So, you’ve had ‘the big idea’. You have dedicated a large portion of your life to your new-found goals, and by now may have even received some investment to boot. To an outsider, you’re living the life of Riley – you’ve made it, you’re laughing all the way to the bank, etc, etc. Right? Wrong!
Being an entrepreneur in any business sector comes with huge risks, and these don’t just disappear once your business gets going. If anything, these risks are magnified and multiplied as the new venture gains momentum.
I want to share with you my five biggest fears while on the road to a successful business; you may relate to some or all of them:
1. Running out of cash
By far the scariest thing I can remember is running (and I mean completely running) out of cash. I was lucky enough never to have to inform the staff that they would not be getting paid, but I came extremely close on a few occasions. One moment that, will stay with me forever was having only an hour (ONE HOUR!) to spare before payroll and being saved at the eleventh hour by some clients, fortunately, making payment. Bullet dodged, for that month at least. But I still felt like I was teetering on a knife edge from time to time. Certainly my biggest learning curve as a business owner was cash-flow – on the whole it is never as good as you think it is.
2. Hiring staff
Hiring an employee is really scary stuff! No matter how many interviews, evaluations and assessments you do, realistically you won’t know if someone is a ‘good fit’ for around six months. I have had employees who had a tough start but ended up being rock stars, invaluable assets to the company. Conversely, I have had new starters who arrived as rock stars (by mine or their own perception) who ended up departing on somewhat bad terms after disastrous mismatching of personality, required roles and work ethic.
3. Firing staff
Hiring? Scary. Firing? Even scarier! Unless you are an inherently unkind person (a few choice words spring to mind), you are unlikely to enjoy telling someone they no longer have a job. However, in some cases it is unavoidable. To deal with these situations with the best possible balance between fact and tact is key. This fact/tact balance enables you to clearly communicate all the tangible barriers to them, continuing to work for you while remaining professional and civil.
Avoiding removing problematic staff simply because it is scary can have a negative effect on the staff you DO want to retain. In many cases, the remaining staff appreciate that people who are not contributing to the team effort are removed.
4. Getting outflanked
I remember vividly the day when I was told that one of my competitors had been purchased by none other than Google (you may have heard of them). It truly was an “oh sh*t” moment. If you are a startup and are bootstrapping your business, the last thing you want is to be pitched against a competitor who has unlimited cash and influence. In this instance, the acquisition actually worked in our favour, as Google decided to ‘Sunset’ the product that was in direct competition with ours, (this means they ultimately had the product ‘disappear’). Fist pump moment!
5. Going on holiday
I remember in the early days, I would dread going on holiday. It was the furthest thing from the relaxing retreat it was designed to be. It felt like losing my phone – but a billion times worse. I was cut off from the world and would not be able to deal with a potential crisis, should one happen.
I have experienced enough real and imagined crises to tell you it’s no fun being unable to firefight and manage the situation. That said, there comes a point when things become more structured, the mechanics of the business become more predictable day to day, you have trusted senior staff who can handle even fairly major hiccups, and you can confidently go on holiday and switch off your phone! When this day arrives, you may just be ready to sell your business, as you may no longer be needed!
No owner of that coveted title ‘self-made success’ will tell you that the road to their success was smooth. They will tell you it was fraught with hairpin bends, steep downward turns, surprise junctions and an often overwhelming feeling of fear! The key is to embrace that fear and use it as part of the driving force and momentum behind the growth of your business.