By Ismail Abdur-Rahman, CEO iVIBES
I'm sure you all know the parable, "The Carrot, The Egg, and The Coffee Bean," so I won't rehash it in the post (click here to read the story). However, I would like to share with you how this looks in real life.
As an entrepreneur, as in life, you will be faced with challenges. Often. If this realization is a deterrent, then you might want to consider alternatives to entrepreneurship; perhaps the assumed job security of the corporate world might be more to you liking, in that case. For the true entrepreneurial spirit, on the other hand, challenges are merely opportunities to prove how powerful the determination to achieve our goals really is, how badly we want it.
I'm sure you know that 95% of startups fail. Additionally, for every 10 startups that receive venture capital funding, 9 fail (which is why it's so difficult for many startups to find VC funding - risk tolerance is precarious, at best). To top it off, the average 'successful' entrepreneur has had at least 6 failed startup attempts before succeeding.
So what does it all mean?
I once had a client who walked into my office with a very self-assured attitude. He was convinced that his pedigree of education and his family's generational wealth would make him a successful entrepreneur. It wasn't a huge problem at first, as there is little point in pursuing something if you don't have confidence in yourself. However, the red flags showed up by our third meeting. He'd previously had a feasibility study done, and, honestly, it was garbage. The numbers were bogus, and the market synopsis was wildly inaccurate. In and of itself, the feasibility study wouldn't have been that big a deal, but it created grossly unrealistic expectations for my client, and when I told him the truth about the problems in the document, he demurred.
Fast forward nearly a year later: reality smacked my client in the face. Hard. He didn't take my advice, and he followed a marketing strategy crafted by the same individual who wrote the feasibility study. As a result, he was never able to gain traction in the market, and he spent all of his seed money before he was able to generate significant revenue. I tried to get him to pivot and exploit a clear market gap, but he was so beaten down by the struggle for success that he gave up trying to be an entrepreneur, and he settled for a full-time job working as a customer service agent. He says he's done with the startup life.
A different client had similar difficulty dealing with speed bumps on the road to success. Once a very bright and creative mind, she had visions of changing the world with her business. Because she held a premium on ideas rather than execution, she turned down collaborative opportunities with other entrepreneurs in her space, losing the potential synergy that could have taken place and allowed her to gain market penetration more readily. Unfortunately, she hadn't expected that her market would be flooded with creatives who had the same ideas, and she eventually began to harbor resentment of other entrepreneurs, paranoid that they were out to ruin her business. Unlike the carrot, she is still working on her business, but her paranoia over intellectual property theft has consigned her to working on her business solo - she won't hire employees or outsource parts of any of her projects, causing her to sometimes miss delivery deadlines and compromising her reputation in the process.
A Coffee Bean
A friend of mine decided to try to turn his hobby of reading into a business, so he started a book publishing company. Unlike the carrot and the egg, he started with absolutely no seed money, so he bootstrapped the business by taking on part-time jobs that allowed him to save enough money to get started a couple of years later. Obviously, there is no shortage of book publishers in the market, but he remained undeterred. He took a few short courses to learn the skills he would need in order to perform most of the tasks himself, and he collaborated with a few mid-sized publishers in order to learn from their experience while creating brand awareness for his company. With lots of patience and, more importantly, determination against the challenges of starting his own company, my friend was eventually able to develop his business to the point that not only do other companies seek him out for collaboration, but he has also received M&A offers in the past couple of years.
Which One Are You?
Let's face it: if it were easy to be an entrepreneur, everyone would do it. The reality is that if you decide to become an entrepreneur, you will struggle. You will lose money. You will fail. Often. You will give up sleep. You will be rejected. But, with the right mix of a problem-solving product or service, an innovative business model, and a work ethic that is ingrained in your DNA, you can eventually overcome the obstacles that lie on the path to entrepreneurial success. You just need to go beast mode to go after your dreams.