Starting a business is usually one of the great events in an entrepreneur’s life. It is an exciting moment for sure –one that is the result of a lot of thought, planning, hard work, creativity, money, and hope. When that grand opening day finally arrives, the entrepreneur is rightfully optimistic.
That rose-colored vibe will usually last for a while, and if the entrepreneur is good at what she does, picked the right business, and is doing things right, that feeling should last a long time. After all, a main reason to take the risk necessary to start one’s own business is to find more satisfaction at work. That should be the case.
However, even if things are going along well, it is also true that nothing is perfect and that unanticipated things happen. There will always be valleys to go along with the peaks.
I know a real estate agent who had a gravy train for a long time. Not long after she started her career, she teamed up with an established broker with a long list of clients, and for many years the younger agent never really had to work hard to get business because her partner kept feeding her warm leads.
However, the older broker eventually retired.
For a while, the younger agent was fine, working the residuals of her previous collaboration. But, after a while, business tapered off and she didn’t know what to do. One of the things they don’t tell you before you start a business is that you will need to hustle for clients and customers, and then do it some more, and then some more. She had never learned that lesson.
One of the great things about working for someone else is that the rainmaking is usually their problem. You are given a job title and description, and duties and projects, but usually you do not have to hustle for work.
However, when you work for yourself, the opposite is true. You can’t ever stop marketing yourself and your business. You are the rainmaker, president, head of sales, and Chief Visionary Officer all rolled into one person.
But that’s not the only thing they don’t tell you at small business school.
The next is that you aren’t going to get a lot of accolades when you work for yourself. In an office with co-workers and managers, it’s not unusual to hear that you did a good job on a project, or congratulations for a big sale.
But when you are the boss, don’t expect to get a lot of compliments. The only one there to give them to you is you. It is not often that you will hear “great job” from an employee. So you better have a lot of confidence because the joys of the job are mostly up to you - from a job done right, a business run well, a payroll met, or a client made happy, and not from someone telling you that you did a good job.
Which leads to the third and final thing that they don’t tell you when you start your own business: there is no finish line. When you start a new job, you usually have a good idea of how long you plan to be there or where you would ideally like to go within the organization. There are benchmarks and timelines.
But in your own small business, the end zone is far, far in the future. Of course there are those startups that begin with a plan to sell their business and exit three years down the line, but for the vast majority of small businesses, that is not the case.
It is probably safe to say that most entrepreneurs start their business with only a vague idea of where they want to go. Someday, down the road, maybe they will sell the business to fund their retirement, or give it to their kids, but the fact is, entrepreneurship is a long and winding road that leads to doors unknown.
Perhaps that’s just as well. For a true entrepreneur, the surprises of the journey are part of the allure. If you wanted a conventional career, you could have taken that boring job offer.
No thanks. Give us the unknown over the known any day. Because the one thing that they do teach in small business school is that for entrepreneurs, it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.