Ever wanted to break free from your 9-5 shackles? Pissed off with lining someone else’s pocket as a result of your hard graft? You’re not alone. With stats showing that 64% of the UK workforce wants to set up their own business, it’s clear the country is far from lacking in entrepreneurial aspiration… Red flags do begin to thrash wildly when you look deeper into the reasons why though.
33% of the UK workforce simply don’t like their job – fair enough, but this doesn’t guarantee that all of those people and have the passion and drive needed to go it alone in business. And 18-24 year olds, the Gen Zs who seem to have been born with smartphones for brains, are the group that believe becoming a business mogul will make them rich – what if their business acumen is less Musk and more Trump though? Weirdly, it seems there’s a romantic assumption that entrepreneurship is pretty easy; more a case of luck combined with gift of the gab than expertise and a sharp mind. Let’s have a look at the expectation versus the reality of taking the plunge.
I have the finest idea in the history of ideas. My product is going to be a worldwide phenomenon.
Your idea is an end product of loads of ideas combined (many of which likely already exist) and every business involves so many interconnections and relationships that go far beyond an initial idea that even if you’ve dreamt up a game changer, you’ll need to account for, be grateful to and consider all of the factors that brought it to fruition if you truly want it to succeed.
Hire the right people to build a core team that you can trust and depend on; ensure reliable relationships with both suppliers and retailers; build marketing campaigns based on consumer insights; promote relationships with fellow entrepreneurs in your field; and, while getting on with all of this, make sure your figures stack up at every step of the way. Even the Lehman Brothers 170-year financial legacy went bankrupt…
I am now the boss of the world; I can get up leisurely at 8am, take my time over coffee, book a private PT session to sculpt my dream body, and plan all the holidays I’m going to Instagram the shit out of because I am SO rich. And no one can pull me up on it because I’m now answerable to no one. Go me!
Batten down the hatches and strap in for the ride because you’re actually about to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. Unless you’ve been a very fortunate customer of the Bank of Mum and Dad, everything you’ve ever owned now belongs to your company and for the first year at least, while you build on your idea and your reputation, it’s likely very little ‘spare’ income will be generated.
Everything from your personal life to your dwindling bank account and probably your waistline (hello grab-and-go food) will become secondary to developing your idea. And you do have a boss – your customers – who will often be a tough crowd.
This is going to be a breeze. My idea is foolproof; my friends and family will beam in the presence of my genius, investors will be queuing out of the door and customers will arrive in droves showering me with cash.
Any business idea worth its salt is only, well, worth its salt – a watertight business plan executed with not a stone unturned is the difference between success and failure, and overconfidence is a problem that many entrepreneurs fall foul of. Your game plan needs to be researched well enough to ensure you know your business inside out, but also flexible enough to accommodate every possible contingency. How are you going to market your product? How are you going to approach investors? How are you going to find investors to approach? Have you worked out where to source cost-effective supplies? Do you know whether you’ll need staff soon? How many and in what capacity? Are you clued up on government compliance?
Even when you have an excellent plan, things might not go according to it and you’ll need to have every possible variant of viable answer for each of these questions on the tip of your tongue, and for thousands of similar questions too. Entrepreneurs should set those around them alight with the fire in their belly and cold hard cash should be secondary reason that they want to go it alone – it’s misplaced romanticism that assumes becoming an entrepreneur makes you bags of money no matter how hard you work or how faultless your customer service is (do not f**k this up though; here’s why). 30% of new businesses fail within the first year they open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.
The winning combination? Don’t let money obscure your view, don’t chase it from the wrong people, don’t promise what you can’t deliver, don’t define your success by your bank balance and work your arse off.
I’ll meet with investors, bowl them over with my dazzling charm, they’ll believe unquestionably in my idea, become my bezzy mates, then we’ll all hang out and they’ll help me hit the big time.
Relationships involving money are fragile to say the least, although it’s important to build a strong relationship with your investors, it needs to be based on trust and your ability to deliver what you’ve promised as opposed to what great value you are down the pub on a Friday night. A faultless first pitch may well be enough to secure a round of funding, but those investors have put their money firmly where your mouth is and will have an ever-seeing eye on one thing: returns.
This is in no way intended to come across all doom and gloom; we’re just weighing up every possible ‘reality’, and if you have your ducks in a row, you’ll probably swerve a fair few of them. Even if you’re in a world of pain, buckle up and face the challenges – remember that your business is an idea that’s worth fighting and no one ever said success came easy, but if you’ve got the cojones and an iron will, entrepreneurship can offer rewards unlike any other career path.
Did you experience any unexpected realities when starting out as an entrepreneur? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!