On previous blog posts I’ve discussed some of the most exciting aspects of entrepreneurship. In this blog post, I would like to discuss the 5 untold challenges that comes with early business success.
- Anxiety and low self esteem
When I just opened the company, a few years ago, I was a just a kid. I was cool about everything, and had one dream – To generate enough profits in order for us to pay ourselves a lousy salary. I didn’t care how we’re going to do it, and was unaware of risks by any kind. We were fortunate enough to generate profits very early on, and it took us less than a year to release our first dividend, a few months after our first salary. As the business became bigger, we were no longer a tiny under-the-radar company, and suddenly we had dozens of commercial contracts, employees, offices, credit line etc. Suddenly, we became a real company, and we had to manage it like one. Than there’s the legal aspect – You’re starting to realize that there’s a lot of responsibility to the company, and in some cases, on you personally. Now you start to hear about “Director responsibility”, or about this one insurance policy you forgot to do. Everything becomes scary, and you become paranoid. You considering to buy tiny recording system that can proof that you were voting against a decision that you think that might have an illegal aspect. You vote against it, and your experienced partners are picking on you, and blaming you for being a kid that don’t understand the law. 2 months later, you read an article on the internet that proves you were wrong, and it is 100% legal. Your confidence is decreasing and you doubt your judgment. It’s a vicious cycle that is not easy for young individuals.
All of your friends are working 9-9. They’re pretty successful, and they’ve landed a job at a top consulting firm or a big tech giant. Their professional route is pretty clear – They start as marketing interns, than becomes analysts, than promoted to product managers, than an MBA and you know the rest of it. They have benchmarks, and they compete with each other. The next step is known to them, and their challenges are pretty similar. The worst thing is that they are making good salaries, and they post on Instagram photos from their firm’s private concert with local pop stars.
You’re, on the other hand, facing hardships that are really unknown to your successful employee friends. They don’t understand how it feels when a multi million dollars supplier calls your personal phone and asks you when payment is going to be made, and that it will cut you off and post a LinkedIn post about you personally if you don’t wire it in 48 hours. They don’t really understand the cold nights when you can’t fall asleep because you’re afraid of a rumor that your biggest client who owes you more than $1M is about to bankrupt. And the worst thing, is that when you try to talk about it with friends, they think that you’re bragging, and they get all defensive. They think that you’re trying to be cool, and talk about how successful your company is (If 1 client alone owes you $1M than you’re probably really big). My friends don’t really want to hear about my problems, and honestly, they don’t have much inputs anyway. So you’re left alone, trying to figure out if you’re doing the right thing, and if you’ve made the right choice when you chose to chase revenue for living. I give you a hint – It does, but it’s not always feels like that.
3. Faking as a way of life
So you’re 29, your partners have decided to ignore that, your employees are asking themselves whether you are qualified (And they are older than you), potential investors are raising eyeballs, and service providers are targeting the young partner when they try to upsell. The solution – You need to fake on a daily basis. You try to know a little bit of everything, you’re googling a subject 20 minutes before a conference call and you present yourself as an expert in the field, and you put a confidence mask when you talk to your employees but deep inside you have no idea what you’re doing. To be honest, I think that this is how most business is being done, and in the end you actually becomes better at that, but it is a really big part of my day-to-day routine as a young leader in my firm.
4. Low job-market value
So you’ve made $1M or even maybe $2M. You’re really did well, and you have your whole life In front of you. But let’s be honest, this is still not wealth that enables pension at 30 (And who on earth would want that anyway?). So you’re still going to work for many years probably. Let’s assume that you sold your equity shares, and now you wants to have a kid and take a year or two as an employee with fun days, happy hours, and maternity leaves. The problem is that you’ve seen the matrix. You’ve seen how dividends/exit/IPO is the only way to really make money. You’ve seen how 90% of the revenue is generated from personal relationships and bullshit features. You’ve seen your employees selling their time and freedom, don’t go to family events, asked to work off hours, all for the one goal of making you richer. And serious employers knows that you saw it. Half of them wouldn’t take the risk. They’ll assume that after 6 months you’ll open your own shop, taking their clients and their corporate knowledge. You’re now an entrepreneur, and you can’t really change that after you’ve done that for a few years. It’s not a bad thing in my opinion, but you should be aware of that. 2 years at Mckinsey or Amazon will take you much higher in the job market than anything you can do as an entrepreneur, keep that in mind.
5. High expectations
So now you’re the rich brother, so no one pays you back when you order the flight tickets to the family break. Your girlfriend never demands for a dime, but got used to great restaurants, and you don’t want her to expect anything lesser than that. Friends from college are calling for your input on a business idea they had. You now have a reputation to maintain, and no matter how discrete you’re trying to be, people are talking about you. And it’s 10 PM and you only now finished a loud fight with your partners about small and irrelevant issues, and all you want to do is to run away for a year. But you can’t, because you’re expected to be awesome, and you expect it from yourself as well. On top of that, now you feel like you have something to loose, and you take your life very seriously, as if any decision you will take is going to have a huge impact on your and your loved ones life. You become like a brand, that needs to show that he is cool, successful, happy and up to date. You went into business because you wanted freedom, but this definitely not freedom. You hope that you’ll suffer now but you’ll gain freedom in the future. I still believe that. Meanwhile, I feel like shit. A high functioning, efficient, and successful shit.
These were 5 untold challenges that comes with early business success. It was written from my guts, and it describes the hardships that I went through personally, and heard from other young entrepreneurs I met. Is that a price you are willing to pay?