Even though nearly half of Americans want to become entrepreneurs, the truth is that many people simply can’t handle it.
Having your own business definitely has its upsides – like the potential for unlimited income, scheduling flexibility and the power to call the shots. Those perks probably help explain the growing surge in entrepreneurship, especially in the Black community.
The number of businesses owned by African-American women, for example, has skyrocketed 322% since 1997, making Black females the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the “2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” commissioned by American Express Open.
But the life of an entrepreneur can be awfully tough. And some people aren’t mentally ready – just yet – to take on the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Here are six things to consider before entering the realm of entrepreneurship.
1. If you can deal with uncertainty.
We all know that starting a business means taking a risk, no matter how small or great. But making the leap from employee to entrepreneurship isn’t just about taking the plunge and deciding to go into business. It’s also about deciding to stay in business – even when uncertainty and risks are ever-present, month in and month out, year after year.
While entrepreneurs face all kinds of doubts and worries, often the biggest uncertainty is your revenue source. You worry that customers might not come to your store or that your product or service might not sell. You worry if your product fails to sell as quickly as expected. The phone might stop ringing, or your website sales may fall off a cliff. Revenue declines ultimately mean your income drops or becomes erratic and unpredictable. And herein lies the problem.
It’s one thing to think to yourself: I understand that I might not have a “steady” paycheck while I’m a business owner. So I get it that my money might be irregular, or at times even non-existent. But it’s an entirely different ball game when you have to live with this situation on a day to day basis. For some people, the concept of irregular paychecks and erratic business swings are mostly just words on paper, or perhaps abstract possibilities in their heads.
But in many people’s hearts, they haven’t truly accepted the reality of what it means to hustle, grind it out daily, and still not have reliable cash-flow to show for their efforts. So they never launch. Of those that do start a business often contemplate throwing in the towel when things get tough.
During dry spells in business, they pine away for the “good old days” when they got a check every two weeks from an employer. Basically, they’re pretty miserable during the inevitable lulls and business cycles that every entrepreneur confronts. If you’d get depressed or easily disheartened by the prospect of extreme uncertainty or a fluctuating income stream, think twice before becoming an entrepreneur.
2. Whether or not you are open to learning new things.
Maybe you’re a 20-something millennial who thinks your recent Ivy League degree has taught you all you need to succeed in life. In fact, after being at your current job for a whopping 2 years, you’ve persuaded yourself that you could run the entire place better than anybody else there, including the CEO.
Or perhaps you’re a baby boomer in your mid-50s who is convinced that you’ve been working with nothing but a bunch of morons for your entire life. Either way, deep down, you feel like you’re always the smartest person in the room. Which is fine.
Except for the fact that you’re not. And that kind of thinking will get you crushed as a small business owner. You may be incredibly smart, talented, and gifted in a single area – or even many areas. But I can guarantee that you are not the most brilliant at accounting, AND hiring good talent, AND sales and marketing, AND operations, AND finance, AND technology, AND social media, AND product AND idea generation – and the dozens of other things that have to be done to run a successful business. Once you start thinking you’re the smartest person, or the only person who can do something (translation: everything), you’ve set yourself up for failure if you decide to operate your own shop.
It’s hard for a smart-alecky, know-it-all to succeed at entrepreneurship. Partly because your over-inflated view of yourself makes you closed-minded to getting the help and support that you will certainly need. And partly because know-it-alls tend to ignore or discount the views, opinions, insights and experiences of others – you know, like the valuable feedback that comes from customers, vendors, employees and competitors.
When you’re too smart for your own good, you can’t readily learn something different, try new things, or take advantage of talent around you – all of which are required to maintain a profitable enterprise.
3. If you’ve learned how to handle set backs.
Be honest: Have your parents or others helped you financially while you were adult? Have you avoided major personal tragedies? And has your personal background or work life been without significant challenges or adversity? If you answered yes to those questions, you may not have yet developed the thick skin and mental toughness required to make it as an entrepreneur.
Setbacks, difficult periods and rejection are part of owning your own business. So if you haven’t yet developed the art of being resilient, entrepreneurship may be a major blow to your self-esteem and identity.
Related Reading: Dealing with Financial Setbacks
4. Whether or not you cling to old-school thinking.
What hinders some folks back from being successful entrepreneurs is the fact that they still live in the past, and have yet to banish outdated thinking. For example, if you still think working in corporate America or having a government job is the “safe” route, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
Other people think that entrepreneurship must be ruled out for personal reasons: as if being a mother, for example, means you can’t also run a business. But the two are not mutually exclusive. Either resolve to rise above such limited thinking, or just keep doing exactly what you’re doing — and know that entrepreneurship truly isn’t for you.
5. Which do you do more? Make plans or make excuses?
Have you ever said or thought something like: “People like me can’t get ahead because I’m …” Fill in the blank with whatever applies. As in, “I’m Black. I’m a woman. I’m over 50. I’m only a high school graduate.” The list could go on and on.
Hopefully you don’t subscribe to these myths and misconceptions. But if you do, you’re locked in a victim’s mindset. And victims don’t win in business. Here’s some real talk: Yes, there is racism, sexism, ageism, and a lot of other unfair things in life. But if those things become your go-to excuse for why you can’t succeed, please don’t hang out a shingle and expect to make it as an entrepreneur.
Successful business owners come from all backgrounds and walks of life. The real challenge is: what game plan are you willing to implement to overcome any obstacles you may face?
6. Do you know your true value?
When you don’t know your true value, entrepreneurship ultimately highlights and magnifies this problem. That’s why you see entrepreneurs who don’t charge what they’re worth, or even worse, those who basically work free of charge. They provide all kinds of complimentary services, freebies and other things that de-value what they’re offering.
Now, don’t get me wrong, pro bono work and free offerings have a place – even for entrepreneurs. Sometimes you’ll need to do free work, particularly when starting out, in order to drum up clients or to learn the ropes. Other times, you’ll just want to offer your skills, because it’s the right thing to do, or a specific cause or client sparks your passions.
But I’m referring to the activities of those would-be or current entrepreneurs who basically give away the kitchen sink because deep down, they don’t think they’re worthy of more.
Once you tap into what makes you valuable – as a person and a professional – you’ll find the courage to demand pay for your work, raise prices when required, seek out and engage with clients that merit your time and attention, and focus on the type of work that is most gratifying to you, not just the crumbs you feel forced to accept. But it all starts in the mind, and believing that you’re worth more than you’re currently getting.
If any of these things sound familiar, ask yourself: Am I really cut out to be an entrepreneur? There’s no shame in admitting the truth and letting the answer guide your path forward.