Blood, Sweat and Tears

No…this is not about the rock group, even though I loved them. It’s about entrepreneurs and all the blood, sweat and tears they put into dreams that fail 80% of the time.

If you are an entrepreneur, you’ll get this. If you’re thinking about being one, you should read this.

I’ve been one (actually more than one) since I was 29 years old. That was…oh…let’s just say…a long time ago. In fact, you might call me a “serial entrepreneur”. I also have many friends who are entrepreneurs; and I’ve worked with a whole bunch of entrepreneurs. So I know a lot about them.

Entrepreneurs are a very special breed. Risk takers (almost always). Leaders (not always). Smart (usually). Talented (often). Ambitious (undoubtedly). A little crazy (ahem). Control-freaks (perhaps). Tired. Energized. Work addicts. Determined. Independent. You get the picture.

Or they just don’t want to work for someone else.

But here’s the thing: they ARE working for someone else: their customers, their clients, their employees if they have them, their families if they have one. And here’s the other thing: no one, and I mean NO ONE has all of those good qualities I mentioned above.  Even if you’re smart and talented, there is no way you know or are good at everything you need in order to be successful running your own business.

So let’s say you are really smart or talented. Or both. That gets you to thinking “Hey, I could go out there and do this on my own and do it as good as or better than the people I’m working for.” Or “Hey this is an absolutely brilliant idea for a product—it can’t help but be a success—I’m gonna make millions—I can do this, what’s so tough?”.

Am I right?

And that’s just the kind of thinking that can get you into trouble. Has gotten lots of entrepreneurs into trouble. Got me into trouble for sure. But maybe you’re smarter than most.  If you are, you’ve challenged the “on your own” aspect of being an entrepreneur. I don’t necessarily mean bringing in a partner, but I do mean bringing in someone—partner, employee, consultant—who can help you see the things you can’t see and perhaps help you with those things. Or put you in touch with the people who can help you with those things you just don’t understand or know.

Because you don’t know what you don’t know. And that is ultimately the downfall of most entrepreneurs.

Take me for instance: I know creative, I know marketing, I know ideas, I had an incredible capacity for work and grit like you wouldn’t believe. But I didn’t know the financial side of running a business. I didn’t understand the cycles of one of the businesses I started. So I got into trouble pretty quickly and never really recovered. And it eventually cost me a very dear dream. Granted, the economy played a big role, but had I not gotten into trouble from the get-go, I probably could have weathered it.

I could go on and on, but the lesson behind this is that if you’re going to put it all on the line for a new business of your own, get out there and talk to others who’ve done something like it. Find out what they wish they’d known. Find out the tough stuff—the stuff you just don’t want to face or think about because you’re so enamored with your idea. There are lots of people and organizations who are willing to help—often for free. And then there are the pros who you can pay to help you with the stuff you just can’t do well enough to make your business a success. Hire them. It’s worth it if you can save a lot of that blood, sweat and tears.