10 Harsh Lessons From 10 Years Of Entrepreneurship

Harsh Lessons Entrepreneurship FINAL

A while back I stumbled upon a Twitter post with a list of harsh writing advice. I can’t recall what the advice was, but I thought to myself, “I could do one of those on entrepreneurship.”

Building a business is hard work.

Data from Fundera says that 70% of small businesses fail by their 10th year.1Source: Entrepreneur

When I started my first business in 2010, I was blessed to work with my father and one of his business mentors. I didn’t have to figure a lot of things out on my own, which drastically improved my learning curve.

So every time I run into young and inexperienced entrepreneurs who don’t have any mentors around them, I’m willing to help if they want. This post serves that purpose.

These are the tougher lessons about entrepreneurship that most people are not aware of when they start. If you’re appalled by these things, it’s probably not for you. But if you don’t mind them, you will likely do well.

1. It takes at least 5 years to build a strong business

In some cases, it can even take 7 to 10 years. It’s a long time and you need to have a lot of patience. 

Every day, you wake up, get to work, and do that day in and day out for years. Months can go by without making meaningful progress. But you just keep building your foundation.

There are so many things involved with building a stable business. Building a customer base, team, brand, website, customer support system, accounting, you name it. Even if you have a lot of help, it takes a long time to get everything in order.

2. Side businesses are not worth it

While I do think it’s a good idea to start a business on the side, I don’t think it’s worth keeping a business at that stage. When you start a side business and you notice you’re getting traction, it makes sense to go full-time.

You don’t want to be a part-time entrepreneur forever. That way you’re always overstretched and living in the middle of being employed and self-employed. It’s not a good way to live.

At some point, decide whether you want to be a full-time entrepreneur or not. Both are fine. What matters is that you pick a route that makes you feel good.

3. You probably won’t earn much in the first few years

When you start from 0, it can take a long time to earn what you earned with your last job. When I pursued a career as a full-time author, it took me about 3 years to get to that level.

But financial rewards shouldn’t be the only reason you’re in business. Some people never earn a high income with their own business, but they are satisfied with their business.

Think of solopreneurs or small business owners who have a team. Not every business has huge profit margins. And that’s okay. But one thing I do think is that it must make sense financially to be in business. You can’t lose money and expect you can stay in business.

4. Without discipline, you will fail

I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who was lazy. Owning your own business requires hard work and dedication. It’s a huge responsibility.

So one must be disciplined. And in business, it comes down to this:

If you can do that, you’re good.

5. You need support from your spouse or family

When your family or partner understands what you’re trying to accomplish, and they are willing to support you, it makes your life much easier.

What I mean by support is primarily psychological. It’s a good feeling if your loved ones care about what you do and are understanding. And obviously, this goes both ways. 

Without the support of my family, I would not be able to do what I do. 

6. Business owners are always working

There’s no 9-5 for you. Even when you’re off, your business will be on your mind. And that’s just part of being an entrepreneur. 

It doesn’t mean you have to be a workaholic. As a business owner, you always recognize that you’re the one responsible for the company and your career.

This sense of responsibility is something I actually like. It means the stakes are high and it gives me a reason to always be ready. When problems pop up at any time, I will be ready. I don’t walk away from what has to be done.

7. It hurts to pay taxes, but it’s part of the game

Harsh Lessons Entrepreneurship

Especially when you get your first big tax bill. But hey, it means you did well. And that’s really the best way to look at it.

The first time I had to pay tens of thousands of euros, I called my accountant and said, “Dude, can you do something about it?”

He laughed and said, “Be proud to pay this amount. Some of my clients don’t have a profit so they don’t pay. But you don’t want to be them.” 

8. If it doesn’t make dollars it doesn’t make sense

When you’re the boss, you sometimes feel a bit silly. You want to do fun stuff with your business like a child who’s home alone for the first time.

  • Let’s get some massage chairs
  • Why not completely redesign our website and logo?
  • We need to build a new feature for our app
  • Let’s visit all our clients face-to-face and give them a pen or something cool
  • Do we need a company car?

Some of these things make sense at the right time. But too often, we just come up with ideas that sound nice. But the question is: How is your idea helping your business to generate more revenue?

No answer? Don’t do it. Try to avoid chasing after shiny objects.

9. Your team is everything

Not only your employees, but also your accountant, tax advisor, designer, editor, or any other professional you might work with.

As you go through your entrepreneurial journey, you run into qualified people who you can trust. Cherish those people and always return to them. You will save a lot of time and money.

10. If you succeed, you never want to go back

Owning a business is really hard. It comes with financial stress, emotional torture, frustration, and a lot of work.

But it’s all worth it because it’s your business. It’s something you’re building.

When you pull it off, you will look back, and say, “I’m so glad I did this.” 

You will be an entrepreneur for life from that moment.

Learn from your failures and successes

Both failure and success are natural parts of the business process.

It’s important to learn from your mistakes. But learning from the things that brought you success will also help you stay in the game.

Every entrepreneur has a unique set of skills and circumstances. What might work for another person, may not work for you. So when you reflect on things that did or didn’t work, you can use that insight to make better business decisions in the future.

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