Things You’d Wish You Knew Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

Every month, I meet people who tell me how much they would love to become an entrepreneur like I am. Many times, their reasons sound like these:

“I want to be an entrepreneur because that way, I can become very rich in no time.”

“I want to be an entrepreneur so that I can be my own boss and not have to answer to my employer. I want to be the one controlling other people and giving instructions.”

“I want to be an entrepreneur because entrepreneurs are superior to employees.”

I had some of these perceptions when I started out in business about 15 years ago. Over the years, however, my thinking has changed significantly and I would like to share a few thoughts about the opinions expressed above.

Let us begin with the idea of entrepreneurship being the pathway to quick wealth. I believe that one of the most important requirements for being an entrepreneur is a mindset that accepts challenges and enjoys solving them. The problem with problem-solving is that not all problems can be solved in a jiffy. Also, problems differ in complexity and the resources needed to solve different problems are often very different. This implies that while entrepreneurship can indeed be a pathway to wealth, there really is no standardized quick-fix road to it. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are known to have “blown” big very early. For many others, it happened much later after several years of painstaking work and commitment. In other words, don’t become an entrepreneur merely because you want to get rich quickly.

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How about the wonderful notion of being your own boss? Again, this is not nearly as fanciful as it is often painted. Look at it this way: if you lack the discipline to subject yourself to the requirements of a job, how can you expect to cope with the hectic and highly demanding level of commitment that being an entrepreneur requires?

I agree that there is an advantage to being able to determine your schedule and sometimes pattern things after your lifestyle. I know of entrepreneurs for whom this has been a defining feature as they have been able to explore their creativity and astronomically improve their productivity when they are not tied to the expectations of a job. I think, though, that even for the most creative and unusual people, there has to be an unceasing devotion to work in order to be successful. Top CEOs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Aliko Dangote and many others are known to work almost round the clock. Sporadic creativity might make you successful as an entrepreneur but it is your regimen that will keep you at the top. As such, if you are complaining about having to sleep late and wake up early as an employee, I am sorry to inform you that being an entrepreneur may not be the solution to that.

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And finally, the concept of superiority as an employer and inferiority as an employee… is simply outrageous! The reality of an organization is that different people work together to achieve a common goal. While there would have to be hierarchies for effective reporting and attainment of the goals of the organization, no one is inferior to the other. A security guard can be perhaps more important than the CEO on a day when robbers strike. Similarly, no matter how beautiful the offices maybe, they will become unusable if cleaners don’t clean them. 

As an entrepreneur, I carry a large share of the burden of my organization and sometimes, I am tempted to think that I am the only one doing that. However, the reality is that even though I have to bother about the strategic direction of the company and make the final decisions on many of the weighty issues, I cannot do the work alone. Imagine what a mess we would have if I had to attend to open the gates, clean up the place, attend to clients, teach all classes, do all the accounting and carry out all the other tasks? I doubt if I would last a week. My point is that everybody contributes to the success of the organization and a superior-inferior ideology is unreasonable. In fact, if you feel inferior as an employee, you are not likely to make a good employer. Deal first with your inferiority complex.

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I’ll end this write-up with a quote from Sean Rad, co-founder of Tinder. It states, “When you are building a startup, it’s difficult. Particularly, a startup that is expanding at the rate of Tinder. You have to give 100%, and you have to be committed. Solving the problem has to be personal or else you are going to disintegrate.”

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