World’s biggest startup event Slush Helsinki is just around the corner. You have, at some point, probably thought about becoming an entrepreneur. Many dream about doing what you love, being your own boss, making an impact and leading your own team—the freedom. Before you take that plunge, a leap of faith, give all in, I would like to take you behind the scenes, the downsides of being an entrepreneur.
The global startup economy generates more economic value than ever according to the global startup ecosystem report. It seems there are more and more startup booms all around the world, as suggested in the report, “there will be no ‘Next Silicon Valley,’ there will be 30 next hubs.” But, did you know that only 1 in 12 survives?
Slush Helsinki 2019 is approaching. It is the world’s biggest startup event which helps and creates the next generation of entrepreneurs. Have you thought about becoming an entrepreneur yourself? Like me, many dream about doing what you love, being your own boss, making an impact and leading your own team. The list goes on when it comes to the upsides of being an entrepreneur. But what about the other side?
I would like to simply share my view as the entrepreneur(it has been 8 years!) for those who are considering to become one. I will take you to behind the scenes – the downsides. The things people are often reluctant to talk about. It is not going to be a comprehensive list of reasons ‘why you shouldn’t become an entrepreneur’ it is simply ‘my’ learning throughout the years of being an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone
The possibility of bankruptcy. This is quite an obvious reason, especially in Finland; For those who are not familiar, the financial liability of an entrepreneur in Finland could last a lifetime. The simplest way to put it would be this: you become ‘one’ with your company’s health; your finance is tied to the company’s financial stability, and in the case of bankruptcy, all your assets become subject to liability for the debt with the loss of the business. I have personally come as close as having sat in court for it, and trust me, it is not pretty.
The following reasons below are less obvious but as arduous as the first.
The art of ‘stress tolerance and resilience’
Being an entrepreneur is lonely. Self-motivating can sometimes be exhausting. You see, when you work for someone, or for a company, you’re praised and rewarded depending on your effort and performance. But, for you my dear, there’s not often someone patting your back saying ‘well-done.’ So, if you are still not sure about yourself, not sure what it is that motivates you, I do not recommend it.
If you would ask me what is the secret of keeping it all together? Well, I am surely not an expert at it still, but I can say this:
Your hair is already wet.
I mean, you are already in it. The only way is to go forward. There’s no time to stop and look around, even if it’s for that one day, those days will add up. That is why (as cliche as it may sound), ‘WHY’ is so important. What motivates you should be crystal clear. You had a plan A, action points with a goal; You sometimes need to make a detour or take different actions but that goal at the end stays the same. And that’s why if what you are looking at is NOT something that motivates you e.g. let’s say a pile of money for me, it would be difficult to keep it together.
Working for an entrepreneur is not for everyone
One of the first lessons you learn becoming an entrepreneur is this: you can’t do everything yourself; you need people around you, who share the same vision as you. But here is something to keep in mind both for you and your people: working for a start-up is not for everyone.
When the company grows, your team grows too. At one point in time, you will realise that you have become the commander, who has to motivate the whole team towards the vision of the company instead of meddling in it yourself. However, the challenge is more than ‘let it go’; it is about understanding that not everyone is willing to or has what it takes to run day-in-day-out in uncertainty.
Not everyone enjoys a roller coaster ride. As the definition of a ‘startup’ goes with words such as unstable, uncertainty, risk-taking, etc. How do you build a team that is not after the money (start-ups do not pay well), but after the dream; How do you build a team that has years of experience and expertise in something, but are also willing to join the ride of a never-ending roller coaster?
What is the price of growth? Uncertainty
Uncertainty always comes together with growth. I think we sometimes forget, any kinds of betterments, innovations are all based on some level of uncertainty. As an entrepreneur, you are the one creating clarity for your team and leading this uncertainty. So there’s no doubt about it, you should be able to relate to and be comfortable with the unknown.
‘Growth’ was the theme for this year’s Nordic Business Forum, one of the leading business events in the world. During this two-day event, almost all speakers had mentioned the following words: risk-taking, uncertainty and innovation. Alex Osterwalder, the co-founder of Strategyzer, shared the classic tale of Kodak and put it as plainly as this “if your company is not innovating, get ready to be bankrupt,” which lingered in my head for many days.
Most naturally, uncertainty always comes with the possibility that you are wrong. As Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of Spanx another speaker at the NBF 2019, puts bluntly, “getting over the fear of embarrassment is a must.” I can tell you now, you will need a ‘thick skin.’ Be ready to throw your ego and pride in the bin. Mistakes, failures and getting back on your feet, again and again, will be mentioned a lot in any entrepreneurs’ diary.
What if, what if…
For me, ‘uncertainty’ makes me think of the opening of HUONE Singapore. When I proposed the idea of HUONE going to Singapore, countless people advised me not to go forward. Most certainly, I did not have all the answers. However, it made me think, ‘why is ‘going international’ something so scary, bold and even crazy? Isn’t it almost a ‘natural’ thing to do?’
When you think about it, we live in a global society, and you have a proven business concept that you believe is needed everywhere; why remain as a company associated with only a single country? I knew there would be layers of barriers for sure such as foreign laws and regulations, establishing a new customer base, finding the team, different culture, new ways of doing business and etc. The idea screamed the word ‘uncertainty,’ but it ended up becoming more than a ‘what if’ scenario.
That’s all from me.
Let me make it clear that it was not my intention to kill your inner fire, nor discourage you from pursuing the idea you have written down in your notebook over and over. As I mentioned, they are not ‘must-read’ facts, which everyone relates to. If you had no idea what I was sharing, GOOD! I believe you’re good to go. You have what it takes, go kick some ass. I promise you, the journey will be so worth it!
Founder and CEO of HUONE