You: the Entrepreneur
There are many factors that need to align in order to start, then sustain a business. The challenge for those of us considering this path is that there is no formula and there are nearly as many paths to entrepreneurship as there are entrepreneurs. Having said that, I'll add my voice to the chorus. In 2017 I started BlackRiver Equity Partners which raises capital from investors in order to buy apartments and turn them profitable. In March of 2021 I quit my corporate job to focus full time on real estate and to start a second business in the single family residential space. Below are things I’ve learned along the way.
There's risk in maintaining your status quo.
I was told by a former corporate colleague that she couldn't do what I was doing because of the risks of going out on my own. I think she was commenting casually but it stuck with me because I realized that the security of working at a blue-chip corporation is an illusion. Disruption and extinction are ever-present forces in business - your job is safe until it's not. Hence, I've concluded that people in comfortable corporate jobs can overestimate their job security and find themselves in difficult positions when they're laid off, especially if they failed to create a backup plan. Yes, I took on a lot of risk by going out on my own but realize that your job may be riskier than is immediately apparent. Kodak, Enron, the Dot Com Bust: these things will never stop occurring.
Entrepreneurs must love what they're doing.
I've never met an entrepreneur who was lukewarm about their business. In fact I think it's a prerequisite to be obsessed. By contrast, I can't think of one person who was obsessively engaged with their job at my previous corporate employer. If you're in a corporate job and planning to leave to start a business, ask yourself whether you're crazy about the venture. If you're not, you need to stay at the job until you figure out what it is that will be exciting enough to motivate you to risk the money and time to start from zero. Case in point: in my two businesses there is a large amount of administrative work and yet for some reason I don't mind it nearly as much as I hated it at my corporate job. Purpose and passion change your perspective. Loving your work is what will get you through the tough times.
Entrepreneurs have greater control and accountability.
At my prior employer I used to run into a long-time upper manager a couple times a week at the coffee machine. I can reasonably guess based on her tenure and position that she was paid at least three times the median household income for Americans. And yet she'd predictably say with a sigh, "Well, it's another Monday!" I think her mindset is so pervasive that her weekly platitude is as unsurprising as it is common. The commonness of disengagement should be of great concern to people who want to run effective organizations. Also, if money doesn't make Monday more exciting, what does?
One of the most demotivating things that can happen at work is having to do things that don’t add value. Yet in my experience it is common that an organization’s highest priority is to avoid going against the current of bureaucratic inertia. In fact, this is often a higher priority than improving the business. As a result, you are robbed of agency in order to serve a useless god that won’t even help itself. Why innovate if the company won’t recognize you for it? Why work hard when rewards are divorced from performance? You’ve got little incentive, accountability or control but at least you’re part of a herd. Not all companies are like this, but every company can be like this.
As an entrepreneur this is all turned on its head. Every single decision must be evaluated in the context of improving the business – you are entirely accountable for every success, failure, profit and loss. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be prepared for complete accountability and control.
I hope that considering these three topics will help clarify your future plans. Best of luck to you!