In the U.S., wildly successful entrepreneurs become rock stars.
We build legends around their ingenious business plans, bold marketing ideas, audacious requests for funding, and splashy successes.
The truth behind the legends, however, isn’t as glitzy as we’d like it to be. Entrepreneurs who become billionaires overnight are extremely rare.
In fact, the more realistic, unglamorous stories of entrepreneurship involve multiple stops and starts. They’re stories of grueling work, money won and lost, and periods of questioning and disappointment.
If you’re thinking you’re not cut out for entrepreneurship because you’ve crashed and burned before, it’s okay. Many other entrepreneurs have felt the same way.
The key to winning is to be honest about what’s getting you down today and turn today’s disappointments into tomorrow’s entrepreneurial victories. You might not be an entrepreneur today, but you can become one later.
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Starting a Business Is Destroying Your Family
Scott Weiss founded IronPort Systems in 2001, growing his company from a two-person venture into a $200 million, 450-employee success in just six years. By the time Cisco bought IronPort, however, Weiss was running on fumes.
His wife, who’d earned an MBA from Harvard, had given up her career to stay home with their children. After long days at work, Weiss had nothing left over for his family. “I was completely missing the point,” Weiss wrote in a blog post for Working Parents in America. “I was setting such a great example at work, but such a terrible one at home.”
Today’s setback: Despite your best efforts at running your startup, Cisco isn’t going to swoop in and give you a million-dollar payday that’s going to save your relationships.
Tomorrow’s plan: Most successful entrepreneurs — despite what you see on television and in glossy magazines — actually start their companies when they’re between the ages of 45 and 55. Your entrepreneurial dreams aren’t worth sacrificing your marriage and creating a lifetime of strained relationships with your children. Regroup and start later.
No One’s Giving You Any Money
You’ve asked your family, your friends, and countless loan officers to invest in your business. You either can’t get an appointment with an angel investor, or several have listened to your pitch and declined it. In the meantime, your savings are running low, your credit card balances are reaching their limit. If no one throws you a lifeline, you’re headed straight for bankruptcy court.
Today’s setback: There’s no way you’re going to have enough money to get your business off the ground. You’re idea’s not sexy enough, or the way you’re pitching it isn’t generating any excitement.
Tomorrow’s plan: Revisit entrepreneurship after paying down your debt and replenishing your bank account. Then, once your business credit is on better standing, get an easy small-business loan to keep your business moving forward.
You’ve Become a Serial MLM Joiner
When someone peeks in your garage, will they discover more weight-loss powders than they’d find at your local GNC or Vitamin Shoppe? If so, it’s time to ditch multi-level marketing disguised as entrepreneurship and become a real entrepreneur.
Good multi-level marketing businesses are driven by the worthiness of their products or services. In other words, you should be generating a part-time income off of sales alone. When a business isn’t sustained by sales of its products, it’s sustained by the cost of all those beginner kits you’ve been buying.
In other words, it’s chewing through would-be entrepreneurs like you and spitting them out. It’s not providing long-term, legitimate business opportunities driven by great products.
Today’s setback: You’re stuck in a network marketing death spiral, and it’s time to escape.
Tomorrow’s plan: If you don’t have a great idea for a business, but you want the freedom to be self-employed, consider franchising with a reputable company instead of going back to network marketing.
Pitching Your Product Isn’t Your Strength
Tableau Software, which provides drag-and-drop data visualization, began with three partners who each contributed a couple thousand dollars from their savings accounts. It grew into a $100 million-a-year business because its owners started selling from Day One.
They threw their laptops into their cars and hit the road, telling people about the advantages of their product. They were honest about its limitations — no packaging, lack of testing, few features — but they knew it still provided a useful service.
Tableau’s founders exchanged deep discounts and great service for customers that would give an early startup a chance. They grew their business with hustle, not with venture capital, and their efforts paid off.
If you’re telling yourself you can’t sell your product until it’s perfect, you’re never going to get it off the ground. Selling requires networking, generating enthusiasm and building word-of-mouth.
Today’s setback: You’re an introvert or a perfectionist, and you can’t pitch your product or stop perfecting it so you can start talking about it.
Tomorrow’s plan: Start attending small business lunches, startup meetups, or other events to build your professional network and discuss your product idea. If selling is just too much for you, find a partner to handle sales so you can play to your strengths.
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There’s Always Tomorrow
As Kenny Rogers would say, good gamblers know when to hold ‘em, and they know when to fold ‘em. If you need to fold your entrepreneurial dreams for now, that’s okay. You’ll live to play another day.