The Dream and the Reality of Entrepreneurship

I’ve only had one real job in my life and that was over 16 years ago. I consider myself essentially unemployable and I wear it as a badge of pride. But that doesn’t mean I don’t work hard and that I have an easy life – quite the opposite. I sometimes get the impression that a lot of people romanticize the life of an entrepreneur, so I’d like to set the record straight  based on my personal experience on the dream and the reality of entrepreneurship.

The dream is financial independence, the reality is financial insecurity

Want to build a business? You’re going to have one of two problems: not enough sales or too many sales. Obviously problem number two is preferable, but it’s still a big problem. You see, if you sell out of your products, that means next time you need to order MORE! And where does the money for the “MORE” come from? From all the profits you just made, as well as the lines of credit that you set up to finance your business – which all adds up to one word: debt.

The dream is freedom, the reality is systems & discipline

I have a tremendous amount of personal freedom. However personal freedom does not mean that I get to do whatever I want. The reality is, when you work for yourself no one else is holding you accountable, so all discipline must be self generated. It’s taken me many years to develop my own personal productivity systems and I am still constantly trying to up my game. The same goes for our business and employees. To avoid complete chaos, you must put systems in place that create accountability, track progress and ensure everything is handled.

>> Read about how we track accountability in our business

The dream is “passive internet income”, the reality is hard work selling your products.

I have a tiny beef with the internet. There are a lot of sites selling the dream of creating an eCommerce business and  I believe many of them are disingenuous about the challenges involved in placing all your bets on a single, highly competitive sales channel. Unless you have a product or brand story that manages to tap into the internet zeitgeist, you will very likely have to explore multiple sales channels to build a scalable, long-term business. That’s how we did it.

>> Read about the Pros and Cons of Selling to big Retailers

The dream is runaway success, The reality includes failure – sometimes BIG failure

My first company went bankrupt after over 13 years in business and achieving over $1,000,000 in annual revenue. It was an extremely stressful time in which I narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy.  It’s easy to say “I learned more from my failures than my successes” – and there is some truth to that – but it still sucks to feel like a failure and watch something you’ve invested so much in die.

>> Read the story of my first business’ failure

So, would I encourage you to leave a secure pay check behind and become an entrepreneur? In general, yes. It’s an amazing journey of self-discovery that forces you stretch yourself and grow beyond your pre-conceived limitations. But the reality of entrepreneurship can be extremely stressful at times, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and seek the advice of mentors who have been there before.

Have any of your own experiences to share about the dream vs. the reality of entrepreneurship?  Leave a comment below!

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