To Start or Not Start a Business?
We’ve all heard about Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week and can imagine ourselves lounging on a beach somewhere with a constant flow of margaritas while the money just rolls into our bank accounts, because of the small fortune we’ve made from our small businesses. But the truth is, it takes a lot more than 4-hours per week, and it might not ever be a fortune. However, there are still more pros than cons to starting a business.
So we’ll start with the cons:
Say good-bye to your 40-hour work week. I know I already mentioned Mr. Ferriss, but I just think it’s an insane promise. The idea of anything less than a 70-hour work week (and that’s with a little bit of a personal life) when starting a business is just not real. I’ve watched my mother who’s obsessed with the dream of lessening her work hours work even harder and longer hours than ever before, just reaching for that carrot.
The reason you work more hours is because you wear more hats. You might be the accountant from 7am-10am, the VP of sales from 10am-3pm, the HR director from 3pm-5pm, and the janitor from 5pm-7pm. And you’re always on. Even on the weekends, when you’re watching Netflix (and you sincerely shouldn’t even be watching Netflix), you’re responding to client emails and crafting blogs.
Cash flow will be a challenge for a long time. I sometimes think that because we bootstrapped Knit, we have it harder than most, but it’s not true. I’ve been able to keep my personal and business expenses low, so our cash needs haven’t been insane. But they still exist. We’re regularly counting pennies between pay periods to make sure that everyone on our team is paid. This isn’t easier for bigger companies either. Remember, like the Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy said, “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” VC backed startups have bigger expenses and are expected to spend their money to grow, so even though they’re raising round after round, even they’ll run into cash flow problems.
Be prepared to question your sanity on a regular basis. At the next holiday party, when your friends who did all the right things – went to college, got a decent job, and started a family are just bitching about whatever Roberta at work said, you’ll wonder why you willingly put yourself in a position to have bigger things to worry about than silly Roberta. You’ll start to wonder if you should be medicated or if you should go to group therapy. And maybe you should. In fact, I’ve needed lots of “therapy” from fellow entrepreneurs just to keep remotely sane and remember that I’m not the only crazy one out trying to make the world a better place through my business.
So why start a business?
Because you don’t have to give a shit about what Roberta at work said. You’ll have no time for petty complaints or frustrations. You’re building something way more important than that and you just can’t waste your energy getting your feelings hurt. It’s liberating to realize the world is so much bigger than the dumb stuff you used to complain about with your colleagues. Oh, and an added bonus, you might even start to really respect your former bosses. You’ll begin to empathize with fellow founders and better understand their crazy antics, because you too now have your own set of crazy antics.
You get to make your own schedule. Ok it might be more than 4 hours of work per week, but you get decide when and where and with whom you work (and what you’re wearing). If you’re not making any progress, you go for a run and when you’re in the middle of an uninterruptible project, you just keep working. I don’t mind working longer hours or having to work on the weekends because I’m choosing how I spend my time and I get to do what I love. Making your own schedule is a hugely underrated luxury. (Side note, Israel, my husband, always refers to my time in the Peace Corps as when I was “poor,” but I always say that’s the wealthiest I’ve been, because I was doing what I wanted and had time to enjoy life. It has nothing to do with money, but that’s wealth.)
You get to do what you love. You chose this entrepreneurial life, so you better love what you’re doing day and night, and if you don’t love it, you have the freedom to try something different. You get to wake up each day and decide to make the world a better place in the way that moves you. If you’re a puppy lover, maybe you develop a business around animals. If you’re an environmentalist, you can create a business to turn waste into usable goods. The point is, it’s up to you!
You get to work with whoever you want. I’ve made many great friends in my past jobs, lifelong friendships even. So this is not to say that you won’t make friends in any workplace. But of all my work relationships, none have been as meaningful to me as the ones I have at Knit Marketing. I have personally hand picked each of the people that I’ve been blessed to work beside and I love getting to know their hopes and dreams for the future and watching them blossom into little marketers!
You have the potential to build something great. I suppose this is the same as doing what you love, but it takes it a step further. You get to make a difference. I can now say that I’ve provided a job opportunity that didn’t exist before to 7 people. That’s pretty sweet! That’s what I set out to do, and that’s what we’re doing. I hope to be offering 100s of jobs at some point, but it’s great to be able to look back and see that even in the first few years, I’ve been able to create something new, and with that, expand a few opportunities to our team.
But wait a second…
If you’re wondering about starting a new business and I’ve helped to convince you that there are more good things than bad things about being an entrepreneur, let me just offer a couple pieces of advice.
Two years ago, if you found yourself on the fence about whether or not to start a business, I would have told you just to go for it. However, I’ve learned that haste in fact, does make waste. I would still recommend to anyone with even an ounce of an entrepreneurial drive to take a chance toward their goals, but I would advise being careful about it. Stay at your day job, until your new business needs you more than 6 hours a day. You should be working on your startup at least from 6pm-12am every weekday and every minute of your weekend, before you consider taking the plunge.
Save money from your day job for yourself, not just for your business. You’ll need to put money into your business as well, but make sure you have 6 months – 1 year of personal financial runway before you go all in on your dream. On the same note, be extremely scrappy with business expenses. If you can get away with working from your apartment or a coffee shop, don’t spend money on an office or coworking space. You need to think of fixed expenses as something you earn as a business as you grow, instead of something you need in order to grow. If it doesn’t bring you money, you don’t need it to make you grow.
The pros of starting and running a business clearly outway the cons, but if you’re not careful you’ll soon see your business as the reason that you have no social life and no money, and you’ll curse your own entrepreneurial spirit for wanting to just make a difference in the world. So, just be strategic, work harder than you’ve ever worked, and be patient. Working your day job and your startup sucks, but it will be worse if you have to close your new business because you didn’t plan accordingly. It’s certainly not a 4-hour work week, but the payoff of building your dream life and business is priceless.