I have been on a reflective journey, of late. It has not been in the sense of “what have I achieved?” but rather, asking myself: “what do I wish I had known beforehand?” These are some of the things I wish I had been told before jumping into the world of entrepreneurship…
Entrepreneurship is highly demanding, and as much as I may roll my eyes to the “we sleep, they grind” anecdotes, there’s a small sour note of truth in this. The start-up days are about sacrifice and devastatingly long hours. It sucks, but khethile khethile. There is often little personal or professional distance between an entrepreneur and their business, so you will need to be very hands-on and willing to put in crazy hours – you cannot leave it for the next person to sort out.
I’ve become the master of applying concealer for my incessant eye bags, and hiding all sorts of lethargy – by the way, the Elizabeth Arden Double Wear concealer is THE one! Those are the joys of long nights and crisis management. You will become a pro at your concealer game, and with adjustment you will learn how to work smarter and get more sleep.
I cannot stress this enough. Bold, underline, italicise, type in caps: BUILD A CONSTRUCTIVE NETWORK – this is A1. Nota bene. You need to build a strong and useful human, social network – we’re not talking friendship here, but networks. Relationship-building is very important for the budding entrepreneur. You want to be in a position where you have built a worthy “contacts list” – this is helpful for new opportunities, for crisis management and to just generally hinge off another person’s lessons, stories, expertise or skill. Get into the habit of meeting other entrepreneurs.
Adages don’t become adages for no reason, there is truth in the saying that you should surround yourself with lions; it is important to be surrounded by people who have either done it, are doing it or have a voice to add in the journey. You have elected the road less travelled. You need to be in a position where you can tap into the people around you whether you have a question, an opportunity or are feeling helpless. Starting a business venture can feel like walking through a giant maze, blindfolded - #RealTalk. The onus remains on you to speak up.
You’re going to lose a few years of your social cool-kid status, but that’s the opportunity cost of the path which you have chosen. Please accept this peacefully, and with a good heart, upfront. You have to lose a little to gain a lot more, down the line. Remember when you walked into your first Ecos 101 lecture, and you learned about insatiable wants and limited resources? Yes kiddo, law of opportunity cost is back to haunt you.
Learn to prioritise your social calendar and learn to say the BIG N-O. You cannot say yes to every invitation or calendar pop-up, and take it from someone who romances burnout frequently – you will not be able to do it all. Accept this. Prioritise your time, and allocate yourself efficiently and smartly. Seek balance because nobody wants to be around Boring Nancy who’s always working – that’s not it either. Come up with a personal rule for yourself about how you will allocate your time and it can be as simple as declaring Sundays “me days” where you do not work and it’s all about you and your bed. Get your zzzz’s girl.
Business is damn difficult, as it is without feeling that you need to follow the exact footprints of any successful entrepreneur. Follow a path which resonates with you. We are lucky to be in a time, where although still not enough, there is more access and opportunity than there ever has been before. Go for what resonates with you. I can sell you the handbook of what worked for me, how I did it and that still may not translate to a similar result, if what I have done does not resonate with you.
You’re gonna be working long hours, looking all crusty and tired, so make sure that you are doing it for the right reason. Get bitten by the “entrepreneurship bug” for a mix of passion and commercial reasoning”. You can do what everyone is doing, but I’m not sure you will be able to attain true self-actualisation. Get into business for the right reasons, be pure-hearted in your motivation and it will naturally push you to give your best and also attract opportunity to you. Yes, I believe in the Law of Attraction – just, don’t forget to complement it with action.
As tongue-in-cheek and a bit of a downer that this read may have been, those are just the losses. The gains and fulfilment which come with entrepreneurship make it worth it. The big and small triumphs, alike, deserve a pat of the back. You are doing amazing, sweetie. The journey is not all potholes and sharp curves, it is rewarding and fun. Go get your ching, Chica!
Please look out for more pieces from me on small-business related topics from me, based on my professional experience and my entrepreneurial journey.