There’s a theme here. My company is less than a week away from its half-year anniversary, and because this is a rare afternoon when I’m actually free to write for about two hours, I thought I’d use that time to list some observations I’ve picked up along the way. If you’ve got a young business yourself, maybe you’ll share my pain. If you’re an entrepreneur-at-heart and looking to finally take the plunge, hopefully this doesn’t scare you off!
Some time around early March of this year, I got an email from my bank saying that my business account had been closed due to inactivity and the fact that it had been open for two months and there was still no money in it. (Yeah, thanks for reminding me). Fast forward another three months, 50+ clients later, and I don’t think my bank will be planning on closing my bank account again anytime soon. Sometimes, it’s just about not letting the struggle break you. But that’s not to say that once you get over that initial hurdle of getting people to actually give you money, that more struggles will not arrive. Let’s take a look at some of those, shall we?
#1: I have yet to receive a salary from my business.
Yes, it’s my money. But no, I can’t do whatever I want with it. That’s because when a business is in its infancy, all of the profit is going into growing it. I may not consider claiming my first paycheck for another whole year. And this is more than a full-time job. Sometimes, I might sit down to my computer at 9am and not get up until 1am early the next morning, 7 days a week. When I’m not doing that, I have a part-time remote job that I use to help pay my bills. If my friends want to know where I’m at, that’s where I’m at! Right at my desk trying to make this thing work.
#2 Getting Funding is Still Difficult
I’ve applied in a few grant programs that have these long submission windows and a lot of times the award amount isn’t even worth the wait. Do these programs know how businesses work? A lot of people needed that money like yesterday, not in six months. Applying for business credit was pretty difficult, too, since for many of the applications, your business had to be open for a minimum of 4 months. Damn. So you mean I don’t qualify for funding during the period of time I’ll probably need it most? Cool.
#3 Scaling Remains Difficult
When, how, who to rely on, how much we can afford to pay for that…the last thing I want to do is bring someone into my company who doesn’t value the goal and what we’re trying to achieve. But the most important thing here is that 6 months has been long enough for me to figure out what I’m really good at within the company while at the same time making it clear that I need to delegate the tasks that I’m not so good at or don’t enjoy as much. Just because you know what needs to be done for your company to succeed, doesn’t mean that you have to be the one to do it.
#4 Ideas really are worthless
…Until you actually execute them. You don’t know how many times someone has come to me with the next “billion dollar idea” that they want to bring me in on but just want to make sure I won’t steal it. Little do they know, I probably had at least three people that week pitch me some variation of that very same idea. A lot of people tend to linger too long on the idea phase, figuring out who they need to pitch it to, when in truth, someone else is probably already building it.
I started my company with a “big idea,” that was going to “change the world as we know it.” But the harsh truth was that this big idea wasn’t viable because I couldn’t get people to want to pay for it. I could explain it to all my friends over beers and they could all nod their heads and say I’ve got a total gamechanger, but I could not get one client with my big idea.
Another harsh truth about this is that a lot of entrepreneurs (especially young ones), when they dream, they dream “billions,” but don’t possess a billionaire network or have access to anyone who does, and even if they somehow did, don’t possess any sort of credentials to make an investor trust you to execute it.
My advice then, is to start with something that if you pitched it to regular Joe on a subway, he would open his wallet and hand you the money for it as if it was right there in your hands already. In order to refine my business model, I had to study my consumers and figure out what it is they actually wanted, not what I wanted for them.
#5 It’s been a lot easier getting clients then it was to get a job
These days I honestly think more and more, the paradigm of having a large company with hundreds and hundreds of employees will be less relevant to most companies. Most small, and even some medium-sized businesses, just can’t afford to keep a bunch of people on payroll these days. It’s much more cost-efficient to outsource when you need something done. So, in whatever field that you specialize, you might find that there aren’t that many attractive job openings, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a bunch of people out there looking to have a job done.
#6 I Really Do Love What I Do
All the complaints aside, I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t really love waking up every day and doing it. Even though I’m working a lot more, I’m so much happier now than I was this same time last year. If you’re at all like me, this should be your main takeaway from this post. So don’t lose hope! Keep at it! And make it happen!