Lonely and stressed the life of the entrepreneur

Written on the 20 November 2009

“WHY don’t you get a real job and stop messing around with all these business ideas which never seem to go anywhere?”

Sound familiar? I can tell you that most entrepreneurs I know have heard this from their parents, teachers, friends and spouses. But this is the life of the entrepreneur and it can be a lonely and stressful existence.

Entrepreneurs by their very nature are passionate people who want to make a difference. They are willing to break with the normal path to a trade, profession or executive career to have a go at something which is inherently risky. They derive their greatest satisfaction from seeing a customer happy or making the next big deal. They are consumed by the problems in their business and their days are dominated by the ups and downs of what is happening with their ventures.

Surprisingly, few have business training. So just because they have the innate entrepreneurial DNA does not mean that they understand cash flows, contracts, managing staff or basic customer relationships. Most learn on the job and the successful and lucky survive to learn how to survive and grow a business. A lack of business training is probably the major reason why the failure rates of start-ups are so high and why only a small percentage ever get beyond 20 employees.

Those that do make it over the bumpy road to success do make a huge difference to our national wellbeing. These are the people who create the new jobs, in fact, at a much greater rate then large corporations. Small business also contributes the majority of innovations to our economy, often the reason why they are bought out by the large corporations.

The most successful entrepreneurs are well known as our greatest philanthropists. These are the people who endow hospitals, museums, art galleries, charities, universities and the arts. Our society is culturally richer for their success.

But we also need to give credit to those who have a go and are not successful in their ventures. I don’t mean the speculator or rogue but the person who genuinely sets out to create a business around their passion and, for whatever reason, is unable to make a go of it. It takes a lot of courage to give up a good job or career and put your life savings at risk. I know lots of young entrepreneurs who have gone for months without a salary and have taken out mortgages on their homes to finance a venture only to have it all go bad.

At least to their credit they tried. The reasons for failure are many, not the least of all is just bad timing and bad luck. Sometimes they are outflanked by a new invention. A large corporation may move into your sector and undercut you to buy market share. You might lose your major customer or have a supplier go bankrupt on you. We can’t always control everything in our environment and sometimes events overtake us.

Many successful entrepreneurs have a few failures behind them. The lucky ones have enough gas in the tank to pick themselves up and have another go. Often it is the encouragement and support of family and friends who enable them to try again. These are the people who most often come out the other end with a success.

Failure can sometimes be a tough educator and their next venture benefits from lessons of past mistakes.

We are very fortunate that enough young people want to have a go because they will make a difference and we will all benefit from their endeavours. So when you hear the next crazy idea, you might respond by saying ‘let’s see what we can do together to make this successful.’


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