Why do you want to do this? I hope it’s not because it’s the cool thing to do… it’s easy to become an entrepreneur, but it’s way harder to become a successful one.
These days, it seems like everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. People become enamored with the idea of pursuing their own passion and being in control of their own destinies. But that’s a romanticized notion of what really happens.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most entrepreneurs fail. It’s not just the statistics that show us this; it’s also common sense. It’s very hard to turn an idea into reality, and even harder to turn that new reality into something of great significance.
Sure, we know the breakout stories — those A-plus ideas that took off from the beginning, like Facebook, Google, or eBay. The fact is these companies are very rare. Often, the world is not ready for a new idea, and the majority of companies don’t get traction. Intrepid entrepreneurs go back to the drawing board and pivot, but that maneuver is not representative of the reality of startups. Most companies fall into a middle space — there’s some traction, but the flywheel isn’t spinning, and you’re not sure if the idea will scale. This uncomfortable middle place is what I call a “tweener,” and it’s a dangerous place to be.
So, you’re still keen on starting something? A number of questions for you:
What are your motives?
Are you in this for money or impact? You must know what you’re really chasing; otherwise, you’ll never find it.
Do you have an idea that you are deeply passionate about?
This question is perhaps the most important one. If you pursue your idea, you will likely be waking up every morning of the next two to 10 years touting its value not just to your employees, but also to your customers, to your friends, to your family, and to your significant others. Even if you are the first to realize the concept, large entities and new startups will be quick on your heels. There are thousands of opportunities for new businesses — pick one that’s right for you.
Do you have a co-founder who will join you?
If not, it’s time to consider how a partner could help.
Do you have the right team to take this on?
Often, the best teams have spent much of their time working together before, through good times and bad, with each member bringing something distinctive to the table.
Are you comfortable with risk?
If you need certainty, being an entrepreneur probably won’t make you very happy. At its core, starting a company is a high-risk/high-reward endeavor.
Can you afford to live on a small income for years?
You certainly won’t get paid handsomely in the beginning. For example, one entrepreneur I worked with slept in his car when he started his company.
Do you mind working way harder than ever before and under much more stressful conditions?
You will wear more hats and have more responsibility than you’ve ever had. You will also be responsible for the well-being of your team and the satisfaction of your customers.
Do you really want to go for years without great benefits, long vacations, work-life balance, etc.?
There is no balance when starting a startup.
Do you need outside validation?
If you need a pat on the back, you may not make a good entrepreneur. You need faith in yourself; you cannot rely on others to keep you going. Find strength in your passion for the idea and your interest in changing the world.
How well do you deal with rejection, and how much grit do you have to pick yourself up and make something out of nothing?
Know that conviction is required. You’ll get nothing but pushback all day long, from everyone you encounter — investors, people who use the product or service, people who are testing it out. You cannot get depressed at hearing “no” or that your idea is “stupid.” Instead, you need to be inspired by it.