If you’ve read any of my other articles you’ll quickly realize that I don’t think like everyone else. I get tired of cliches and gurus. I’m a little old-fashioned. I don’t follow the crowd. I became an entrepreneur because of this, only to find the entrepreneurial horde doing the same things I detested in the corporate world, propping up demagogues and looking for the next “secret sauce”. With that being said, here are a few (potentially) unpopular things I think about entrepreneurship now that I’ve been in the thick of it for a while.
Hustle is Overrated
With so much dependent upon you as the “boss”, it only makes sense to work hard. However, in the minds of many entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out, you’re apparently not hustling unless you post about it on social media. Since I correspond with and follow many start-ups and small business owners, I’m constantly under the barrage of “inspirational” quotes and industry buzzwords that are anything but inspirational.
I’m constantly asking myself, “if you’re hustling so hard, how do you have so much time for social media?” Don’t get me wrong, there are times when quotes from entrepreneurs can be extremely helpful (and yes, even inspiring), but next time you feel the urge, ask yourself if what you’re putting out there has value for the community.
The second reason hustle is overrated is that it doesn’t correlate directly with extreme financial success. We always hear the rags-to-riches stories, but the sad fact is that some of the hardest workers I know are poor. And they’ll probably remain poor, because they haven’t learned to systemize and delegate. They will continue to do okay, but without some purposeful business decisions, they will continue to grind but never achieve any measure of wealth.
Bootstrapping is Underrated
I’ve never quite understood the excitement of getting investors to fund your business. Most think that it adds security because there is a flow of cash, but sometimes it’s the exact opposite. Since you didn’t actually earn that money by creating a viable product/service, you’re less likely to strike it rich on the first try.
I realize that there are businesses that literally can’t start from a garage and grow in an organic way, but I’d also caution someone from entering such an industry if that is the case. Getting funding or a fat loan may seem like a relief to small business owners, but at what cost? They no longer are the sole owner of the company, the investors and banks are now married to you, for better or worse. The reason many get into business for themselves is to experience freedom and autonomy, then the first thing they do is give it away for a few bucks in a bank account. If you ask me, it’s not worth it.
You’re no Better Than the 9-5ers
Another disturbing trend I see in hype-filled facebook groups is the tendency to put entrepreneurs up on a pedestal, all the while spitting on the plebian “9-5ers” below. This isn’t okay. Why, you may ask?
Because as an entrepreneur, you will eventually want to employ these people, and your narcissistic attitude will spill over on to them. This can lead to high turnover, low employee morale, a poor company culture, product consistency problems, and less money. Every person is different, so respect the person who works within a system, not just those who create the system.
Another reason you’re no better off than when you had a 9-5 job is the fact that you’re not actually an entrepreneur. You simply own your 9-5 now. And it’s more like 7am-11pm anyway! So now you work more hours and make less money. Congratulations!
Your desire for autonomy has produced very little of it. You are now married to your work in a way you never were while working from 9-5. Entrepreneur? No. You my friend, are a freelancer. If this is your goal, then that’s fine. But if this is the case, quit calling yourself an entrepreneur. You’re simply trading time for money (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). But you’re no entrepreneur.
This point may be the least controversial, but I still think it’s something we often forget. My company is working on a system of what we call “touches” with our clients. A “touch” is anytime we communicate or do something unexpected with them – not directly having to do with business. A monthly call discussing your campaign is not a touch, for example. A touch would be a quick call to tell them a way they can save money, a movie ticket to show your appreciation, a handwritten letter, a Christmas card, etc.
This is one way that we become just a little more indispensable to our clients, because they have virtually unlimited options on who to hire, but no one will treat them like we will. They will trust us and utilize our services long-term. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Our personal relationships matter too. Don’t discount them in the least. If you’re married, your spouse deserves your attention and your time. Don’t pretend you’re doing all this for them, only to neglect them in the process. They’ll understand that you need to work long hours sometimes, but when you’re with them, be with them. Even if you work from home right now, you need to actively compartmentalize business from family relationships. This way, no matter what your business does, you will always have what’s most important. There’s no financial or business success that can compensate for failure in the home.
These may be unpopular opinions in the digital entrepreneur space, but I truly believe they can’t be taken for granted. Even if you don’t agree, I hope that we can discuss them in a rational manner and help each other succeed in a dog-eat-dog industry.