Expectation vs. Reality: What starting a business is really like

June 17 2019
Phil Bedford Written by Phil Bedford

It seems like everyone’s hungry for new opportunities these days.

There are countless business owners and ambitious entrepreneurs out there, all looking for a chance to bite off their own chunk of the market. The biggest generation in the world today is the millennials, and 68% of them say that they’ve considered starting their own business.

On top of that, Gen Z (the youngest generation), is poised to become the most entrepreneurial generation we’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, while passion and excitement are great – it’s essential to make sure that you understand what you’re signing up with when you become a business owner.

It’s not all choosing your hours and ordering people to get you coffee. There’s a lot more to running a company than most people think, and the gap between expectation and reality can be a massive shock for some.

As part of our 7 deadly startup sins campaign, let’s take a look at some of the ways that the expectation vs. reality contrast can affect your experiences as a new business owner.

Expectation: I Can Handle Everything Myself

When you first launch a business as a solo entrepreneur, it’s tempting to think you can wear every hat and do everything alone – without any help. After all, right now your company is only small, so there’s surely not that much you need to do to keep it running, right?

Reality: You Need to Play to your Strengths

As much as you want to save money by taking the DIY approach to building a business – no-one is great at everything. There’ll be parts of running a company that you thrive in. For instance, maybe you’re fantastic at motivating and managing employees or coming up with new product ideas. However, you might not be quite as good at managing your accounts, or social media marketing.
Being a jack of all trades and a good entrepreneur is rarely the same thing. The more you heap onto your plate as a business owner, the more you’re going to divide your attention until both your accuracy and results begin to suffer.
Play to your strengths and find other people to supplement your weaknesses.

Expectation: I Just Need to Start -the Rest Will Fall Into Place

There’s something to be said to the Nike “Just Do It” mantra when running a business.
If you want to one day run a successful business, then you need to be willing to bite the bullet and take risks at times. Giving up a stable job for a life of struggling to make your company a success isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, jumping into the deep end of the business pool before you’ve learned to swim isn’t a good idea either.

Reality: Everyone Needs a Plan

Although you don’t need to know everything about what may happen to your business from day one, you should have a basic plan in mind. Before you do anything, structure a strategy that guides you through what you’re going to do to develop your company, market yourself, and pave the way for growth. You might even want to put a plan in place for what you’re going to do if you eventually decide to sell your venture.
The better your plan is, the easier it will be to track your progress and keep yourself focused when you start developing your own company. Confusion and lack of direction have been the death of many a startup. – often within the first 2 years.

Expectation: I’ll Convince the Market to Love my Product

Apple enthusiasts didn’t know they needed the iPhone until Steve Jobs introduced them to it. We had no idea that Uber would be such a huge success until it arrived on the market. However, just because innovation is vital in the business world, doesn’t mean that you can convince an audience to love any product.

Reality: You Need to Adhere to your Audience

Instead of just diving in with the idea that “they’ll come round eventually,” you need to keep your eye on the prize. A great business owner thinks carefully about who their target market is, and what kind of problems they face. That’s the only way you can make sure you’re creating something that will speak to the right people.
When Jobs designed the iPhone, he didn’t know that people wanted a smartphone, but he did know that his customers were looking for more functionality from their phones. Figure out what your audience needs from you and get ready to deliver. As you introduce your product to the market, make sure that you listen to the feedback your customers give you and pivot accordingly too. Your audience will let you know what you need to do to be successful. Just listen.

Expectation: I Don’t Need to Worry about Marketing Straight Away

When you’ve got an exciting new product to share with the world, it’s easy to assume that everyone will start talking about your offering immediately. With something so amazing to offer, you could tell yourself that you don’t have to worry about promotion at all. After all, there’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth marketing, right?

Reality: Marketing Needs a Strategy

Word of mouth marketing is fantastic – but every fire needs a spark to get it started. That means that you need to figure out how you’re going to encourage people to start talking about your business, products, and services from day one.
How are you going to launch your website? Do you have a plan for building excitement and anticipation around your upcoming product? What are you going to do to keep the buzz around your business going? Will you have a referral strategy to draw in new customers, or a way of gathering customer testimonials?

Expectation: I’ll Have Plenty of Freedom as a Business Owner

Ask anyone why they want to become an entrepreneur and 9 out of 10 times you’ll get the same answer: Freedom. People with the dream of owning a business often assume that being their own boss means choosing their hours, deciding who they get to work with, and having as many vacations as they like. While to some extent, this is true, there’s nowhere near as much freedom involved as you think.

Reality: You’ll Work Harder than Ever

Compared to a typical 9-to-5 job, you’ll find that being an entrepreneur demands more time, passion, and attention than any other career. As an entrepreneur, you’re ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your venture. Your livelihood, your dreams, and your income all rest on your shoulders.
There’s a lot of pressure involved with becoming a business leader, which is one of the reasons why so many people end up cracking during the early stages. If you want to make sure that you come out on top, you’re going to need to prepare yourself for a rough ride with lots of ups and downs. Find ways to keep yourself motivated when times get tough and remember to gather as much support from your friends and family as possible.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

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