Our society loves the entrepreneur. Perhaps you could even say it is at the core of what it means to be American. People are quick to put entrepreneurs on a pedestal, but few are those who like to talk about the struggles of this life.
One of the things I feel I bring to the table is a constant debunking of entrepreneurial myths. I like to bring my expertise to share and speak candidly about how to just be yourself and in that, how to market what you do without losing your life or your soul.
I recently recorded an episode on my podcast, Ponderings from the Perch, about this very subject. My podcast is billed as a modern podcast for the modern entrepreneur, but the audience includes graphic designers, marketing executives, middle managers, and probably a few members of my family (I think). No matter where you fit in this mix I hope you find my point of view challenging and helpful. Below are some of the myths I recently debunked in my episode entitled, "Priscilla Shares Entrepreneur Secrets".
If you prefer to listen, just click this link. Otherwise, keep reading what I feel is my best blog ever.
Six Myths of Entrepreneurship
1. You have to weigh the financial risk.
I have two real problems with this statement.
First of all, the problem is that the concept starts with a limited perspective assuming that the only thing you are risking is money. The truth is that finances are definitely not the only thing at risk as an entrepreneur. Talk just briefly with anyone who has walked this walk and you'll find that their marriage, friendships, and reputation were all equally on the line. You also need to weigh these risks which involve much harder conversations with others and with yourself.
But let's pretend for just a minute that it is just money you are risking. The second problem is that even when you are assessing the financial risk most entrepreneurs are not assessing much. There may be a simple calculation of "what I am making now" vs. "what I could potentially make". You might also try the "how much time I spend at work" vs. "how much freedom I'll have to not work if I don't want to". Some even were smart enough to have the "I have enough savings to last me X number of months to try this thing" to consider. Any way you slice it, there are really no "metrics" here to look at, but the "experts" like to talk about making a smart money decision before going entrepreneurial. The myth of that is simply that THERE ARE NO METRICS before the business starts. I am not saying you shouldn't do any financial research, but simply there is a need to be honest about WHY the decision is being made and more often than not it comes from a core desire to try something which resides in your gut, and not in pie charts.
To top both of these issues off, it is also unfair to couch the issue of RISK as something to do or not to do. The truth is that you are risking by starting the business AND you are risking by not starting the business. Opening up your paradigm of business risk can lead you into much better conversations where you can ask yourself, "Can I sleep at night without trying this out?", "What are the costs if I never know if I could have done this?"
2. If you have a great idea you will make millions.
Where this hurts the entrepreneur is that typically they share their great idea with friends and family first. Those are the most supportive crowd and tend to try to encourage you. That is their role in your life, after all. But few in that crowd have the business savvy to know it or even if they did, the guts to tell you the truth about your idea. Entrepreneurs either don't ask the right questions (soliciting hard criticism) or ask the right people. I like to remind people, "The feedback you're getting is the feedback you're requesting."
There is a lot of really fun energy that comes the idea of starting the business. So many focus on JUST GET IT STARTED, but fail to foresee that energy quickly wanes when tedious work hits - and it will. Consider rapid prototyping - what would the company look like at 1, 3, 5 years? Who are the users? Where is the profit margin and how sustainable is it? Run the business as quickly as you can through as many scenarios as you can.
And remember, just because it is a good idea doesn't mean you should start that company. Think of your life playing out without there being a reality show prize at the end.
3. Everyone will love you because you are a success.
First of all, success comes in waves and cannot be counted on as a static destination. Secondly, it is surprising for most entrepreneurs to discover that some are skeptical of success. While you constantly feel the drive to appear successful to attract more successful clients at the same time there can be a backlash from those who have subconscious judgements. Most of these stem from very strange money issues, but if you are thinking of going entrepreneurial just put this one in your back pocket so you are not blindsided.
4. I can do this on my own.
As an entrepreneur we come with strange skills, but society likes to act like the entrepreneur is a jack of all trades. The fact of the matter is that understanding the areas of your expertise is a big part of the journey.
Get in touch with the help you need and don't be afraid to ask from those who can help you. However, before you ask, be sure you know WHAT you need. No one is hard to help than the person who despearately needs your help but has no idea what KIND of help will be required. If you ask specifically you will be pleasantly surprised how many truly knowledgeable and successful people will broaden the scope of your request out of their own generosity.
5. You will be an "overnight success".
When people discover an amazing product, service, thought leader or company, either because they went "viral" or hit the mainstream for some other reason they like to use this term, "overnight success". The problem with this is two-fold:
First it is not true because I am SURE this person did not wake up this morning and these things just happened to them. The idea of becoming an overnight success does not give the proper weight and value to the hard work entrepreneurs do.
Secondly, it sets unrealistic expectations for the next entrepreneur. It is important to remember you are trying to make something out of nothing and that is not, and should not be, an easy task.
I like to joke that if I just keep up the hard work for the next 20 years I'll become an overnight success. That is a more realistic and it keeps me focused on the work instead of the outcome. The life on an entrepreneur is not about arrival, but about getting in and doing your best right now, being authentic and carving out your work/life balance to do something special and put your own mark on the world.
6. You will make logical decisions and not be swayed by your emotions.
There are many decision you make with your gut. That seems to be fine with most people, but nothing really prepares you for how hard decisions can be on your emotions. For example, no matter what your personality, it is hard to fire people. The best gift you can give yourself during difficult decisions is to ACKNOWLEDGE your emotions, see them for what they are and give them some room for expression. Then go make your decision knowing some are more emotional than others, but there is no decision you are making that is devoid of emotion.
I do hope that my openness makes life a little bit less lonely for the modern entrepreneur living out here on the edge that is called risk. I'd love to hear your thoughts on entrepreneurship and leadership. If you want to hear more you can listen to our podcast at your convenience. I can always be reached at Little Bird Marketing, on directly on LinkedIn and would love to hear your feedback.
Now, in the words of Flashdance, "Take your passion and make it happen."