Discover the disconnect between expectations of entrepreneurial life and the reality, with these three common pitfalls
The funny thing about using the word ‘misadventure’ when it comes to being an entrepreneur, and the reasons we believe that everyone is familiar with it, is that deep down we all know that the road to success in business is not a straight line or quite as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. We all know that it’s going to be challenging and it’s going to test us in ways we’ve never been tested before.
Yet… we remain optimists. So much so in fact that we allhope that we might just be the exception to the rule and that although all the evidence points to the contrary, we have got it figured out and we are not going to be the ones to veer off track. Until we do. And despite all of our best efforts, our positive thinking, our painstaking planning, and all of the books we’ve read about how others have become successful – we find ourselves (through no apparent fault of our own) in the midst of a place that we never expected to be. An ‘entrepreneuring’ misadventure.
By misadventure we don’t mean impending disaster. We mean the gap between the perception you had of what being an entrepreneur would be like vs. the reality. It’s the stuff no-one talks about, which we personally find to be extremely unhelpful, left only to feed on a diet of even less helpful advice smacking us in the face daily on social media.
In the interests of being entirely transparent, and infinitely more helpful, here is our guide to the three most common misadventures in entrepreneuring and how to avoid them.
Misadventure 1 – underestimating the impact of your own mindset
‘The most painful mistake I see in first-time entrepreneurs is thinking that just having a business plan or a great concept is enough to guarantee success. It’s not. Business success is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics. And, frankly, most people’s psychology is not meant for building a business.’ Tony Robbins, author of Money: Master the Game (2014)
The first and the most important truth to learn about entrepreneuring is that being a good entrepreneur is not about being good at business. It’s entirely possible to be good at business and be a terrible entrepreneur if you don’t have the right mindset. Being a good, or a great, entrepreneur is about embracing the fact that you are (almost) always both the problem and the solution to becoming great.
If you don’t believe me, think back to the last time you were stuck in your business, or found yourself in a situation you never thought you could get out of. How did you get unstuck? How did you move forward? Be really honest with yourself. Did the situation change, or did you change your approach to the situation? Were you able to see it from another perspective?
Misadventure 2 – believing there is a blueprint for success
If you are a first-time entrepreneur, you could be forgiven for thinking that entrepreneurs are all alike. Like us, you have probably read articles and books, been sucked into the ‘hustle’ culture, watched videos, or even studied entrepreneurial characteristics and determined whether or not you fit the mould.
But the real truth is that there is no mould. Being an entrepreneur is simply the profession you have chosen. Yes, most entrepreneurs will have shared experiences, and yes you will come across similar challenges, or even misadventures. But you will also make your own decisions and approach these in your own way. Yes, you can learn a lot about sprinting from watching someone like Usain Bolt perform, but he also won Olympic Gold after fuelling himself with a plate of chicken nuggets. It doesn’t mean that same strategy will help you become a better sprinter.
‘I think everyone thinks they should be doing this one amazing thing, but no one knows what it is. I’ve realized that it doesn’t exist – there is no roadmap.’ Entrepreneur, Victoria Green.
If you ever find yourself off course, it’s most likely because you’re following someone else’s road map or trying to be someone else, and not being brave enough to do the things that are right for your own set of circumstances.
Misadventure 3 – doing it for the work-life balance
I normally try to purposely stay away from talking about work-life balance with entrepreneurs because I’ve seen so many people start a business with the intention of being able to create a better balance in their lives. Maybe this is you right now? How many times during this adventure have you been able to do that, or do it in the way you envisaged when you first thought that having your own business was the solution?
What I actually believe is that most people are seeking a world where they feel less guilty about how they spend their time. Don’t believe me? Tell me what you were looking for when you decided that being an entrepreneur would give you a better work-life balance?
- Want to spend more time with the kids? Or feeling guilty for spending so much time at work?
- Want to spend more time with your partner/spouse? Or feeling guilty for spending so much time at work?
- Looking to spend more time at the gym? Or feeling guilty for spending so much time doing anything but the things that will make you fit and healthy?
As an entrepreneur, there really is no such thing as a big dividing line between life and work. It’s not a black and white thing that you leave at 5pm. You don’t have work things and life things. Being an entrepreneur is an integral part of a whole life that you choose to create for yourself, balancing everything that you want from that time and that you don’t have to feel guilty for.
Gayle Mann and Lucy-Rose Walker were both involved in the founding, growth and eventual sale of Entrepreneurial Spark – a support system for entrepreneurs. They are the authors of Misadventures in Entrepreneuring: The Truth About How It Feels To Run Your Own Business (Practical Inspiration Publishing, 2020).