Harsh realities of being your own boss

Last week I saw this tweet on my timeline — “Have not had a vacation for three years, tell my why I should celebrate entrepreneurship?”. A very frustrated twenty-something was complaining to whoever would listen about his recent introduction to the hard reality of being your own boss.

I am not sure if you should feel his pain and sympathise, or blame him for jumping into the deep end of the sea with wrong expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of my time evangelising for people to do what they want to do, and not what they have to do — my definition of ‘retirement’.

A lot of glamorous words are used for this state of mind, including entrepreneurship and being in a start-up. I have been blamed to be one of the few people in the world, asking for Techcrunch to be banned by TRA in the quest to create a real start-up eco-system in the region.

The gasp of shock that follows is intended. I am in complete support of freedom of speech and choice, but the lack of local knowledge, local support and role models makes our promising young idea-people to look for more mainstream and international sources and expect the same ground rules here.

Nothing could be further from the truth as it stands here. Setting up a small business here is synonymous with a strong and regular doses of hard knocks. Besides running all around to set up a cost-effective base and getting the first few co-workers, there are an unending number of small, but irritating, procedural issues to keep you busy.

Staying focused
Once you have found the resources, paid the cash deposits (and postdated cheques) to guarantee your up-front commitment to pay the powers that be, you may begin to do what you set out to do. But then, we seem to be digressing.

Let’s go back to our friend and his quest to reach success in his chosen mission of doing a successful start-up. The truth is that a start-up is nothing but a small business like any other and has the same pressures of making ends meet.

Many, in their pursuit of the great idea, forget that the venture has to make financial sense in the first place. That an idea is cool is no barometer for a business to be successful.

The venture has to be based on solid fundamentals and sound market research. The need to generate revenue and to get to a stable footing is essential. Any and all investment into the start-up will be based on its financial potential, and not just the promise.

It would be unreasonable to underestimate the sheer hard yards required to create a successful start-up at any time, leave alone in a recessionary economy.

From failure to success
It is usually a lonely trudge in a dark tunnel for the team that decides to put its faith in its idea and embarks on the path of entrepreneurship. But this step is taken with open eyes and not for the faint-hearted. Competition is severe and the race ruthless and failure has a greater probability than success.

So it’s not unusual to find driven people focusing more on proving a point rather than building something of long-term value.

A far more important requirement in such an environment is to form a formidable team of key people and co-founders, something that is invaluable and provides for the knowledge and management bandwidth required to go past hurdles which are bound to be many.

A frequent reason for failure at this juncture is the so-called “one pillar” venture, too dependent upon a single individual, with the rest being a “hired” team. A single bout of pressure or simply burning out of the main individual may spell disaster.

So, another promising venture dies a premature death, just because the entrepreneur thought he was superman.

So, before you reach this point, let better sense prevail. Go and find yourself some worthy partners and mentors, even if it is just to share the dark, lonely trudge through the wilderness of Planet Entrepreneurship.

This article originally appeared on Gulf News.