If you have ever been laid off, you know what I mean.

You can own your mistakes

Generally speaking, successful people own their mistakes whether they are in own business or work for someone else. However, for entrepreneurs owning mistakes is even more crucial because in your business you make the critical decisions. You cannot blame someone else. You cannot complain.

Take Steve Jobs for example and how often he failed. Apple Lisa. Macintosh TV. The Apple III. The Powermac g4 cube — all these products failed. Recruiting John Sculley as CEO of Apple was a mistake. With NeXT computer he practically had no clear vision. Nevertheless, he owned his mistakes.

You are a risk-taker

Risk aversion is deeply inherent in human nature. Put simply, we don’t like losing. People will do everything to avoid risks. If taking risks does not come easily to you, you will experience a lot of difficulties while running your own business. To me this comes naturally. As a kid I would do things that scared me if I knew it was important.

You are good at assessing risks

Being inclined to taking risks is just one part of the story. You also have to be good at assessing and calculating the risks that you undertake. You have to be friends with facts and numbers. If you are bad at basic probability theory, you will be taking a lot of unjustifiable risks and this will take a toll on your business.

You have a good health

No matter how small or large your business is, no matter if you are just starting or your business is already standing firmly on the ground, entrepreneurship takes enormous energy. Even if no longer there is the need to work around the clock, you will still be in that mode. That’s why millionaires and even billionaires still work that much. The difference between a starting entrepreneur and well-established one is not that the later works less, she just reaps more fruits from the results. An entrepreneur sitting in a garage and another sitting in a luxurious office can and will be working more than their employees do.

That’s why it is very important to have a good health and be in great physical shape. It’s not 9 to 5. It’s around the clock.

You can cope with uncertainty and stress

Entrepreneurship and uncertainty are practically synonyms. Your paycheck is not guaranteed. You have to take care of your insurance, there is no sick-leave.

When you work solo it’s both a curse and a blessing. As soon as you start getting your first employees, it’s no longer you and your family. Other people start depending their lives on you and they may have families who in turn depend on them.

This will put an incredible pressure on you. If your business does not perform well, you let these people down.

I remember when I first had to fire my employee. It’s probably one of the worst experiences in my life. I think I would not have felt that bad if I had killed someone. Even though more than a decade has passed since then, if I close my eyes I can still clearly see the miserable expression of the poor guy.

Mind you, the reason was the person’s poor performance. Now imagine how difficult this decision is if you have to fire someone because your business cannot keep the person, not because she’s a bad employee.

Fortunately, I had to do this only twice!

You don’t easily give up

90% of startups fail. Ouch. You have far better chances of winning if you go to a casino and place all your savings on the red or black. You considerably improve your odds of doubling your fortune.

You have to be ready that your business may fail. This should not discourage you. Failure is a great teacher, often very expensive, but still a very efficient teacher.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be ready start over and over. You must be able to move from one thing to another without losing enthusiasm.

SpaceX successfully landed Starship rocket after four failed attempts! Imagine your business launches four rockets and all four explode. Everyone would give up but not Elon Musk. That’s what makes a great entrepreneur. Be like Elon Musk.

You have a “nothing is impossible” mindset

Very often you will have to deal with things that seem impossible. Often, you will be discouraged by others, sometimes by close friends or sometimes even worse — by your family members and relatives. Sometimes the thing you are tackling will look as totally futile or straight nonsense to the others.

Remember, impossible only means that you have not found the solution yet. If you don’t have this mindset, you’d better stay off from entrepreneurship.

Again take SpaceX and Elon Musk. Even his heroes tried to discourage him. Neil Armstrong was arguing why SpaceX should not be funded. When people who you admire try to bring you down, you need to have a strong character to keep doing what you do. I’ve been through this. Trust me, it sucks.

You understand what people want

If there is a silver bullet in building a successful business, it’s doing something that people want and are ready to pay for. You may build the greatest product in the world but if nobody wants it or is ready to pay for it, you have just spent time and resources to build a failure.

You understand importance of teamwork

Have you ever heard an expression “Two heads are better than one”? That’s right. People working in groups are more likely to come to a correct decision than they would if working alone.

Teamwork is essential to a company’s success. Even if you start your business (and you often do) alone, at some point you have to establish and grow your team. Even if you are a genius, a team still can beat an individual.

You are obsessed with optimization

When you start a business often you do things that are not efficient. Often you have to do things that don’t scale well. However, at some point you have to optimize things and processes to become profitable. Japanese even have a special philosophy called kaizen. In a nutshell, kaizen refers to business activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees whether it is a CEO or an assembly worker. If you improve something 1% a day, you have a 365% improvement a year.

You see opportunities even in unfavorable situations

When it rains, many people hide inside. However, for a photographer, it’s an opportunity to make some great shots. As a business owner you will often run into unfavorable situations. You have to be able to turn problems into opportunities. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

You like giving

Life is like a boomerang. You give, then it returns. Some of the best customers that I ever had where those with whom I have started with absolutely free consultation or contributed something without expecting return. Fate, luck, karma — call however you like it but when you give and do this really sincerely — it returns to you.

You are ready to sacrifice many things

There is an ancient Egyption proverb — For every joy there is a price to be paid. When you run your own business, you have to be ready to sacrifice some things. Be ready to watch less shows on Netflix, hang out less often with friends, miss some birthdays and so on. Unfortunately, sometimes entrepreneurship may come at higher costs like divorce or a ruined relationship. Keep this in mind. If you have a partner and he or she is not understanding and supportive, your risks of damaging your relationship are quite high.

You love self-education

All successful entrepreneurs dedicate some time to self-education. Why? First, many of them did not have a chance to attend schools and get formal education. Second, schools can’t and don’t teach you everything that you need to be a successful entrepreneur. If you are not the person who likes reading books or watching educational videos, you need to get into habit of dedicating some time and resource to self-education.

Is that all?

No list can be exhaustive. However, the 16 points outlined in this story are very important and critical to be a successful entrepreneur. Remember, even if you don’t find some of the signs in you, you can nurture them to a certain degree by persistence and practice.

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