What they never tell you about becoming an entrepreneur and what to do about it!

2012-08-10 06:30

Last week Thursday on the Money Show on 702 Talk Radio and 567 Cape Talk, Bruce Whitfield and I spoke about some of the behaviours and experiences of being an entrepreneur that you don’t think about when you are employed...or unemployed! In fact, many entrepreneurs don’t think about them as entrepreneurs either.


Time warps. Minutes and seconds become apparent as the month end and all its obligations moves closer. You will not be late for meetings and get frustrated when others are. You won’t express your irritation since they are most likely your future clients (or so you hope). You learn to speak differently and certainly communicate differently too. This happens since you try urge, coerce and tease out actions from your clients and potential clients. Every delay is a cost. As an employee, it didn’t matter as much. At the end of the month, the salary payment went into your bank regardless!

Hard Work

You will do other peoples work. In a job, you have a job description and mostly, you stick to that and manage the fallout from someone else not doing what ought to be done. It’s a game of politics. As an entrepreneur, after each meeting you will find yourself volunteering to do all the follow through work to get to the next stage. “I will do that piece of research for you; I will write that email for you and send it to you to send on; I will, I shall; let me…” Action needs to be accelerated so the deal can get done. Month end is approaching.

And then, Entrepreneurship is a deeply emotional activity. It becomes all-consuming so that even when you are “relaxing” you are thinking about your business. It is your business after all and if you don’t think about who will other than your competitors. It’s a life of perpetual thinking when not working and taking your foot off the accelerator is extremely challenging if at all possible.


As an entrepreneur, you also do everything. In the early stages of building your business, you have no resources. You do everything and this forms a habit hard to break. You do it with a care and consideration making delegation as a result of habit and passion for what you do hard to get right. You continue to do everything, against your better success…you mostly continue.

In addition, a business is never right. It’s especially never right if you have your finger on the pulse of business and your industry and market. As an entrepreneur learning to both run the business and fix it simultaneously is par for the course. A great metaphor to try describe the emotion of this on-going activity is that of fixing the aeroplane whilst its 23,000 feet in the air. You can’t land and say hold up a minute; I just want to tweak a few things on this engine and then get back up there. Costs, clients, suppliers, staff are all waiting…and wanting!


The self-doubt that will enter your mind irrespective of your skill, intelligence and capability is remarkable. Building a business is a complex task and on top of it the challenges are never ending. Getting through the start-up phase is in itself a big challenge and then for most entrepreneurs, building the business through the next phase of the business lifecycle to get into the growth phase remains elusive. For as long as you cannot move your business through the lifecycle of development that every business grows through, you will be plagued with the worry that all this effort and the resulting outcome are a measure of your own self-worth. Time continues to tick!

On top of this, the access and credibility you had when working at a big company seems to have not carried you to your success. Here is a harsh reminder and wake up call. Your former colleagues who fawned at your feet when you headed up a division of a big company did so not because of your awesomeness and brilliance. They did so because of the budget you had influence over. As an entrepreneur, they will be few and far between and that’s not because you are an idiot. No, it’s because, well, you don’t have that big budget anymore.

Oh, and get ready to fail a lot and with no one to blame but yourself. Failure and rejection will be the new friends that will loyally stick with you for your entire journey as an entrepreneur. Make friends back with them and prevent throwing a pity party; its par for course and not a reflection of your self-worth!


Finally, you will eat lunch alone more often than not as the expression goes. Other people are about them and their stuff. Your friends, family, colleagues and staff are not going to join you on this journey in any meaningful manner. They are tired of hearing about your business and your family is tired of giving you (mostly) bad advice!

And yet, every entrepreneur that I have met who has left corporate life to start the business that they really wanted is decidedly happier than when they were employed. We are mostly narcissistic and we mostly want our dreams to become our own realities. Entrepreneurship provides that opportunity. You will never work as hard as this and never have as much meaning in your work wither!

To succeed and not become one of the many statistics that don’t, build your business right by adopting a right attitude. The way you think is the way life and your business happen. I have worked with over 750 entrepreneurs from start-up to growth businesses doing over R100m per annum. I am yet to ever see anyone do it on their own irrespective about the claims of Branson and Trump et al. Building a business is tough, it’s rough and the possibility of failure is huge.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, get some help. These behaviours if they become habit and especially unconscious habit will hamstring your businesses chance for success. After all, it’s your business and your pension, so work equally hard to develop the right attitudes and behaviours to build it right.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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