Robert Herjavec doesn’t believe in work-life balance, not when it comes to starting a business.
“In the beginning there is no work-life balance,” the CEO and founder of Toronto-based Internet security firm Herjavec Group tells Entrepreneur. “There is no, ‘I’ll do it when I want to do it,’ and ‘I’ll take my time and get to it.’ Everything is right now.”
That’s because raising a small business is like raising a baby, he says. “It’s a living, breathing thing," he says. "When it wants to eat, it wants to eat. It doesn’t care if you have a dinner date or somewhere else to go. It needs what it needs when it needs it.”
Taking care of your baby, your small business, is all-consuming during its infancy. Like being an overwhelmed new parent, Herjavec says you can forget about properly taking care of yourself while you take care of it. “You can’t. That’s a fallacy,” he says. “If you’re worried about burning out, don’t start a business. The dedication and discipline required are almost insurmountable. It’s really hard.”
Taking a break to take care of yourself is only an option, he says, once you’ve raised the baby to survive without helicopter parenting it, when you can afford to hire employees and marketing partners to feed the next stage of growth.
“Only when you get to a successful level, then you have the freedom and the balance to do things when you want to. There is no greater freedom than having a small business and getting to dictate your own schedule.”
We spoke with the Shark Tank star today as he announced a new initiative in partnership with Deluxe Corporation, just in time for National Small Business Week. The campaign, called the Small Business Revolution, will award one small U.S. town with $500,000 to revitalize its Main Street area this year. The winner will be announced one week from today.
“Our goal is to help small businesses become vital,” he says. “We work with them to expose them to some of the great resources available to them, from marketing to financing to cloud computing and beyond.”
Starting up a business is one thing, surviving and thriving is another. To help beginner small-business owners get off on the right foot, here are the Shark’s top three things to know for first-timers:
1. Know who your customer is.
“The purpose of a business to create customers. The challenge that small-business owners have is that they don’t know who that customer is and then they don’t know how to find them. There are so many tools today with mailing lists, SEO and Facebook, you have to go where your customers are.”
2. Know your numbers.
“You’ve got to know how much cash you need, what you’re credit line is, what your receivables are, because they’re the lifeblood of any business.”
3. Be willing to work extremely hard.