Friday September 25, 2015
No one goes into entrepreneurship thinking it’s going to be easy, but many do go in without a complete picture of how much entrepreneurship can test you like no other challenge.
These 5 business owners shared what myths about entrepreneurship they carried with them when they got started, and what truths they came to as they learned and grew their businesses.
There’s so much focus on the product in the marketing world, that it can be easy to forget that a good product alone is not enough to attract customers and referrals.
“When I first started the company, it was tempting to believe that a good product was all that was necessary, and that everything else would follow from that,” said Brandon Baker, owner of Loveletter Cakeshop in NYC. “But over time it became clear that an excellent product was only one component of a thriving business.”
In reality, customers are attracted or turned off by a wide variety of factors. Your product is evaluated in the context of the business as a whole.
“Customer service, reliability, flexibility, and enjoyment are also part of what a great company sells, not just the product itself,” Brandon said. “Don't be fooled into thinking that a great product is all you need to build a successful business. The modern consumer is looking for a complete experience that they can rely on again and again, not a one-off purchase.”
"Modern consumers look for a complete experience that they can rely on again and again, not a one-off purchase." [Tweet this]
“One of the biggest myths I believed prior to starting up StoryLeather.com is that entrepreneurship is fun, as you get to be your own boss and control your own destiny,” said entrepreneur Jerry Lee.
This is a pervasive myth of entrepreneurship, which leads many new business owners to get disillusioned quickly. In fact, many entrepreneurs, including Jerry, find that they end up with less flexibility than they had working for someone else.
“When you are running your own company, your customers and your employees are now your new boss!” said Jerry. “The pressure is tremendous, and your destiny is controlled by the people working with you.”
Successful entrepreneurs recognize that things like consistency, accountability, and communication become more important when you’re the boss—you don’t get a pass on them.
“Entrepreneurship requires long hours and 110% dedication day-in and day-out,” said Jerry. “The experience is invaluable and priceless, but I would not call it fun, as calling it fun would be taking the business too lightly.”
Hiring your first employees is a huge step that many entrepreneurs look forward to. But many don’t realize how much work it is to be a manager!
“My biggest surprise was employees--what a learning experience!” said Julie Pech, founder of The Chocolate Therapist.
Because entrepreneurs tend to be highly driven, intrinsically motivated, and passionate, they often forget that they can’t necessarily expect their employees to have that entrepreneurial drive.
“As entrepreneurs, we tend to think everyone will see what needs to be done, figure out how to do it, and then self-motivate and get it accomplished,” Julie said. However, that is definitely not the case with employees. I couldn't believe how much work it was to learn how to manage people.”
If you really aren’t cut out for managing employees, perhaps a manager should be one of your first hires. Some entrepreneurs learn to love management, but for others, it’s a continuing struggle to hire, motivate, and retain quality employees.
“It took me years--I should have hired a manager long before I did,” Julie said. “I love my staff now, but it took plenty of hard lessons to put the right team in place.”
“The biggest myth I had was that as a business owner, if I did a great job for my clients, provided excellent customer service, and priced my services affordably, I would have customers for life. Not true!” said Jane Coloccia, president and chief creative officer of JC Communications, LLC.
Many entrepreneurs go in with this attitude, and it can be very damaging to morale when customers do inevitably leave.
“Over the years I have lost customers for all sorts of reasons,” Jane admits. “There really is very little loyalty.”
She shared a whole list of reasons customers gave for leaving: “Because another company came in and undercut me and the years of service I provided were not valuable enough to stand up against a cheaper price. Because a client just decided it was time for a change. Because my client contact left the company and the new person decided to bring in their own people. Because someone thought they could get a better job with a bigger name company with lots of staff. Because budgets got cut and they had to kill your line item. The list is endless.”
“As an entrepreneur today, you need to do a great job for a client so you can respect yourself and take pride in your daily work,” she advised. “Do a great job, keep a wide net for many clients, and don’t take it personally when a client leaves.”
Idan Shpizear recalled a quote from an unknown immigrant who arrived in America on Ellis Island long ago: 'When I came to this country I found that the streets were not paved with gold. When I walked the streets I realized that they were not paved at all. When I tried to get a job, I realized that I was going to be the one to pave them.'
“I think that this embodies how I felt about the myths of entrepreneurship when I first moved here,” said Idan. “I thought that it would be more glamorous basically.”
“I thought that it would be more glamorous basically.” [Tweet this]
Through his entrepreneurial journey, Idan came to realize, like the guy who ended up paving roads, that success means, “putting in a lot of hard work, and sacrifice, but it also means doing the jobs that other people won't.”
“I'm not done being an entrepreneur, and I'm not done using my ideas and skills to create bigger and better ways of helping people and being a positive influence in the world around me,” Idan said. “I don't expect the streets to be paved with gold. I expect sweat and hard work while I take up the work of paving them. But I also expect that hard work to pay off.”
Idan finished by saying, “They were right when they said that anything in this country was possible. They just never said it would be easy.”
What myths about entrepreneurship have you overcome in your journey? What truths have you learned? Let us know in the comments!