Entrepreneurship. It’s a term that’s almost become synonymous with freedom and ambition. And whilst we’re bombarded with things to look out for and be aware of when launching a business, we rarely hear about the things that might not quite turn out as we expect! So, here are our top 5 things we recommend you don’t expect when starting out on your own:
1.The universe to align
For some people, the thought of leaving steady paid employment can be a big hurdle to clear. Life gets in the way: changes in living costs, relationships and other uncertainty can derail your glowing business idea before you even get going.
This might come as good or bad news, but there’s never a perfect time to launch. Trust your gut – it’s likely you’ll know when it feels like the wrong time or opportunity, but there’s no guarantee of a sign that it’ll feel right.
We had our first conversations about launching Provius whilst working on a project for another business. This is how many businesses start – especially digital businesses – with likeminded people looking to break out on their own. It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of a ‘happy path’, where the universe aligns, where your new customers will be onboard and your notice periods will synchronise – but in reality this rarely happens.
We love a good start-up success story. But whilst business owners will rarely tell you negative stories, statistics show that only 44% of new businesses last more than 5 years.
This isn’t meant to panic you or put you off! But it’s worth bearing in mind, and approaching your business with both a short-term mindset, as well as simultaneously building the long-term vision.
Here’s how we at Provius see it: every day and every month that we’re in business, we learn and we grow. And should we need to go back to full-time employment one day, we’ll be far better for the experience, and draw upon these experiences when working for our new employers.
3.Someone to do all the boring stuff for you
It’s nice to think we can just ‘pay away the pain’ and get someone else to do the boring / painful / time-consuming work for you, but for most start-ups, it’s hard to do this without spending more money than is necessary and becoming reliant on services you probably didn’t need.
Admin is the least glamorous part of running your own business, but it’s undeniably important. In our experience, both cheap advice is expensive and expensive advice is expensive. When it came to accounting, we learned the hard way that by taking on some of the admin ourselves, we were much more informed about our business, and were able to save money in the right places and spend money on advice where it was most important.
At Provius, we use Xero for all of our bookkeeping and payroll, and use Tide – a modern, digital business account. This combination of Tide and Xero allows us to capture and tag all of our receipts in the app, and then reconcile them directly to Xero. We’ve been able to keep our admin tasks to a minimum, whilst maintaining a good understanding of what we can and should do with our money.
4.Investors to throw themselves at you
There are plenty of startup newsletters and bulletin boards with daily news of startups who have raised capital, likely at levels of capital you can only dream of when planning your new business. But whilst it can seem like there is unlimited money available to invest in your ideas, the truth is that investment can be a mirage. Like a mirage in the desert, you may end up spending your time and money never to reach the investment on the horizon.
Many small businesses do need an injection of cash to help them reach viability, and good staff come with a market value that they cannot drop simply to support your idea or new business. So it’s a good idea to prove your concept as quickly and cheaply as possible – perhaps even before setting up your company – and then to start having conversations about financing with the right people as early as possible.
5.An easy mental journey
The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” has been around for decades. And for most people starting a new business, it can be just as lonely. Paid employment, especially in large organisations can be comforting, and you’re surrounded by colleagues and peers who often share your values and are in similar positions in life. When you become an entrepreneur, you’ll likely lose all of that. It’s tough – and clients can’t be expected to fill the void of colleagues.
You can find companionship in other entrepreneurs and small business owners, who you may come across at coworking spaces, shared offices or start-up meetups. Reach out to your friends and family for support, or sign up to some of the great services like Sanctus, who are bringing coaching and mental health to the workplace.
Ben Kamara, Co-founder of Provius