There was an article that was trending on social media last week about a bright young man who shared his disillusionment for his high-paying, high-pressure consulting job and ended up starting his own business. In it he shared how much more difficult it was to run his own business. A very poignant statement he made was in quoting Lori Greiner who said, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” But in the end, he said, “No matter how much your journey *bleeps* up your life or how difficult it will be, enjoy the ride and keep following your passion.
To a large extent, I agree with his conclusions. However, after 18 years as an entrepreneur, I would like to share a couple of my own experiences…
Test. Test. Test.
When I started out, it was my wife who convinced me that I should go into training and consulting. I was actually against it. But after a while, I grew to like it; and more importantly, I became good at it. But I don’t think many people have someone like my wife you can see beyond the peripheral. What happens when no one says anything about what we should do? What happens if we had a “great idea” but no one but you and your dog knew about it? Well, then we really need to test the idea, test the message and test the market. The idea may be good, but the message may be poor. The message may be great but the market may not accept it. There are so many things that we need to test and we have to do that constantly. In my experience, I have found that what worked today won’t quite cut it tomorrow. Hence we must always be on the lookout for changes in demand and pivot while we can.
Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose
I know you have heard all the stories of people mortgaging their home for a chance at the American dream and made it BIG! Unfortunately, you don’t know have the picture; for according to Bloomberg, 80% of startups crash and burn within 18 months! That’s a very sobering statistic! So my advice is not to go into anything that would cost you more than a month’s worth of groceries! Bootstrap all you can; piggyback everywhere you go. Stretch your dollar as far it can reach, and when you get there, stretch it again! And for heaven’s sake, don’t go into any debt for an idea. No matter how compelling it sounds. I know so many people who say, “We will expense it out when we close the deal!” The problem is that the deal never comes in and the expense needs to be paid. So don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.
Have enough to last you two years without income
I agree with the writer that we need a whole hoard of cash to sustain us; but in my mind, it should be two years! If going by Bloomberg’s estimations, we need to have enough to get us across the hump! So stock up enough to start with and try to manage it with as frugal hands as possible! This is one advice that you will treasure!
Talk to EVERYONE!
One thing that people in Singapore are afraid to do, for whatever reason, is to talk to people and ask them for what they thought about the idea. There is a lot to learn about whether someone will, or will not, purchase your product or service. This will allow you to understand if you were on the right track or if you need to tweak certain things. The worst-case scenario is that nobody will want it no matter what you do with it. In this case, kill the project and focus your talents somewhere else.
Don’t let it stay in your head too long – get it out there!
As product and service developers, we have a sense of responsibility and perfectionism and we want to offer to our clients the perfect product at launch. There will never be one and the longer it stays in your head and never get out there, the longer you would be in getting the feedback that you need. Of course, that also means you are more vested and tweaking or killing the idea will be harder!
Don’t quit your day-job just yet
And the last, and perhaps the most important, advice I’d like to share is not to quit your day job just yet. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side and as we read the experiences of the young consultant, we often under-estimate the time needed to get our idea to market, and over-estimate our abilities to get it there.
It is not as bad as it sounds
In the end, even with the post from our friend, you will find that starting up your business will not be as bad as it sounds. You have to be smart about what you are doing, you will have to enlist good people, you will have to talk to many people but in the end, you will be building your dreams, and not someone else’s. And that is worth a whole lot of money!
I should know. I’ve had 18 years to mistakes and battle scars to show for it!
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