I recently started blogging as a way to express the things I have learnt since resigning from a large South African financial institution and starting my own company.
Related: My Blog Posts
To find out what would be most beneficial as a topic to blog about I did what any entrepreneur should do – I asked my potential audience what they would want me to share.
One topic that was raised was what lifestyle changes you need to be prepared to make (either before or shortly after) you start your journey as an entrepreneur.
Many people get excited about the notion of entrepreneurship because you will be “working for yourself” or “being your own boss”. It seems sexy! And while it is sexy it is also incredibly challenging – emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically.
Being an entrepreneur is a completely different universe from being an employee, and when you’re ready to make the transition to becoming a business owner, you need to be prepared for the major changes that come along with that transition:
- If ‘politics’ exists it’s your fault: When you are an employee you inherit a culture, way of working, team structure etc. You have little to no say in whether this works for you or not. This typically leads to loads of ‘water-cooler’ conversations fueled by frustration, annoyance etc. When you are an entrepreneur if ANYTHING exists that leads to you adopting a ‘water-cooler’ mentality it is 100% your fault!! I really can’t stress this enough – YOU are the politics in your company! It’s important because that culture sets the tone for everything else – how you deal conflicts, promotions, hiring and firing, tough times, good times etc.
- Work hours no longer exist: This is a more practical one (and I think most people intuitively know it) but the typical 9-5 will certainly be gone, which you might find liberating at first. But instead of 9-5, or any regular hours, your startup will become your life, which means working when the work needs to be done — regardless of when or how long it takes. For us this has meant, at times, catching a quick power nap on the floor in the office before getting back to work and working for days (not hours). It also means that you can take a day off when you need to with no need to submit a leave form or any of that nonsense.
- Your support structure needs to be one of quality not quantity: The typical mantra I have come across countless times is that as an entrepreneur you NEED to network! Network for clients, partnerships, synergies and everything in between. Yes, it is critical but networking should not be confused with building a support structure. A support structure is going to be those people who you can lean on for strength, that you can share your deepest fears about your business to, that you can talk to openly without feeling the need to impress. I would, from my experience, argue that how you cultivate your support structure and who makes it into that support structure is as important as any networking you do because they will be the difference between you getting through the tough times or not (it can be God, your family, friends – anyone as long as you can lean on the unequivocally). I would advise that your support structure is one that is not fueled by size (that’s your ego talking if you need loads of people to tell you “you are awesome”) but the injection of inspiration into your life that sustains you when all hope seems lost. I have found that, personally, very few people can do that for any one person because you either don’t believe them or can’t/won’t share the full truth with them or know that the support you receive will not be unwavering.
- Job titles and responsibilities are meaningless: It might seem cool at first being able to call yourself “CEO” but as an entrepreneur, you’re going to wear a lot of hats. Being “CEO” of a startup doesn’t mean you sit and make decisions all day (that’s what CEO’s of massive companies have the luxury of doing). You’ll be an accountant, a salesperson, an account manager, web developer, designer and tea-guy/lady all in the same day (in fact sometimes in a matter of hours). The simple fact is you do what needs to be done at that time to ensure the most positive impact possible for your business and your team (if it means making everyone tea/coffee then you do it). You, unfortunately, will not have the luxury of hiding behind a title or “JD” and if you do you will not be an entrepreneur for long I would guess.
- Team interactions will change: Being a startup entrepreneur can feel lonely at times (even if you have employees). You’ll be drowning in work and unshared responsibilities (both real and imagined), and the burden of coordinating the direction of the company will make team dynamics different — not worse, just different. You need to quickly find the most optimal way of navigating that difference in order to give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding.
- You need to find a space to create your own optimism and creativity: When you are an employee that is HR’s role (or your managers). They think about training, team-building events, coaching and mentoring for you etc. When you are an entrepreneur that is all now on you (for both yourself and anyone else you choose to employ). On top of that running, your own business can be gut-wrenchingly demotivating. It’s not easy staying positive when you have no idea where the money for the next day (much less the next month) is going to come from. In such a high-stress environment it is vitally important to not only find spaces but to make space for you to re-fuel your optimism and creativity about what you are doing and even more importantly why. When you do that entrepreneurship is an enriching, rewarding experience, but if you’re not prepared for it, it can be a nightmare. You will no longer be an employee. You will be a business owner.
I can still list loads more things but in the interest of ensuring things ‘are like a mini-skirt’ (short enough to remain attractive but long enough to cover the essentials) I will stop at six points.
If you want to discuss things you are struggling with specifically feel free to hit me up on any of the social media (& other) channels I am on and if things are ‘really tough’ we offer expert advice to entrepreneurs/startups to take their great ideas and turn them into awesome businesses!
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