So, you want to launch a startup. You have a product idea and some target customers in mind, and you’ve been looking for validation from colleagues, investors and analysts for a while. You also want to pursue the idea in your spare time, so it could take a couple of years to get the company off the ground.
There’s a good chance you’re going to hate being an entrepreneur.
Here’s why: in the startup world, you’re all in. Entrepreneurship doesn’t come with a playbook or clear feedback. You’re thrown curveballs on a daily basis and if you’re not ready to handle them 24/7, your company might be doomed to fail.
Below are the most common challenges I’ve seen entrepreneurs face, and some tips for overcoming them. Before you start a company, ask yourself: am I prepared to face each of these situations, and ultimately knock them out of the park?
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1. Be OK with being alone.
Entrepreneurs need to stand their ground. Any breakthrough idea is bound to sound a bit crazy at the beginning. As a company grows from an idea to an early-stage project, and then into a functional business, its founding entrepreneur can face challenges from every angle until she can prove her startup’s success. She doesn’t always have time to seek advice from others before following her instincts. She also usually has a hand in every major decision the growing company makes, from managing employees to guiding product trajectories – and the process isn’t always straightforward.
Are you a person who can’t stand feeling like an outsider, or needs validation from others to make decisions? If so, entrepreneurship might not be the path for you.
2. The biggest challenges are about people.
Once, I was part of an early-stage startup team that struggled with a new hire. The person had ideal technical qualifications for the job, but she wasn’t fitting into our company’s culture. The team was small and close-knit, so this issue was a serious consideration. We weighed our options: let the culture take a back seat, or make a hard staffing decision that preserved the team’s original vision.
We chose the former, but we were wrong. Each of us had worked at companies with varying levels of employee engagement, and thought a less-engaged team member wouldn’t impact our company’s culture. In this case, the employee became increasingly unhappy and further detached without the support of her team, and the situation became more negative for all involved.
The real mistake in this situation was thinking our previous experiences could inform our decisions. As an entrepreneur, you need to prioritize and stay true to your company’s unique culture, and work daily to promote it.
3. Don’t be misled by valuations.
There are many roads to startup success -- the number of billion-dollar “unicorn s ” in today’s market can vouch for that. Some entrepreneurs become disillusioned by this statistic. They mistakenly assume that launching and growing a company will be a straightforward endeavor. Or, they imagine a startup’s path always includes a billion-dollar valuation.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will make your business successful. While the buzz around “unicorndom” might have you think otherwise, building a company is often a deliberate, constant, day-by-day process that plays out amid changing markets prone to high and low cycles. Successful entrepreneurs have a plan B ready -- and probably a plan C and D, as well. Stay the course, keep your head down and remain focused on your business.
If the above situations don’t sway your intent to launch a startup, ask yourself these questions at every stage of your company’s growth:
- Can I make decisions that advance the company’s overall mission?
- Will my new hires support and expand our culture?
- Am I being realistic about the growth of my business?
With this perspective, you can hit every curveball you’re pitched and jump into the startup world with the energy and resources you need to succeed.