I read a book a early in my career that really upset me. This wasn’t your typical self-help Tony Robbins style book. It hit on some wacky beliefs that I discovered a sub-section of entrepreneurs share.
There is a culture of extreme pressure that exists if you are an entrepreneur. After all — you only “eat what you kill”. Some feel if you are not a “killer”, if you are not “off the ladder”, if you aren’t working 120 hour weeks, then you’re not really an entrepreneur.
If you own a bakery and you aren’t franchising, or expanding it in some way, or if you actually bake, this cult of entrepreneurs believe you don’t own a business you own a job.
You can be an entrepreneur and be a plumber, electrician, baker, painter or whatever your heart desires. Perhaps you have many businesses and you get your hands dirty in all of them. You are the one who gets to choose what you do regardless of what anyone else tells you – that’s the true benefit of choosing self-employment.
It is ridiculous to claim that the person who owns the laundromat down the street is taking any less risk than someone who owns a financially superior marketing business. The dollar amounts might be different but the risk is the same in each individuals scale of economy.
Most entrepreneurs do it for freedom over money — many of us do it because we don’t know how to live any other way. There are no rules and no universal truths when you work for yourself.
An Entrepreneur is “ a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”
Anyone who does not directly work for someone is an entrepreneur. If you have an auto shop, own your own tools, and market your own location — you are an entrepreneur. If you are a plumber and you go to peoples houses to provide services and collect payment directly from the homeowner — you are an entrepreneur as well.
The cult of Entrepreneur was designed by other entrepreneurs who have created wealth by selling ideas that are exaggerated, not true, or self-serving. Many of these teachers have no success to speak of other than selling the idea of success.
If you took a book like “The Art Of The Deal” and based your life around it — you probably wouldn’t end up like Donald Trump — unless of course you have a wealthy father to bankroll your ventures.
Money is one of the metrics of success that entrepreneurs use. This is a fundamental flaw in most guides on being an entrepreneur. Your business needs you — but so does your family and the rest of your responsibilities. You need sleep, exercise, time with loved ones, and you need to continue at least some of your hobbies or you won’t be able to do your best at work — regardless of how much you are making.
I read an article the other day about a woman who had taken time off from being an entrepreneur to raise her family. After 10 years off the job she decided it was time to go back to work. She started reading books by other entrepreneurs to prepare for her next venture and was terrified by what she read.
She didn’t feel like a “killer”, she didn’t want to work the 120 hours — her family was just as important to her as her career. The language had changed since she was in business and the expectations seemed higher. She had enough time to run a business — but not enough time to “slay dragons” as the books described.
She began questioning whether or not the workplace would be a better spot for her. She was overcome with guilt at the thought of going back to work. Going back to work seems like the ultimate failure for an entrepreneur even though in a lot of circumstances it might be the right decision.
Acting like other people is not going to get you anywhere either. People read biography’s and think copying habits of other successful entrepreneurs will bring them success. Steve Jobs has been hailed as the greatest entrepreneur of our time — but his idiosyncratic behaviors like not showering or aggressively arguing with his staff would likely lead to ruin before it would another trillion dollar company. Its easy to look at successful people and believe everything about them is valuable and should be imitated. It’s hard to imagine that someone can be successful and be faulted at the same time — but faulted is how you can describe every human on this planet.
Steve Jobs wasn’t successful because of his personality — he was successful despite it.
Lets face it — most people are not part of the 1% — even though books on success and entrepreneurship are written as though everyone is either part of that group or should be. There is no shame in being a successful small business owner. There is no shame in wanting to grow your business at a level you feel comfortable with. Removing yourself from operations could be disaster in your industry!
Truth may be universal but that doesn’t mean business advice is as well.
Entrepreneurship is not a religion — though some authors and publications speak of it like it is. Even if you follow these books and articles down to the letter — there is no guarantee you’ll ever experience any success beyond what you are capable of on your own. Being an entrepreneur is an incredibly stressful position to hold and there is no shame in blowing it all up and finding something else to do. The only time you are “selling out” is when you ignore your own principles. You might be tired of wearing too many hats or you might be tired of working for no pay. Some entrepreneurs would rather pick up garbage on the side of the road than work for someone — but this is absolutely not the voice of the majority.
I became an entrepreneur as a teenager. It began as simple buying and selling and evolved from there. There’s nothing glamorous about it — often there is a lot of risk involved. Make your own decisions based on sound advice. It takes a high level of commitment financially and emotionally to run any business, one should never rush in to something or feel pressured to be someone they are not. What these books fail to mention is often the quickest path to money is getting a job and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
Entrepreneurship is a type of employment more than it is a type of spirituality — be careful to not confuse the two. Always choose the situation that’s best for you and those you love — not a false sense of identity that has been marketed to the masses for decades.
Sound advice is typically not “stock” advice. As an individual it is important to build a team of advisers you trust — usually your lawyer, accountant, banker or partner but this could include other people who know you and who you respect and trust.
Entrepreneurs provide services for money, manufacture products, or buy products to sell at a profit. You don’t need to be a “killer” or a “ninja” — you simply need to write a plan, be consistent, and make sure the decisions you make are in line with your business plan and the advice of the advisers you trust. The secret to being successful isn’t on Amazon and it certainly isn’t on TV at 3 am. Success is subjective as is happiness — figure out what it takes for you to be happy and successful and make sure your business plan lines up with these goals.