Start-up Confidential: Not letting ‘entrepreneur’ media myth put you off

Why making the decision to start a business is the hardest part and what you should do with media myths and naysayers

Protected by the cloak of anonymity, Start-up Confidential is the younger sibling of our very own Secret Entrepreneur. Unlike our pseudonym-shrouded entrepreneur, this business owner started their very first business in 2012 after years of working for others.

You might think they’d want to tell the world about their service sector firm – and they would like to. But they’ve also got tales that would undoubtedly rile previous employers and pop the eyes of clients and suppliers. What they have to say will genuinely help those of you starting up or dealing with the many hurdles business throws at you.

So, our secret start-up will submit regular columns on topics like starting a business while working for someone else, wheedling out the best accountant, the most tax-efficient way to pay yourself and many other juicy topics. This week: why the media myth of the entrepreneur shouldn’t put you off taking a leap into the unknown.

“Talk to anyone who runs their own business about what they enjoy most and they are likely to tell you the same things: freedom to do things your way, being answerable only to your customers and your people, growing something of value and, of course, reaping the all the rewards for yourself.

Put like that, if you aren’t afraid of hard work, challenge and leading from the front, starting your own business has to be the best career choice you can make.

What’s not to like? Now that I am running my own business I can assure you it’s very little.

But when I look back to before I started my business, the one thing that still bugs me is the amount of time and energy I spent dwelling on reasons why I shouldn’t just go ahead and take the leap rather than just doing it. Thinking about this experience now, I realise I could have done it much sooner. I am sure many others pre-start-up find themselves in the same situation. So to help fast track those plans here are three things I think anyone thinking about starting a business has to accept:

1) You need to get over the career fixation

Most of us have it drummed into us from an early age that a job is something else that other people provide for us, good careers are hard won and only fools throw them away. It’s a mind-set which makes it harder to jump off career ladder and into the unknown – particularly as you get older. Of course, this is a con and many of us end up trapped working in jobs for people who leave us treading water. The trick is to think about what you can gain by starting your business, not what you might lose by leaving your current employer.

2) It will never be the right time

In the time before I started my own business there seemed to be loads of other reasons why I should put it off. The excuses mainly came from the stuff life was throwing up: the mortgage, the kids, my partner, getting a business plan, having a team and, of course, having enough money. What I realise now is that it is all too easy to tell yourself the time isn’t quite right. The truth is it will never be the perfect moment and things could well get worse. So if you have a business in you, then you owe it to yourself to just get on with it and make it happen.

3) Don’t be misled by the cult of the entrepreneur

Today, entrepreneurial role models are all around us. But as much as they inspire, they can mislead about what life as an owner-manager is like. Look at many of today’s entrepreneurs in the media and you see a touch of the Gordon Gekko: people who think lunch is for wimps; sleep is a time-waster, social life should be about business while family and weekends should fall by the wayside. It is hard not to ask yourself if you will ever really measure up to these people and whether your own plans – which probably don’t extend to world domination through a bleeding edge digital platform and multiple venture capital fund-raising rounds – are a bit too modest to warrant the risk of going it alone. The truth is successful start-ups are the ones who focus on doing things their own way and don’t really give a damn about the rest. So forget the stereotypes, believe in your own way of doing things and have the confidence to see it through – the beauty of running your own business is there are no rules.

Of course, one you are through the other side, running a business is no walk in the park – there are sideswipes and challenges on a near daily basis. But as someone who has recently moved from idea to start-up, I now realise that making the decision to start a business in the first place is actually the toughest part: the rest is just hard work – and fun.”

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