Is It Really That Hard to Run a Business?

You may want to have a few comparisons beforehand to determine for yourself whether a business is really that hard to run.
 
Let’s start with school.
 
At school, you are given four classes in a semester for a total of 12 units. These classes cover four topics. You are at school for around 12 hours a week and you spend around 24 hours doing your homework. Your total commitment is 36 hours a week. Maybe you spend extra time studying for finals or mid terms, bringing up your time commitment to a max of 60 hours a week.
 
It’s simple, because you only have four things to do, where the majority of the time is either spent reading, listening to lectures or solving problems. 
 
Now we’ll move to a job.
 
At a job, the bigger the company you work for, the less duties you have. If you work for a Fortune 100 company, chances are your job scope is limited to spending eight hours a day doing one thing. Within doing that one thing all day, you may have to do four or five other things to make that one thing achievable. Examples of these things could be analyzing data, doing math, answering calls, updating customer data, etc. All pretty simple tasks. 
 
If you’re a manager, you look at key goals and manage a team. If you’re in a smaller business, like a restaurant, your job may only be to cook specific meals as ordered. In each of these jobs, your responsibility is to one specific part of the equation.
 
Marriage / Raising a family.
 
Raising a family is something I don’t have any experience with. However my grandparents do. They seem to have done quite a good job at that with staying married and raising their children/grandchildren well. On the other hand, my mother and father didn’t do so well at it and ended up with a divorce. But when compared to either school or a job, this seems to be much harder.
 
From difficulty levels, I’d say raising a family is probably the hardest, since it has a 50% chance of success.
 
Now, we should probably look at the different types of businesses out there and the difficulty behind them.
 
Restaruant:
 
Let’s say I’ve been working as a sous chef in the hottest restaurant for the last few decades. I have big dreams. The dream to one day own my own venue. I know how to run a restaurant like the back on my hand, especially since the head chef does nothing but yell at us all day. What does he know?
 
But what do I need to succeed? 
 
First, I need at least $300,000 saved away. Then I need to find a location and get it built out. If I’m green to starting a business, which I probably am since I’ve been a sous chef for the last decade, I probably don’t actually know how to build a restaurant, just now to run one. When it comes time to zoning and planning, if I make any mistakes on my floor plans and layout, then I’m broke and out of business before I even started.
 
Let’s say I’m an attorney and I make a sick mac and cheese omelette. (Sorry, was watching American Dad yesterday. Thank you Mikey Barker for such an amazing show!) I think that my recipe is going to change the world. Since I’m in law, I know how to build a restaurant, but then I realize that I don’t know how to run a restaurant. I quit my job and spend a million dollars over the course of five years, my whole life savings, only to end up worse off than where I started, with nothing. 
 
Why?
 
Because I didn’t know how to run the restaurant or market it well enough to bring customers in through the door.
 
Brick and Mortar:
 
Let’s say you come across this amazing product. You want to set up a store for it. So you go contact the distributor, buy a ton of inventory and decide it is time to set up shop. If you’re smart, you’re going to go out and find an ideal location to host this venue. After you do your diligence and pick a location, the clock starts the countdown. You have a burn rate that you have to keep up and maintain while figuring out how to get new customers in the door.
 
As each month goes by, you’re losing thousands of dollars in rent, electricity, product, employees, etc. Now, you have to figure out how to get the word out there about your business. 
 
How do you advertise and how effective are the results? 
 
Is there a need for your product? 
 
How are you going to sway someone on the street to come in and enter your location to see what you have? 
 
What measures have you implemented to deter theft? 
 
How honest are you keeping your books and your budget? 
 
Are other people even interseted in your product?
 
How long can you keep on going before the venue is going to shut down?
 
These are all questions you need to ask yourself while operating your business, because 95% of these brick and mortar locations end up dead within 5 years. So you have to figure out what differentiates you and makes your business different from the other ones in your field who were created by smarter people that have failed before you.
 
Fashion Line:
 
Let’s say you’re a dreamer. An artist to the world. You have set aside some cash to do a trial run for a clothing line you want to start. Your friends tell you it’s amazing. You’re pumped up so you get a website. You start to get a few initial sales. Then it hits you, you want to fulfill your dream. You want to be the next Vivienne Westwood.
 
Now, you’re no longer a one person team. You have to hire pattern makers, designers, contract with manufacturers, hire sales people, keep account of the books and understand the fact that within six months, every item you create is out of date. Imagine if you just make one mistake with ordering too much inventory for a season. What would that do to your entire line?
 
Technology Company:
 
 You have what it takes to code. You’re working on the next generation platform that will disrupt your industry. However, you come to realize that you can’t do it alone. Depending on if you’re a b2b or a b2c company, you’re going to either need a killer marketing or sales team to expand your company. 
 
How complex is your knowledge when it comes to communication and sales? 
 
If it’s limited, then you have to scout out the right people to handle this for you. Plus, as a technical founder, are you the proper person who will be able to take this company to the level it needs to be at, or would you have to give up some power and hire a CEO? 
 
Who do you have to make sure you aren’t breaking any rules or creating technology that is already patented by someone else? 
 
How well are you keeping track of your books?
 
When you’re down to the last few dollars in the bank, what is going to motivate you to keep moving forward when you know that at any moment when something goes wrong, you can just bail and get a six figure job? 
 
No matter what type of business you’re in, there are too many moving targets.
 
For one person to handle all of these, it is quite overwhelming. Even if you get a cofounder or two, marriages only work out 50% of time. Having two cofounders is like being married to two people. That lowers that probability level. Plus, when life happens, people rearrange priorities. 
 
There are other companies out there who do things from having product lines, media, and what else have you. Most of these equations don’t only require money, but a team as well. Plus, with all the unexpected turns that come up, anything could really happen that will prevent you from achieving your ultimate goal. 
 
So in the end when you compare a business to a business to a job, school or even a marriage, it is significantly harder to achieve.


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Leonard Kim consults startups and write books. He also blogs at LeonardKim.com.


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