The no BS truth about what it’s like to start a company
I always hear, and read articles about, people talking about how glamorous, fulfilling, and liberating it is to become an entrepreneur. People assume that when you become an entrepreneur you freely set your own schedule, wake up whenever you want, vacation (travel) often, and have a ton of money. Sometimes, that is true. But not at first. Let me tell you what it’s really like to get started. What I really did and how I really feel.
Let me preface this by saying that I strive to be a lifestyle entrepreneur…. not a business mogul. I want a fun, balanced life… Not to run a massive fortune 500 company. I hate people who brag about how busy they are and how many hours they’re working. I’m a huge advocate of working smart and not hard.
Also, I’m not any smarter or better than you. In fact, I bet most of the people who read this, by societal norms of financial savings and owned assets, would be considered “more successful” than I am.
For the people who don’t know me, and to give this some context, I have started dozens (literally) of companies. Most have failed. Some have succeeded. I consider my first real business was started at age 18 (I’m 26 now). Most people would probably categorize me as an “accomplished” entrepreneur because I’ve successfully sold 8 eCommerce companies, run a kick ass digital agency, and now live a very comfortable lifestyle. The things that’ve worked: building consumer brands and selling consumer product goods direct to consumer (eCommerce), event production, and house painting.
Oh, and I’ve had multiple business fail in the same categories too.
Don’t get me wrong. I wake up and do this because it’s fun, I love it. I get to work with people I love. It puts a smile on my face. I have a burning passion. But, there’s a dark side too.
Here’s the truth about being an entrepreneur:
- I initially became an entrepreneur because I struggled to hold a job (Severe ADHD). I’m an awful employee. I was also a shit student. So, I had to figure out how to make money. Bada bing, bada boom… I started selling stuff on the internet to survive. I needed to pay rent and feed myself. I know many entrepreneurs with ADHD who have a similar story of being a shitty employee or student. In fact, most of my entrepreneur friends.
- You think we know what we’re doing? Fuck no. Everything you see around you was built by people that were no smarter than you (Steve Jobs Quote). They didn’t know what they were doing either but they built sky scrapers and heroic companies like uber. They just woke up and did it. You can too.
- “Fake it till you make it” is the largest load of bullshit ever. I never fake it, but there are situations where I am still in the process of learning. Sometimes, that means telling someone I can do something and then having to learn how to do it as quickly as possible. That’s resourcefulness, NOT faking it. Always be authentic and keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t ever act like you’re somebody that you’re not.
- I always carry a backpack on me and have oatmeal packets inside because I get busy and forget to eat all the time. Oatmeal is dry, doesn’t really expire, and it’s a warm meal. I’m currently working on improving my diet. Other things I carry in the backpack? Battery packs, tylenol, a fuckton of vitamins, enough anxiety medication to sedate an adult elephant, and 2 laptops.
- All that “vacationing” you think I’m doing is to grow my network, meet potential clients, and create personal relationships with our partners. The non-glamourous side you don;t see is that I often sleep on couches, floors, and $28/night air bnb’s. I remember a few times where I was so broke I had to call my dad for $20 to eat or a get a cab to the airport. Fortunately, those days are over now.
- On the topic of money… let’s not even go there. I wish I had a legitimate savings account. A retirement account would be a dream come true. In due time, those things will be a reality but at this moment they’re not. Be ready to live off scraps.
- I often hear my roommates morning alarm go off before I’ve even gone to sleep for the night. The stress is outrageous and turning your brain off at night can be extremely difficult. I’m my own harshest critic. People often tell me “wow, that’s really impressive that you did (insert achievement)” and I never feel like it’s good enough. There isn’t anything you can tell me that I haven’t already come down on myself for. I almost always feel like it could have been better. I see the room for improvement and not the accomplishment. It can be exhausting to have that devil on your shoulder. Maybe others can relate?
- A love life? What’s that? My friends are getting married and having kids. It’s difficult as fuck to find time to commit to interpersonal relationships when you’re starting a company. All the travel (42 RT flights in 2016) and unexpected events that crowd your schedule really make people feel like they aren’t a priority in your life. My attention, the thing that a girlfriend would want most from me, is really hard to give. But I’ve made more mistakes in this department than I can count. Next.
- Family life? My dad’s my best friend and he fights for a 15 minute conversation with me all the time. Sorry dad.
- Hobbies? What do I do for fun? My business is my hobby, what I do in my free time, and who I am. Show me an early stage entrepreneur with a racket ball hobby. Please. I want to meet and learn from them.
- Most of us entrepreneurs operate out of fear, not positive motivation. I often hear from entrepreneurs on a personal level who say they are doing what they’re doing is because they’re afraid of the regret of not doing it. When this thing called life is over, what did we do? What did we create? Did we do the shit we wanted to do? Also, I can personally say that the thing that keeps me going on a daily basis is the crippling fear that I’ll fail. That everyone will point and laugh at me. Everything I’ve committed my time to has been a huge waste. Fear motivates me.
- Best advice I’ve ever gotten? “Just Fucking Do It.” Don’t know how? Try anyways. The worst possible outcome is better than not trying. The honest truth is that no one gives a shit about what you do anyways.
Call your mom and tell you love her. She deserves it.
Follow me on Instagram: @ColinMcGoo and find more blog posts here in the near future.