Should You Take the Leap?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  It is a leap into the unknown.  While there can be great rewards, there are also great risks.  Like for almost everything in life, there are lost of little quizzes, especially on-line, that you can take on the subject.  Score the right amount of points, and you should be an entrepreneur.  The decision to leap into entrepreneurship is a very important one.  Just as you wouldn’t pick a spouse based on a Cosmo sex quiz, don’t put too much weight in these quizzes that determine your entrepreneurial ability.  If you seriously take inventory of your personality, likes, and goals, you can gauge whether taking the leap into entrepreneurship is for you. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  That’s OK.  Everyone is different.  Some people love the thrill of being dropped ten stories on a roller-coaster ride.  Some don’t.  Neither makes you a good or bad person.

From the lowest to the highest.

One thing that you will need to be comfortable with if you are to be an entrepreneur is that you will have to do, or be prepared to do, almost every task that it takes to run your business.  While your business card may say “CEO,” this doesn’t mean that you get to sit in a fancy office all day and rely on your staff to do all the dirty work.  Unless you are lucky enough to have a huge infusion of cash, you will need to keep your overhead low.  That means, in the beginning, much of your company’s work will fall on you.  Even if you have staff to help, they will not always be there.  They may get sick or not show.  If that happens, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves to get the job done.  Getting the job done is how you get paid, so letting the job go undone is not an option.  This could mean making deliveries, packing boxes, cleaning bathrooms.  The list of possibilities is endless.  While you may not be doing these things every day, there may come a time when the only person that you can turn to is you.

It’s a juggling act.

If you only want to keep your nose down and focus on one task, then entrepreneurship may be difficult for you.  As an entrepreneur, you have to juggle a multitude of tasks.  The network is down.  The printer broke.  A delivery is late or wrong. Your insurance is up for renewal.  Your bank balance is low.  It all gets in the way of getting the job done, but these problems have to be addressed.  While your role in fixing them might be finding the right person to fix the problem, the buck still stops with you.  You’re no longer in the corporate womb where so much is done for you so that you can focus on doing your job.  If the thought of having to buy toner cartridges for the printer or searching for liability insurance makes you sick, you may want to know how you’re going to handle these things before you take the leap.

You’re going to see the man behind the curtain.

There is illusion and then there is reality.  For those in a “regular” job, it is easy to buy into the illusion of regularity and stability.  It seems like your job is solid, your company is solid, and there is ground under your feet.  However, that is an illusion.  The reality is you don’t know the future.  Your company could go under, your boss could fire you, your company could eliminate your job.  Even though that is the reality, it’s easy to ignore the reality and buy into the illusion of stability.

As an entrepreneur, you see the man behind the curtain.  You are confronted with the reality that there is little to no solid ground under your feet.  The reality may be that you’re down to your last $1,000.  You haven’t had a new customer in days.  Your supplier failed to deliver on time, and it is costing you sales.  You see that you are on a roller-coaster ride, and you don’t know what the next turn will bring.

Time to evaluate.

How did these different scenarios make you feel?  Did you freak out?  Did your stomach churn?  Guess what?  That’s OK.  The question isn’t whether you reacted badly.  The question is can you handle it.  As an entrepreneur, you’re going to face some heart-thumping, stomach-churning moments.  That is practically guaranteed.  Is that enough to make you take a pass?  If it is, then that’s OK.  But, if what’s driving you is more powerful than the stomach-churning moments ahead, then you may be ready to take the leap.



Don’t lose your head …

I have worked with entrepreneurs.  I am an entrepreneur.  And what I can tell you is that it can make you feel like you are going crazy.  Taking the leap and starting your own venture lands you in a nice prickly seat on an emotional roller coaster.  One moment elated, the next moment terrified.

There is no doubt that moments of fear are going to fall upon you.  It is well documented – at some point you will look down and realize that there is no net.  At that point, your heart will beat, your mind will scream and flash images of certain destruction, your palms will sweat and you will feel so claustrophobic that you will want nothing more than to escape out of every pore of your skin.

Here are five things that might help when Terror strikes:

1.  Don’t become a hater.  No one has a net.

Remember that, given the current economy, there isn’t necessarily a “net” under any of your salaried and employed friends.  The net is an illusion.  At the top of every organization is someone like you – an individual or group of individuals (e.g., the “Wizard”) – taking a huge risk and staking everything on a dream.  The choice you have made is to strike out and depend on yourself instead of relying on the Wizard behind the organizational curtain.  This is a conclusion that is not new to you.  Make a list of the reasons you decided not to depend on the Wizard and reflect back upon your list when Terror strikes.

2.  What you are experiencing is not unique.

The Terror is what ties you to all innovators, creators, and individualists everywhere.  You are in a mental space – the sight, sounds, smells, taste, and sensation of which every great innovator has experienced.  From Shakespeare and Amelia Earhart to Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga.  Striking out brings individuals to the raw edges of life – how you negotiate that edge that will determine your experience of life.

3.  The writing is on the wall.   Take in the wisdom of others.

Connect with the wisdom of those who have gone before you.  The purpose of the “Don’t Lose Your Head” category of Best Foot Forward is to provide you with inspiration and perspective from innovators who – just like you – had a great idea and courageously forged forward to make it happen.

4.  You are not alone.  Find people like you – they are out there.

Connect with fellow innovators and creators on the path.  Starting your own venture is something that you ultimately do alone.  The process of translating your idea into the marketplace can be isolating.  Isolation happens pretty fast.  Your mind turns to self-employment tax, self-insurance, whether to patent or not patent, and what corporate entity is right for you.  You become very boring at parties, and you are frequently on the receiving-end of looks of confusion.  Being financially unstable, unsure about your future, and constantly questioning your sanity may also make you prefer to isolate.  Resist the urge to melt into oblivion!  There are people like you – you must find them.  The “Don’t Lose Your Head” category of Best Foot Forward also aims to give you ideas of how to get out (hopefully for free) and meet people who are on your wavelength.  Meeting with other innovators on the path is a good reality check.  It can give you ideas of how to improve and grow, show you where you are lagging, show you where you are rocking, and allow you to share your wisdom with those who need it.

5.  Just Keep Going. 

When terror strikes, truly analyze where you are and where you want to go.  Ask yourself if you have other options.  List those options and visualize yourself there.  If you’ve reached a wall or a dead-end in your strategy, seek help, talk to your friends and colleagues (only innovators, government employees and comfort seekers are not likely to be a good source of advice on how to make your independent venture take off).

At the end of the day, you must recognize the Terror as just a normal phase in the innovative process – a phase that will come and go and never leave you alone.  Don’t feed it; learn how to just watch it like an outside observer.  In time, it will distract you less.  When the fever breaks, and it will, you will feel fresh and clear and ready to go again.  Each terror just forces us to surrender over and over to the realities of the innovative life.  The Terror wakes us from the dreamy vision of what self-employment means.  Removal of that veil is a scary process, but it is not necessarily a bad thing.  From the increasingly grounded state we reformulate our priorities, test our values, and create a stronger base on which to form manifest our dream venture.