“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Welcome to Part 4 of the DE Entrepreneurship Week Blog Series. On Monday, we covered what to do with your big idea. Tuesday, we covered what to do once you’ve decided to turn that idea into a business. Wednesday, we discussed ways to finance your dreams and fuel your business. Today, we’re discussing the reality of being a small business owner and entrepreneur.
One of the greatest lies people tell you about entrepreneurship is that it gives you the freedom to be your “own boss.” L-O-L. Whether you’re a Small Business Owner, Corporate America Executive, or a cog in the machine, we all must report to someone. That person may be a mid-level manager, a high-level executive, a shareholder, a customer, or even a client, but there is always someone to answer to. Consequently, if you’re taking up entrepreneurship to “get out from under the man” and set your own hours, this isn’t going to turn out quite how you imagined.
One of the toughest lessons to learn when you transition from working for “the man/woman” to being “the man/woman” is that you’re responsible for all the things that happen behind the scenes, which makes you realize just how much you took those things for granted when you didn’t have to worry about them. As a small business owner, you’re often the Founder/President/Administrative Assistant/IT Specialist/Travel Agent/Janitor/Chief People Officer/Customer Service Rep, and spend an inordinate amount of time doing “all other duties as assigned”. While you shouldn’t put all of this on your business card, you should absolutely put this in your calculus before you strike out on your own because entrepreneurship comes with a lot more work than you’ve probably considered.
As a boutique firm, we understand and appreciate the struggles and growing pains of entrepreneurs and small businesses. We’ve found that the most important, but overlooked and neglected, aspect of entrepreneurship is: accounting for the administrative and back office work AND the immense amount of time it takes to complete them. You never realize how long it takes to answer phones, respond to emails and send out invoices until you’re responsible for all of it, and you’ve still got to actually run the company.
One of our favorite internal analogies about entrepreneurship is “Just because you’re good at making widgets, doesn’t mean you’re good at the business of making widgets.” There’s a huge difference between being a skilled installer at Sears and running your own handyman service. For starters, as an entrepreneur, as highlighted in Part 2 of this week’s blog series, you must spend time and money creating a company and a brand. Then you must market and advertise that brand so that you can attract customers. You must also manage what goes on behind the scenes (accounting, technology, logistics, etc.) so that it doesn’t negatively affect what goes on in front of the curtain. Being a skilled worker doesn’t naturally equate to being a skilled businessperson.
There is a lot of heavy lifting that goes into being a small business owner, which is why we always recommend getting help. Even if you’re one of the 5% who is not only good at your craft (product/service) but also adept at telling your story to successfully deliver that product/service to potential clients, as a small business owner/entrepreneur, there are so many areas for you to manage that those things you were independently great at don’t get your full attention so you deliver mediocre results; so, something’s got to give.
To avoid this, the best thing you can do is develop a plan for your business, a business plan of sorts, that accounts not only for how you will design, develop and create widgets, but also for how they will be marketed, branded and delivered to customers. Additionally, this plan should contain a funding strategy (savings, loans/grants, investors) and burn rate, which is the rate at which your company spends money, in excess of income, to help you with revenue/profit targets.
Now that we’ve sufficiently freaked you out about your decision to become a small business owner, calm down, relax and continue to breathe. The fact is that entrepreneurship is hard and we’ve successfully counseled many prospective small business owners and entrepreneurs who don’t quite get it. While no one expects you to have all the answers before you get started, you should have at least studied for the exam. We pride ourselves not only on providing exemplary professional service to our clients, but also partnering with them through the journey. Do your research, check your answers and check them again, every step of the way, to ensure that you’re in the best possible position for success. If you have any questions, concerns, or reservations, contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help. Check back tomorrow for Part 5, our final installment of our 2016 Entrepreneurship Week Series: Now What?!