When you start up, there are a lot of expectations from you and those around you about what the reality will be. So what can you actually expect?
Well, it’s definitely not be as glamorous as it seems… (for the most part at least) and you should be prepared for that! Here are 5 things that are commonly misunderstood…
It’s so weird that as soon as you change your job title on Facebook to ‘founder’, ‘director’ or ‘owner’, everyone automatically starts to think you’re rich. It happens a lot early on until time and social media visibility of your not-changed-to-yachting-every-weekend lifestyle becomes apparent.
As a ‘plucky Brit’ it’s actually quite awkward to figure out how to brush it off and tell them the reality – you’re broke. A lot. For quite a long time, most of the time.
This isn’t always the case, of course. If you’re entering a market where you have experience and you’re not innovating much then it should be a case of ‘simply’ outselling the rest of them and you’ve got immediate revenues & market share. Although still hard, this is notably easier than disrupting a market sector, where you essentially have to convince people this is the new way it’s done until they adopt it and you can experience that notorious ‘hockey stick growth’ that SaaS founders can only dream of 😍
In truth – if you want to grow, you’ll likely put a lot of your hard earned cash back into the business to help it grow, meaning beans on toast may become a favourite of yours for a while.
Oh and mortgages…? What’s one of those?! 😂
Ok, don’t get me wrong, it is fun, but only if you’re a full-blown masochist.
The financial, emotional, stressful rollercoaster ride of running a business can likely be akin to having a child – sleepless nights, strapped for cash and messes you reluctantly have to clean up.
The fun you do have is balanced nicely with chaos. Here’s an article I wrote about that before.
Running a business is essentially like playing SimCity, Theme Hospital or Rollercoaster Tycoon. A fun experience with lots of challenges except those challenges, the risks and the money are all very much real and your own and you can’t just reset life when things screw up.
You can do what you want, when you want
I mean, this is definitely doable, but in actual fact, once you have clients, you’ve got more bosses then you’ve ever had before. You are their mercy as they pay your bills and handle your reputation.
The idea of being able to take time off whenever you like, play lots of golf, go on spa weekdays (instead of expensive weekends) etc are all very much out of the question for most startup founders.
If you can afford to – do it all, within reason. A healthy mind & body are absolutely helpful for productivity and I’ll cover this in next weeks newsletter possibly but for every moment you spend out of the business, you’ll probably need to add an hour of work time on to play catch up.
Oh and don’t even begin to imagine being able to mentally switch off at all. That’s a novice assumption! 😂
You have an awesome office
Frugality is the way of the lean startup, so big rooms, with wooden floors and signs on the wall with a receptionist, meeting rooms and beer on tap are all big dreams but much less of a reality for most.
More likely you’ll find that the start of the journey is spent working from home, finding yourself distracted by the cat/dog/fridge/chores that need doing. You’ll create a routine to trick yourself into productivity – I know someone used to actually walk around the block and arrive at home like their office and do the same at the end of the day too, to change their mindset; a bit wacky but fun – but most likely break it a few times anyway.
When you do move into your first office, the reality of how much they cost and rates (oh my god, business rates!!!) out-price a lot of people. So either coworking spaces or dingy rooms in odd areas of town become the best option.
Oh and you might even end up being the cleaner. Gone are the days of leaving your desk a mess at work on a Friday and having it spotless after the weekend!
You can work from anywhere
Again, this one can also be true – a lot more so than the others perhaps nowadays thanks to wifi and even a neccessity, considering the above part about offices.
However, the dream of working from a beach may take a while to get to. It’s likely that if this is your first rodeo, you might need to be ‘on the ground’ to start with, to figure out how to handle client relationships and be there for them if you need to be. Even the most digita/scaleable businesses made in-person efforts at the start, such as the founders of AirBnB who visited their hosts to get feedback in person and take photos of their place before they could afford a photographer to do so.
Keep in mind as you grow that travel may be a reward but also may be a necessity at times. If you’re looking to sell a high ticket price item then unless (even if) you have a fantastic personal brand that precedes you, you may need to visit the client in person. That’s hard to do if they’re on Oxford Street while you’re at a coworking retreat in Vietnam.
(Bonus!) – ‘Passive income’ is not a thing
I’m so tired of Facebook ads and YouTube pre-roll videos advertising the ability to ‘build a business and just head off to a beach while it runs itself’.
The reality is that, as soon as you have a customer or client, you have something that’s not passive – customer service, invoicing, product development, retainment etc.
Even if you argue you could outsource all those things (which happens on the most minority of occasions that I’ve not met anyone yet out of the 3,500 people we connect every year who does this fully), you still then have those stakeholders to manage, KPI and hold to account on occasion.
Be prepared to spend time doing stuff. Probably more stuff than you’re expecting. You’ll be surprised how much you love it anyway 😉
The moral of the story is…
The reason I wanted to write this seemingly depressing newsletter this week if because the mental health of founders is something very close to my heart.
I want to make sure that if people are getting into the job of being the master of their own destiny (as it were) then they’re prepared for the amazingness that can come but the struggle that is almost inevitable along the way too.
Obviously the Yena community is here for you to support your journey (with the tools & resources too).
If you’re struggling for whatever reason right now, just drop me an email and I’ll help wherever I can. 😊