Over a year ago, I answered the call to leave the corporate world to start my own business. Since then I have launched my business, changed the entire company, hired multiple employees, and raised an initial round of funding.
When I started my business, I thought I fully understood what I was getting into, but I now know how wrong I was. Looking back, I wouldn’t undo my decision to leave corporate America. However, there are a few things I wish I had known before making the decision to start my own business. Whether you are thinking of starting a new business or you are already living the dream, here is a list of five things that I wish I had known before I started my own business.
1. Many Will Offer, Few Will Help
Being an entrepreneur has never been cooler than it is today. When people hear about your decision to strike out on your own, you’ll get a lot of people who say they want to help. However, in reality, almost none of them will. They may not know how to help or they are just making an empty offer. What you’ll find is that the few who are willing to help out. These individuals will provide specific ways in which they think they can be helpful.
Take them up on their offers. Don’t waste your time with non-specific offers to help. And, don’t be surprised if their kindness brings you to tears. There have been quite a few times I’ve been so incredibly touched by a friend’s help, that I got to a point when they almost became uncomfortable by how much I was thanking them.
2. Find a Co-Founder
This might be difficult, and you shouldn’t let this stop you from chasing your dreams. However, life will be so much easier when you have someone in the bunkers with you.
As a founder, you have to learn a thousand new things. Every day comes with new challenges. Having a co-founder can buoy your spirits. It feels good to share the seemingly endless amounts of work and pressure with another person who knows what you’re going through.
If you are unable to find the right person to join you on your journey, find other like-minded individuals. These are the people you can call and ask questions or vent to when you have a bad day.
I spoke with several potential co-founders, but none were able to make the financial and time-based commitments necessary to get the business going. However, I also have a select group of friends working on their own businesses. I turn to them when I have questions or just need someone to talk with.
3. Pivot Faster
You start your business with a specific idea about how to fix the problem you hope to solve. However, it isn’t realistic if you think you’ll nail the concept on day one. You’ll need to adjust your plans not once, not twice, but many times.
Be humble enough to recognize that you are going to need to make some pretty big course corrections along the way. The faster you pivot, the faster you’ll reach your final destination.
After making my first hire, we had expected we’d see results pretty quickly, but we didn’t. I started thinking I might need to fire the employee, so we wouldn’t be burning through cash.
However, I kept reminding myself that I hired this person because they fit the culture we are building. They have the right skillset, they are doing the work, and we need to trust that results will follow. Results may not have come quite as quickly as we’d like, but not being rash and trusting my decision and my team’s commitment has been essential to making the progress that is setting us up for our future success.
5. Enjoy the Ride
Starting a business is stressful. You likely won’t be taking a paycheck at first. You may even spend your own money to get your first version up and running. Entrepreneurs are the head of public relations, marketing, development, operations, business development, accounting, finance, and probably have even more responsibilities outside of your new venture.
Stress is going to be your new best friend, but joy isn’t far behind. I spent two years as a missionary for my church and there were days filled with people slamming doors in my face, yelling at me, or occasionally unleashing their dogs on me. A friend of mine told me, “You always have to look for the good parts of your day, even if the only thing you have to hold onto is the cheeseburger you had for lunch. Life’s too short not to enjoy the rollercoaster ride.”
If you are thinking of taking the leap to start your own business, go for it. You’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish and how kind others will be. Keep your head up and make today the first day of the rest of your life.
James Green is the Founder and CEO of Offer To Close. This company is a transaction management platform that makes the home-buying process simple and transparent for homesumers (i.e. buyers and sellers) and real estate agents. Prior to starting Offer To Close, James spent a decade as the General Manager and Head of Marketing at Spark Networks. There, he helped turn Christian Mingle into one of the largest and fastest-growing dating sites.