In 2016, a record high of over 650,000 new businesses were started in the UK. When we spend over 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime, it’s no wonder people are looking for ways to improve the overall experience of working life by setting out on their own.
We imagine owning a startup will give financial freedom, flexible working hours, a great office space, cool neighbours and large-scale success pretty quickly – but how does the reality compare? Six entrepreneurs share their first-hand experiences to debunk myths and misconceptions.
Myth 1: Success will come quickly.
Success looks different for everyone. Some people crave financial independence and industry recognition while others aim to make a living working from home. However you measure it, don’t expect it too soon.
“It took much longer to gain traction than I anticipated,” said Antonella Pisani, CEO and founder of Official Coupon Code. “With years of experience, I know the things that need to get done, but didn’t realize just how expensive and time consuming it would be to bring it all to life.”
An oft-cited quote is that 90% of enterprises fail in their first year, but James Lloyd-Townshend, CEO of Washington Frank International, advises that “growth doesn’t tend to happen in a straight line.”
“It has its peaks and troughs – so don’t feel disheartened when things don’t quite go to plan. And when they do, enjoy it.”
Myth 2: Freedom!
One of the biggest pulls to start your own business is the idea that you will experience the freedom to use your time as you see fit.
In truth, many people find themselves working more than ever, particularly in the first few years. The only flexibility you have is deciding where and when to work
Ed Berde, the CEO of Responsive Health, says that despite the heavy workload it is worth it. “While startups pull way more time than a normal job, it doesn’t seem like work because you’re building your vision. It’s like raising kids. We knew it was going to be a lot of work, but ultimately you can drive the model of how you work and how you’re involved.”
In terms of financial freedom, you might be under the illusion that getting into business for yourself is the answer but your earnings are dependent on the earnings of the company. You are responsible for all the overheads and they have to get paid first so you may not be able to pay yourself for months.
Myth 3: I know what I’m doing, it’s not that hard.
Most of the time your startup will centre around your passion, your qualifications or the skills and knowledge you have spent years building up in your field. You will have thought about your strengths and weaknesses, what you like to do and what you’re really good at when planning your day-to-day working life in your new business.
However, as a first time entrepreneur you could easily underestimate the variety of work involved. You’ll be forced to learn about all aspects of managing a business, and learn fast. From marketing plans and sales initiatives to financial budgets, you’ll be responsible for it all.
“What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of learning curves that would happen along the way, in every sense.” said Emily Lyons, CEO of Femme Fatale Media Group. “You can read as much about starting a business as possible, but there really is no way to actually know until you do it. Its best to go in with big dreams but no expectations, and ready to conquer anything that’s thrown your way.”
Myth 4: No one can tell me what to do, I’ll be my own boss.
A big appeal for leaving the corporate world and putting all your efforts into starting a business is that you are sick of being told what to do, you want to be in charge and call all the shots.
You might think the only person you need to answer to is yourself, but as the old saying goes; with great power comes great responsibility. Your clients and investors will be your new boss. You carry the weight of the company, its employees and their families.
Ted Chan, the founder and CEO of CareDash.com attests to this: “The thing that’s different is that you think you won’t have a boss, but in reality, you have investors, and a true feeling of accountability to every employee.”
Myth 5: It will be so much fun!
Finally, if you think starting your own business is all fun and games, just listen to what Ryan Darley, the co-founder of LawnStarter, has to say: “I’d say about 90% of the work when running a startup is quite boring; some of it is terrible. Accounting, payroll, dealing with employee conflicts, whatever the fire of the day is…there’s plenty of crappy tasks to go around!”