I’m writing this article because frankly I am dismayed by the culture of ‘wantrepreneurs’; people who think their personal and financial problems will be solved by running their own business. These people’s ideas range from ideas that are in the leagues of game changers like Facebook and YouTube to people who want to run small scale businesses. The reality is very different from the imagination land that some people live in.
Firstly, starting your own business will more often than not result in failure. The common ballpark figure I hear the most is that 85% of businesses fail. The cold, hard truth is that if it was easy, more people would be doing it. Very few businesses require small amounts of capital to start, so the risk of major financial loss is massive. I see dozens of posts from individuals wanting to pour $10,000, $50,000 and sometimes even more into a start up. Most of the time this is chronically flawed because these individuals have never had a business and a lot of the time they have never had a management job within a company that would provide the experience, knowledge and framework to actually build a business from the ground up.
I was 14 years old when I started my first proper business, which I grew from 13 customers to 32. It still exists to this day, nearly a decade later. I started many other small ventures into nonnormative economics when I was at school including a web design business and engaged in many little scams and quick money making schemes as well. This leads me to conclude that I have a natural business acumen which few people have. I don’t think that people who do not have this same mindset cannot go into business – I just think it is more difficult. It is also at this point that I will mention that the vast majority of my business ventures have failed. My web design business attracted only four customers that actually paid for the work. Another venture I had writing essays for students (While neglecting my own) had all its funds seized by PayPal.
So, having created a business that was profitable for a sustained period of time, thus putting myself in a minority of people, why on earth did I quit?
Running a business is extremely stressful. If you think your job is stressful, think again. You can find another job, even if it is below your current salary easily, provided you aren’t an idiot. On top of that if you’re in the minority of individuals who have savings you have something to fall back on so you can go without employment for a couple of months. You cannot just start another business. There were times I would sleep for only 2 or 3 hours to get shit done and I nearly had a mental breakdown and ended up eating shitloads as a result and putting a lot of weight on. I stopped taking care of myself. My house was a disgrace. When I moved to a smaller apartment the chaos remained. This is not just my experience but the experience of countless other individuals. If you don’t believe me go to Quora or check out the blog posts of James Altucher. You will see that this is by no means a unique phenomenon.
Running a business is emotionally taxing to a point that is almost incomprehensible. Even though it was the most mentally rewarding thing I have ever done it nearly destroyed and broke me. I ended up at one point owing an significant sum to a partner and had to work for a month solid, day in, day out, in order to get to the point where I was able to turn profit again.
There was the constant uncertainty – Would a supplier break an agreement? Would the government introduce legislation against the products I was trading? Would I still have customers next month? Would I make any money this month? You may hate your job and your life but for most people they have a degree of certainty which is almost unimaginable compared to a lot of business owners. Be grateful.
So one day, I decided I would quit. I would move somewhere new and start over from fresh. At first, I had the idea of taking the business with me. Then I had the idea of refining it and changing it. Then, when I thought about it, I decided to quit, for good. I passed the business on to someone who worked for me and got up and moved. In the end, it was one of the easiest things I have ever done.
What was much more difficult was deciding what to do next?
I wanted to start something else, completely from scratch at first. So I got a job, with the intention of using some of the money towards a business that I had no plan for whatsoever. Then I ended up networking with a couple of guys with a startup. Things didn’t work out with us but I really began to question whether I wanted to be in the position they were in, where they were slaving away to the few customers they had, giving hundreds of pounds of free products in exchange for what I understand has come to very little. I didn’t and I still don’t.
Now I’m employed by a corporation, running a part of someone else’s business.
Notice, I didn’t say I work for them, because I don’t. I work for me. I have enough money that I can walk away any time I want, but I work for me in the sense that I am making money for me, building my confidence and increasing my skills, skills that I know will be important whatever I end up doing. It just so happens I also make them money, which is the same regardless of whether you work for someone else or run your own business.
To round this off, I will say that I am going to start another business and I am in the motions of starting one right now but this business will be a little different. I won’t be a slave to it. I will be able to switch it off and on whenever I want to and I will be able to work anywhere.
To aspiring entrepreneurs I will say one thing – If you do it to escape the idea of being a slave you will essentially replace the slave of a boss or a corporation with being a slave to something else, the difference is that you own it and thus if it fails, it’s on you.
Don’t let that stop you though.