A while back someone explained to me that being an entrepreneur was a bit like being a duck. While the duck appears graceful and calm on the surface of the pond, their legs are thrashing wildly beneath the surface to propel them where they want to go.
While many people assume that being an entrepreneur is an extremely glamorous life – all coffee meetings, parties, and ping pong– we know better. Most small business owners work 7 days a week and make more real decisions in 30 minutes than the CEO of a Fortune 500 company will in a month. On social media and in our official press releases, it’s a ticker tape parade, but, the truth is, from deciding whether to hire one more person to cleaning out the office refrigerator, owning your own business is not what other people think. The following five things are what we’ve learned about dealing with the reality of building a business, and the struggle of dealing with stress that others likely don’t understand.
1. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by those that support you, and unfortunately disappointed by those that don’t.
So many of our friends are right there by our sides, stepping up when we need them most. It’s been a wonderful surprise to see some friends that may have lost touch, or just never been as close, support us in myriad ways. Of course, there will be some disappointments in those who you thought you could count on, but that’s just part of life.
2. Raising a million dollars doesn’t mean YOU have a million dollars.
The response we’ve received from our network to our recent fundraising has been hysterical. From the people who have been through this process themselves who give us knowing nod and a firm pat on the back to those who assume it’s as simple as just asking the right people and waiting for the check to show up, the responses to your first big investment are entertaining. What few understand is that the conclusion of a capital raise is not the finish line, it’s the start.
3. Things will go wrong. All. The. Time.
It’s not how often things go right, it’s how you handle them when they go wrong. From small order fulfillment bumbles to the buttons being sewn on the wrong side of the garment, if we lost it about every single bump in the road, we’d be curled up in the fetal position.
4. You have no “boss,” but everything becomes your boss.
Some like to say “you trade one master for another.” As a small business owner that is most certainly true. We are slaves to our emails, our production schedules, and, laughably, to a web of responsibilities and commitments of our own design. Every second wasted jeopardizes the future of your company and your family. The weight of that burden can be crushing.
5. The smallest victories mean more to you than most can understand.
You finally got the editor of the one local publication you want like to be featured in to write you back. It’s not national news, but it’s a personal victory. You’ve spent 7 hours on a Sunday to get your inbox to zero. It’s a win that no one else will know about – but on Monday you feel like a king for at least a few minutes until your inbox hits triple digits before noon. We’ve found that you absolutely MUST celebrate these small steps forward. If you don’t, your days will be filled only with frustrations…and you may not be able to recognize a big win when it finally knocks on your door.
Although all this seems like everyday common sense, we know that a few of you will read it and smirk in agreement. There’s something to be said for sharing these experiences with other entrepreneurs, especially those who’ve fought hard to keep their production here in the US. Lean on those around you, especially those who will understand that while all looks fantastic on the water, there are legs kicking a thousand miles a minute under the surface.