Starting your own business isn’t all plain sailing. You’re going to need to keep your life-raft close at hand, be ready to start bailing out water when the sea gets rough, and get good at navigating stormy seas.
Quick takeaways if you’re in a hurry
1. Your business may be financially successful in the long term, but in the short term you need to focus on other forms of reward
2. When you run your own business you define the parameters within which you work. Want to maintain a work-life balance? It’s up to you to make it happen
3. You’re going to need a good network for support and to help you to stay sane. Gather people you can trust from the start and be ready to share and listen, to learn as much as you can.
Read on: Why starting your own business is no small undertaking
Being a business owner will probably be the most rewarding role of your career, but you’re going to have to work hard to earn that reward. We’re taking a no-holds-barred look at owning a business and some tips for staying motivated in the face of adversity.
Free time? What free time?
If you already knew a business owner before you decided to become one yourself, it’s highly unlikely you chose to change career for the work-life balance. That would be a bit like saying you moved to Wellington to avoid the wind, or that you wanted to cut your commute time to work so you moved to Auckland.
It’s universally accepted that entrepreneurs and business owners sacrifice a large amount of what the rest of the world describes as personal time. Instead they convert it into additional time to work on the business. Looking on the bright side, at least if you were forewarned then you are forearmed.
If you are concerned about maintaining work-life balance as you become a business owner, then it’s a good time to remind yourself that you’re in charge. Set some ground-rules for what you will and won’t do, and structure your business to make having the free time that you want a possibility.
One of the huge pressures business owners face is getting their friends and family to understand the commitment they have made to building a business. You can tell them repeatedly that you have to work longer hours, but they will probably still wonder why you’re not available to catch up on a Saturday morning.
It’s probably not wise to go as far as getting them to sign an agreement that shows that they have understood the implications of your job; but it is a good idea to talk them through what running a business will mean for your free time before you begin.
Rolling in money?
If money is your main motivation for being in business then you probably need to get over the disappointment now. You’re not likely to be rolling in money – at least in the short term.
With a new business the flow of money tends to be inwards, rather than outwards. That means your business is likely to swallow capital like a thirsty whale, so you should set any dreams about financial rewards firmly in the future.
Money is going to be in short supply, and you are going to spend a considerable period of time worrying about whether your customers are going to pay their bills, and your suppliers are going to get paid for theirs. You can either acknowledge the stress and build strategies for dealing with it, or suffer when it gets in the way of building your business.
Having the right attitude will help you to get through a lot of the tough times, and you will always have new opportunities to learn. Make sure you have a strong network who can offer support if money really becomes a worry. Think mentors, business networks and some good money people like an accountant and a financial adviser.
You may have become a business owner because you were seeking independence and autonomy: you probably didn’t realise that this was a euphemism for having to do everything yourself.
Part of the thrill of building a business from the ground up is weathering the slightly painful period when you can’t afford any staff and effectively have to run the business single-handed. The bad news is there’s no one to delegate to: the good news is you should be able to avoid office politics for a while.
You might have to shoulder most of the workload, but you don’t have to be isolated. Remember you are part of a business community and there are many other business owners facing the same challenges as you. It’s an exciting journey and it’s important to be able to share it with people who can share your successes and offer support during challenging times. Get linked to a solid business networking group and make sure you have a reliable mentor onside who will offer you support.
Most start up businesses also rely on a network of consultants who can fulfil the skilled support requirements of a business without being employed full time. So take time to find yourself a good accountant and lawyer at least, and make sure you build a virtual team you can enjoy working with.
It’s not easy being your own boss. Running a company is hard work and there can be small financial reward for a large amount of effort and time. But there are some incredibly motivating aspects to running your own business that make it one of the most rewarding jobs you will find.
In the long term, you may well make a business that delivers you the financial rewards that you’re looking for. But be warned that by then you’ll probably be hooked on the thrill of being independent and building a business from the ground up. So even if you do earn enough to retire, you’ll probably find yourself starting all over again just for the thrill of the ride.
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