We all have ideas about how starting a company will be. You’ve heard about the hardships, are aware of the perks, and are ready to tackle the challenges.
Like anything, though, there’s always going to be things you won’t know until you get your feet wet.
But what if we could get an inside glimpse? To learn the less-common things to be prepared for, we asked 14 young entrepreneurs what the one thing no one told them—the thing they wished they’d known—was when they started. Here’s what they had to say.
1. There Are Incredible Highs and Lows
Running a startup is truly like riding a roller coaster that doesn’t stop. I’ve had some of the highest highs and the happiest moments I could remember while running my business. But it also comes with some of the lowest lows, and I’ve endured many sleepless nights. Rarely are there any feelings in between, but I think it’s important to celebrate even the smallest of victories.
2. Networks Are Critical
I started off as a solopreneur with a small freelancing gig. For the first six months, things were very slow. However, when I joined my first official mastermind networking group, the business took off immediately. Surrounding yourself with the right people from the start (ideal clients, business mentors) will help you tremendously both when you’re starting up and down the road.
3. Camaraderie is Important
I wish someone had told me to be prepared for the feeling of isolation at times as an entrepreneur. On a daily basis as an entrepreneur I am faced with new challenges, many of which I must tackle alone. I have since brought in others to assist in building the business. Knowing that you are going down the path together definitely brings a feeling of camaraderie to the company.
4. Mentors Are Necessary
Having someone who has walked the path as an entrepreneur is vital. You can gain wisdom from your mentor’s experience and discover insights that you would never have had before. I’ve missed out on so many opportunities to build my ideas because I didn’t have someone to shine a light in the right direction. Having a mentor is imperative.
5. There is No Set Path
You have a big dream and you know exactly how you are going to get there—until it all changes. It’s great to have a business plan and a strategy, but I wish I had known that it is totally OK if you have to change directions. In fact, that’s good business!
6. There’s No 4-Hour Work Week
Don’t get me wrong—I love that book. But no one ever told me that I would be trading my 50-hour work week for a 100+ hour work week when I first started my company. The one piece of advice I would give new entrepreneurs is to plan on investing all of your time and then some if you plan on being successful. It’s worth it in the long run!
7. Everyone Has Unsolicited Advice
No one told me just how opinionated others would be about my business. People will come out of the woodwork with what they believe to be sage advice, when they’ve never even been in my shoes. People who have had corporate jobs all their lives will tell you exactly what you should be doing to run your business. Just nod and smile.
8. Early Success is Temporary Luck
When you start a new business and achieve some early success, you need to be disciplined to always keep your ego in check and keep your starting vision in mind. I learned this lesson the hard way when I divided my team’s focus early on in favor of building an unproven product. Avoid the same mistake by staying focused. The best entrepreneurs are paranoid and never believe their own press.
9. Advisors and Consultants Are Useful
When starting up, I bootstrapped in every sense of the word. While this enabled me to propel my company forward, it was the hours of consulting and advising from industry experts that truly helped me make positive, long-lasting business decisions that continue to have a strong impact on my company and its success today.
10. Starting Up is Unpredictable
Oftentimes people compare their expected entrepreneurial journey to what they hear or read about from others who’ve succeeded, and assume their experience will be similar. Or, they write a business plan and anticipate it will go according to that plan. Rarely do people let you in on the secret that your plan will not be the way it looks—it will be a meandering path, not a straight one.
11. Partnerships Can Be Good
Partnerships can be challenging, but they can also be rewarding. If you are really going after a game-changing concept or something big, odds are a partner is a good thing. They can help carry the workload and keep the vision or dream going when things get tough.
12. Learning From Other Entrepreneurs is Invaluable
One of the most impactful ways that I was able to grow and succeed as an entrepreneur was by connecting to and learning from other entrepreneurs. Nobody ever told me this or mentioned this to me. Immediately connecting to other people who have been there is crucial for your success. Learning from others’ successes and failures will accelerate your growth process.
13. Ideas Themselves Are Not Worth Much
I have seen many early entrepreneurs get excited when they think they have a billion dollar idea. We feel that just because we thought of it, we own it. Here is the bad news: Chances are that multiple people have tried most of these ideas in some shape or form. In most cases, it’s your team and your execution that will differentiate you rather than the idea itself.
14. Family Comes First
Family should always come first. You’re going to take big risks and risk almost everything, but I recommend that you never risk losing your family for your entrepreneurial adventure. It’s really not worth losing what’s most important in your life.