Someone asked me recently what it’s like being an Entrepreneur, and I thought back to a blog I read by Leif Baradoy– an entrepreneur in Victoria who I respect tremendously. He writes in his blog, “put directly, it (entrepreneurship) isn’t for most people. It is hard as hell and incredibly rewarding. Frankly, most people don’t have the perseverance, pain-tolerance, and stubbornness to start something themselves. They are too smart to travel the hard road in the night. Therefore, they aren’t meant for the road.”
I’ve thought back to that post often since October of 2013, when I decided to go out on my own. I dug through the archives of Leif’s blog until I found it once again, noting how different I felt reading it this time after walking the entrepreneurship path- very different indeed.
I went into entrepreneurship with eyes wide open (so I thought) after meeting with many entrepreneurs to discuss their paths, their mistakes, their learnings. While I got piles of advice, some of my favourite being, “fall in love with rejection”, “the constant fear is healthy”, “sell it then build it” and “don’t try to do everything”. Despite all this great advice, it turns out I was actually poorly equipped to really understand the experience of what it was actually going to be like.
Buoyed by early successes in building a client base, I charged into the last two months of 2013 with a reckless abandonment in building my business. I was convinced I’d created a worthy, intelligent, thoughtful service(s), backed by my professional experience (plus a whole hell of a lot of risk-taking) and exuberant personality. I funnelled every last fluid dollar from my savings into my business, spent hours and hours in front of my computer screen and hustling (ahem! Developing my Business), attending seminars, workshops and conferences. In my minds eye I can see myself, wearing mismatched sweatpants sitting in front of the computer in my haphazard office frantically typing a marketing plan, a proposal, a statement of work. Days bled together. I worked upwards to 60 hours a week. I woke up on Friday January 31st feeling particularly awful.
Set back by two unexpected business bills, a tighter-than-expected cash flow and the double rejection of two separate projects I thought were in the bag, I drove to the gym that Friday morning and wept. I longed for the stability of a twice-a-month cheque, the removal of the constant fear and panic I was toting around with me, and to be able to talk to someone who “got it”.
Fast forward a week, this past Friday afternoon my friend Rebecca drove into town from Canmore for a visit. We sat down to delve into the sharing of our respective lives, and while I slowly inhaled, preparing to tell her the difficulties and heartbreaks of being an entrepreneur, what came out was much different.
I told her how excited I was each morning when I woke up to start work. I told her how I no longer had Sunday Night Anxiety, nor did I countdown my hours to the end of the workday. I told her about the thrill of landing new business and the constant learning that comes from rejection, feedback and changing projects. I excitedly spilled out how much hope and potential I thought the business had, as well as all the fascinating new people I’d met since stepping out on my own. I explained how tough it was for me to learn about accounting and all the legalities behind business, but how I ended up enjoying it more than I imagined. I told her how I could work around errands, workouts or a mid-afternoon walk, that my time was largely dictated by me. I paused at the end of the long rambling waiting for the sinking pit in my stomach of the lies I’d just told- I realized it wasn’t there. I genuinely felt grateful and excited about my work. Despite the challenges, despite the long hard hours, despite the sacrifice.
Leif is right- not everyone is cut out for this road. Similar to other aspects of life, entrepreneurship looks particularly rosy when viewing from the outside and a hell of a lot different from the inside. For this moment in time I can’t imagine a more exciting place to be. Now, to keep working on that thick skin.