The unexpected flip-side of entrepreneurship
Running my own business has been one of the most satisfying things I've done. I love the thrill of putting my ideas out there and making them a reality. It's certainly more exciting than my days in practice. But, as any entrepreneur will tell you, it's not all smooth sailing. Why should you quit your legal career, with good, consistent pay and plenty of support, to start a business? Well, the upside is you have the autonomy and freedom to pursue your business goals. It's exciting and fulfilling, pursuing a project that's yours. Hopefully, the market buys into your product or service. Hopefully, the feedback is positive. Hopefully, you can turn your dream into a commercially viable reality.
As an entrepreneur, you get that immense feeling of satisfaction when you taste success. The flip-side of this is that the buck also stops with you. When things get tough, there is no one to hold accountable, except yourself. This can be stressful, particularly when employees, clients and family are affected too. You are responsible for managing the hard times as well as the good. You are responsible for the bottom line, which adds a lot of pressure to the equation. As an employee, at the end of day, you can remove yourself from the situation and tell yourself "it's not my problem". As an entrepreneur, you can't.
From experience, I know how the pressure can build and how expectations can grow. If you're just starting out, it's hard not to feel responsible for the downs as well as the ups. Because you are so emotionally and financially invested in the venture, there is no way around the stress. This gives it huge potential to impact upon your mental health. With responsibility comes stress. With stress comes sub-optimal performance.
The entrepreneurial life can be a grind. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Especially when you're starting out and you've just a safe and secure job to pursue something on your own. It can be hard to manage the stress around this loss of security. The certainty of that nice, fortnightly pay-cheque is gone. Instead , ou step into the unknown. You might think you have a great idea, but until it's out there, you won't know. This means you, personally, have to put yourself out there. And that can be tough.
Backing up each day, in challenging market conditions, felt like I was banging my head up against a wall. It felt as though there was no end in sight. This is one of the great pitfalls of the entrepreneurial life; there can be a seemingly endless flow of work and fires to put out. It's easy to get caught up in it all. To put pressure on yourself to work, work, work. Because, if you're not working on your business, who will? It can wear you down and demotivate you and that's the last place any entrepreneur wants to be. It may seem self-serving to take time out for yourself, but it's a necessary part of running your own business. You're no good to anyone if you're burnt out.
While it's awesome being your own master and not reporting to the man, it also comes with added responsibilities. Under pressure, you begin to doubt yourself. Without a good support network, this is hard to overcome. Overcoming lapses in confidence and self-belief has been crucial in my case. That has meant building resilience and switching to a growth mindset. These can be successful in grounding you again and refocusing your attention on the things you can control. Knowing that adversity will teach you important lessons allows you to deal with difficult situations and setbacks in a calmer state. There is nothing like getting some perspective to get back some balance. In the end, you can only do your best and encourage your employees to do the same.
Ultimately, the entrepreneurial life is not an easy one, so knowing what you are getting into at the beginning is a good start. You should also reflect upon whether it's the right decision for your personality and temperament. Having tools and techniques to manage stress and build resilience is key. My best advice is this: shift your thinking from win, win, win or lose, lose, lose to learn, learn, learn. This will put a lot of things into perspective.
The reality is that win, lose or draw, you should keep learning lessons to use in the future.