Don’t Fall Into The Trap Of Entrepreneurship

Whether it’s on LinkedIn or in conversations with friends, it’s common to see people expressing a desire to become entrepreneurs or their own bosses. The benefits of being a successful entrepreneur or business owner can be quite appealing. Here are a few from my experience and observations of other entrepreneurs around me.

Time: I have much more control over my time, which is especially valuable when you have young children. There is no need to worry about taking leave for the June & December holidays, and I can always take time off to attend any kids-related event and work from home when required. However, it’s important to note the difference between having control of your time and having lots of free time. Most entrepreneurs have the former, not the latter.

Finances: If anyone has been running their business for a while, chances are that it is at least somewhat successful, which likely means they have some financial relief. This doesn’t mean the financial security from their business will last forever, as the majority of businesses will eventually fail. But the point is that successful entrepreneurs are probably better off financially than the average person.

Opportunities: It’s much easier to network, find new opportunities and meet successful business leaders who can offer great advice on life and business. Over the last few years, I’ve learned about running a business from other successful entrepreneurs who share their perspectives with me. Quite often, these chats and advice come with no strings attached. Most entrepreneurs and business leaders are happy to help one another individually, sometimes even when they could be seen as direct competitors.

Time, money, and opportunities are enticing benefits that most of us would love to have. This is one reason why the allure of entrepreneurship or other forms of self-employment can be attractive.

However, most people only see the benefits of entrepreneurship without understanding and counting the cost of being their own boss.

The Cost of Entrepreneurship

If the goal were to get rich, I would have chosen a different career path. While we are financially secure today, choosing entrepreneurship to achieve financial security was probably the harder route. I believe a sales role in the right industry would be the best way to maximise earning potential. When I first went into entrepreneurship, my pay was lower than anyone in my age group with a job. Even then, I felt lucky because I could still take a salary compared to many other first-time entrepreneurs who don’t even receive a salary when they start out.

The point is: don’t choose entrepreneurship if you value financial stability.

Time becomes a real commodity when you’re running your business. This is even more challenging when you have young children. You learn to manage your time better to balance business needs and family time, but it’s not easy.

Over the past decade, I have worked most Saturdays to catch up on work, attend events, or a combination of both. My co-founder also does that, though he sometimes prefers working on Sunday to Saturday. If you value your weekends, don’t start your own business. While breaks are important and some may think the boss has unlimited leave, it is not as easy as it seems.

In fact, try not to think so much about personal time. It may come…eventually. But from my experience, this could be years or even decades down the road. I see some workers burn out after a few years of working hard. If that’s the case, then its best to rethink entrepreneurship.

About personal time. Here are some things that work for me. For context, I have been working on DollarsAndSense full-time for about nine years + an additional three years on a passion project basis after university. I also have three young kids.

– Try to wake up early if you can. It’s not easy, as Singapore is already an hour ahead of our actual GMT (i.e., if you wake up at 6 a.m. SGT, it’s actually 5 a.m.). But if you can wake up at least at 6 a.m. or earlier, you can sneak in a half-hour run/workout before the kids get up.

– Go to the gym during lunch or right after work. Make sure the gym is near where you need it to be.

I work from home about two days a week, so I schedule all the meetings and strategise in the two to three days I am in the office. I catch up with people at lunch, dinner, or morning kopi. I rarely eat at my desk.

Learn To Enjoy Solving Problems

Running a business means solving one problem after another. Everyone’s problem becomes yours, and many will expect you to solve (at least some parts of) it for them. Having a good team helps, but ultimately, the responsibility is still yours, and ignoring work-related problems may only make them worse.

In my opinion, stress will always be there, so the goal should be to solve good problems (e.g., how to plan a campaign that a client wants to invest in, how to convince someone we really want to join us) and avoid bad problems (e.g., why the office air conditioning is broken again, why the intern isn’t showing up for work). Generally, you increase your company’s value when you solve good problems and learn how to avoid bad ones.

Dealing with Failure & Loneliness

This is the hardest part to talk about. It’s easy to embrace success but harder to accept failure. Starting a business means learning how to fail and getting used to rejection. You will make mistakes as a leader and business owner, and people will always question your leadership. The answer lies somewhere in between. You will make both good and poor decisions. Avoid thinking in either extreme. Chances are that you are not a perfect leader, but neither are you a bad leader either.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. While having co-founders helps because you have at least one person on the journey who can connect with you, it can still be isolating. Despite having many connections and followers on LinkedIn, few people would truly relate to what you’re experiencing.

Loving What You Do

One thing that helps is truly loving what you do. Running a business means dealing with many tasks that nobody else wants to do. You must manage the payroll, deal with HR issues, manage monthly cash flow, and ensure your company’s annual corporate filings are timely. All this is only worth it if it allows you to do what you love.

So, focus on what you are truly passionate about and work on it. There will be problems, failures, and difficult days. But with passion, perseverance, and a little luck, you might somehow achieve what you set out to do.

If you want financial success, time freedom, and opportunities, you should find a good job with the right company. 

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