It can be easy to kid yourself when you’re an entrepreneur. But being able to be honest and confront the little fibs and fabrications you feed yourself can be the key to fending off failure
The mainstream media is filled with stories from successful entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, who admits to couch surfing when he ran out of money. But while these stories of dramatic success are great for inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs, they often don’t really publicise the reality of launching a startup. As a result, they tend to make it easier for entrepreneurs to fool themselves and ignore when there’s an obvious lesson staring them in the face. Here are ten of the most egregious lies we tell ourselves.
I don’t need a co-founder
Launching a company is difficult and stressful – there are, after all, many stressors at play – so most investors want at least two founders per startup. And while this may add to your worries to begin with – finding a co-founder who shares your vision can be tricky and the fit needs to be just right to ensure a smooth working relationship for the indefinite future – they will take some of the load off your shoulders in the long run. So you might not feel you need a co-founder but you should want one.
My product will change the world
Ah the entrepreneurial spirit. A wonderful thing but how many startups have actually changed the world? Bent it, yes perhaps – but caused it to do a full 180-degree turn? I can’t think of any. Companies like Uber and Facebook did not create a new need – we always wanted to get cabs or keep up-to-date with friends – they just made it easier. In fact, the nearest thing to changing human behaviour was Pokémon Go and even that only managed to get people out of their homes and catching and battling for a single summer.
I’m ready for investment
Show me the money! I thought I was ready for investment six months ago – now I realise that I won’t be ready for a first investment tranche until early 2018. It’s imperative you understand this because if you throw money at a startup too early, you’re destined for failure. Here’s a whole bunch of them. Which takes me onto my next little lie...
Spending money makes money
Money might make the world go round and you do need a funding pipeline whether that’s from sales or investors to get going – although preferably the former. But if you think spending will automatically create a sales funnel and generate income for your company then you need to stop, now. You need to fully understand where your money is coming from and where it needs to go. Spend yes. But waste? No.
I don’t have any competitors
This is probably the worst thing you can say in a pitch. If you really don’t have any competition then where is your market? If there’s no competition then surely you don’t have a product people want, which is why no one else is creating anything similar. Don’t ever tell yourself this tale – you do have competitors and you need to be able to identify them if you want to be taken seriously.
I'm actually productive when I work from home
Some people are amazingly productive when working from home but most of us aren’t – especially when it’s 24/7. Thankfully there are loads of productivity hacks out there. I find exercise the best motivator to start the day but here are some hacks some well-known entrepreneurs use. And, if they don’t work for you, try these ones instead.
I’m building something people want
This is the most dangerous lie an entrepreneur can tell themselves. Building something no one wants is the main cause of startup failure. It takes a lot of time to test and validate an idea but if you really value your idea, you can’t skip or rush this part. If you’re reading this and are worried you might have fallen into the trap of building something no-one wants, check out this blog.
Mental health is a subject not often discussed with regards to entrepreneurship. On a single day, you can go from happy and excited, to nervous, anxious, scared, tired or angry – the list really does go on. Your head is constantly going through a whirlwind of emotions where you find yourself doubting if you’re really good enough or capable enough to do this one minute and the next blocking these feelings out and telling yourself you’re fine – you just need that next customer and everything will be alright. Talk to someone. Whether that’s a therapist, a peer or even your dog, you’ll feel much better when you realise you’re not alone. We’re all in the same boat and it’s a rough ride until you’ll see land again.
I’ll do those boring admin jobs tomorrow
Most people hate admin. I hate admin. Do you know when most people do admin? When they’re putting off a big important job – and, even then, it’s only the small admin jobs they’ll do. Something big like updating the books? Yeah, fat chance. That’ll be done 24 to 48 hours before the deadline. Or after.
I need to have everything set up from day one
You categorically do not need everything in place from the word go – in fact, you can’t have everything in place before you start. Startups are small and agile, they’re able to react and change immediately according to customer feedback, which is their competitive advantage over larger corporates. It’s because of this that whatever you start out with will almost certainly not be what you end up with – and that’s a good thing! The development process relies on testing and adapting. Otherwise you’ll simply be another startup launching another product that nobody wants – see lie number seven.
Irrational belief in your idea is essential for any founder but you must keep at least a toe grounded in reality. Without understanding why and how failure can happen you won’t be able to at least try to avoid it.
There’s no secret ingredient that will make your startup a success – you might fail simply because you’ve launched too early for the market and we need those companies for new tech to breakthrough and become mainstream. But what you can do is prepare yourself along the way so when a big hurdle surfaces you can clear it; if you are too early then you can spot it and put the brakes on rather than burning through yours and other’s money, energy and reputations.
Preparation is key so take the bull by its horns and knock those hurdles down as they come. If you’re thinking about launching a startup, then understand how important this is and also how emotionally challenging it will be. But it’s absolutely worth it for the journey so don’t forget to enjoy yourself too.