1. It's Hard Work, Sort Of
If you thought you worked hard in your old job, be prepared to work even harder as a business owner. While that might sound like the opposite of what you were going for (weren't you trying to get a handle on that life-balance thing?) it's actually not as bad as it sounds.
The thing you get as an entrepreneur that you can't really get as an employee is a sense of illusion about it all. That hard work doesn't actually feel like an energy drain. It's usually enjoyable and rewarding, which makes it feel completely different than any other job you've ever had.
2. You'll Want to Quit
Even the most ambitious, determined, confident people will have moments where they will wonder what they got themselves into. Those first few years equate to a highly questionable income stream and feelings of almost constant instability.
Eleven months out of the year you'll be ok with it all. But there will be those 30 days or so, conveniently dispersed during times of high stress or financial hardships, that will cause you to question everything about yourself and your dreams.
3. Customer Service is Key
If ever you needed to aim to please, now is the time to do it. When you're getting going with your business even one negative review or interaction can set you back weeks or months. Get enough of them piled up and you're completely done.
I've seen some fairly talented entrepreneurs struggle to stay afloat because they have a terrible bedside manner. They come across as disorganized and flighty or, even worse, inconsiderate and rude. Talent doesn't rule when it comes to small business - relationships do. So make sure you know how to manage yours.
4. Processes Are Essential
This is a business, remember. That means you need processes for everything - for maintaining records, for soliciting prospects, for tracking projects or sales, for backing up data, and for invoicing (to name just a few).
Don't launch your business until you have implemented ways to keep yourself on track. Otherwise you're going to fall victim to customer service problems because you'll be flustered (see #3 above). Some of my favorite process helpers are CRM applications, a good filing system, spreadsheets, and automatic data backup services like Carbonite.
5. It's Not a Level Playing Field
The truth is that some businesses are easier to start than others. Some have very high capital expenses and will take years to turn a profit, while others have very low start-up and overhead costs and can become profitable in the first year.
It's also true that depending on the sector, it may be hard to compete. Some industries are very saturated, some require specific niche skills to even play the game, and some require so much initial cash investment that they are out of reach for many people.
My advice if you're going to start a business? Create a business plan. Do your research. Educate yourself. Prepare financially for a tough couple of years. And create a reserve of confidence and determination that you can pull from on a rainy day.
What are your thoughts on being an entrepreneur?