Nowadays, it’s really cool to be an entrepreneur. It’s something in which it’s trendy. It’s something where social media makes it seem like it’s the best thing to do in the world because it’s free, independent, and all this jazz. But what I’d encourage you to do today is to just reconsider whether or not that’s actually the right call for you.
In this article, I’m going to share with you some things you might want to think about before you take the entrepreneurial plunge.
I knew little to nothing about business when I started
The motivation for today is that a little over a decade ago, I started my first company, and at that point in time, I knew little to nothing about business.
Sure I’d run a couple of web design businesses and tutoring businesses in the past. But it was something in which I mainly was doing it because I felt like I had to do something in the world. I had spent this summer reading all these entrepreneurship books, whether it was Derek Siver’s, Anything You Want or the $100 startup, and pretty much I found myself in a situation where I felt like I just had to start a company.
And I think it was at a time when entrepreneurship was still kind of on the rise in terms of accessibility in that it still was easy to start a business, but at the same time, it wasn’t necessarily as popularized as it might be today. At that point in time, I was still in college and it was something in which frankly was just kind of figuring things out. I was exploring what it was like to run a business for myself and also thinking about what I could potentially build.
The problem with this, though, is that what I ended up building was something that didn’t really interest me in the long term. It was actually a really early online course at a time when online courses were still kind of not fully in yet and so it was something that I thought was interesting enough to want to do the project and whatnot, but it wasn’t something that actually was the foundation of a good business.
What are you interested in?
And that’s kind of the key point here, is that in the case where you don’t really know what you’re really doing when it comes to business, it might not be time for you to exactly start a business and hear me out here. So instead of actually just starting a business, there’s a lot of other things you can do. And what I would actually recommend you do is that you find somebody that is operating a few years ahead of you and learn from them.
So say, for example, you want to start a tutoring business. Well, the best way that you might actually want to do that as opposed to just starting your tutoring business is to first apply to become a tutor at a more established tutoring company.
That might mean reaching out to something like a Kaplan or a Kumon to figure out what it might take to be a part-time instructor, but the reason why you want to do this is because it helps you start to understand the sort of lay of the land in terms of what these businesses have figured out before you.
If you’ve never run a business before, the best time to start that business is not when you don’t have any experience around the particular industry or niche that you are interested in jumping into. And that was one of my mistakes that a long time ago that I wish I hadn’t made. I went into this space where I was pretty much learning on the fly.
I was trying to figure out whether or not I was truly passionate about the idea as well. And it pretty much just led to the situation where we spent a little over a year working on this project that, sure, it saw a little bit of success, I made some money in the process, but it wasn’t something I was passionate about, and it wasn’t something that I could really build into an enduring business.
So first tip I give for you is find a business that you are interested. Learn the craft for a year or two, and then take a step back, reflect on what you learned from that situation to then think about what you might be interested in building next. Especially if you find yourself early on in your career.
Finding an operator
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just invest in scale building, and the reason why is because you can learn from the other operators. So let’s go back to that tutoring business idea. Sure, you could definitely try to just be a tutor right out of the gate, but it might be better for you to just spend three to six months working as a tutor for another company because then you’re gonna get onboarded and taught exactly how to run a good tutoring session.
They’re gonna often have some standard operating procedures, as well as manuals and resources that might be useful for you to get a sense of what works well and what doesn’t work well, when teaching different types of students. And then from there you can start to understand, okay, what are the boundaries of this business? How do I get new clients? How do I retain those clients? How do I take payment? And these are things that oftentimes people don’t ask themselves before they jump into starting a business.
So when you learn from being an actual operator in the space that you’re interested in going into, you’re gonna be able to essentially learn on somebody else’s dime as opposed to your own dime. And the reason why that’s so important is because it makes it so that it’s not just a completely unhedged risk, but it’s a calculated risk, and in my opinion, that’s the best sort of world for you to start in entrepreneurship.
It’s about taking calculated risks as opposed to just completely unhinged risk. I think a lot of times people fail in entrepreneurship simply because they don’t have the know-how to be successful. In other words, they can’t piece together the different things they need in order for their particular business to actually take off.
Sure, you can learn it on the fly. There certainly going to be people that actually are able to pull that off, and you’re gonna hear those success stories, jump up to podcasts and things like that. But what they don’t tell you is that so many of you know the Fortune 500 CEOs spent their careers at the very beginning learning from other people, learning from other spaces, and then taking the things that they learn from those spaces and applying it into new spaces later on.
It’s only by actually being in the trenches and doing the work that you’re gonna get the experience that you need in order to actually apply those lessons into running your own business.
And that leads me to the second point, which is, aside from just finding the sort of space that you’re interested in or just trying to get a grasp of what it’s like to be an employee, I recommend that you find an operator that’s a couple years ahead of where you’re at. The reason why is because this person, if you find the right one, can be a great mentor for you in terms of being a sounding board for all the sorts of questions that you might have as you’re trying to explore and really get a lay of the land of how to help their business grow faster.
If you can help somebody that’s further along than you grow their business, they will want to repay the favor for you in terms of helping you when you’re ready to start your own thing.
You know, when you look at the careers of Tim Cook or Satya Nadella, they spent years within their organizations of Apple and Microsoft before they became CEOs of those businesses. It’s only by having the know-how, working in different departments, working with different stakeholders and working on different initiatives and projects that they were able to execute as well as they both have over the last decade or so of them leading their organizations.
I get it. It’s really tempting to go on YouTube, see all these young entrepreneurs that are doing really well and whatnot, and that’s not to say again that you can’t do that yourself, but what I’d recommend you do is instead build it as a side project, learn from an operator, and then from there, over time, as you get more confident, then you can start to branch out, scale your projects and things like that.
You’ll see that this has been my recommendation in general as well when it comes to building websites. It’s something in which I recommend that you just try it out. Build the first 100 or so posts. Learn a system or process that works for you before you go out and scale it with writers. And the same thing applies when it comes to building a business as well.
There’s so many ways to be successful as an entrepreneur, and that’s what’s beautiful about it. But this is a less common or less talked about path that I find on all these different social media platforms in which everyone’s always trying to teach you to just go ahead and start your own thing. And you can definitely do that, but at the same time, you can also do it on somebody else’s dime.
So something to consider. Something I wish I had been told a little over a decade ago because it would’ve just saved me about a year and a half or two of just flailing around with my idea, trying to make something happen.
You’re gonna have a ton of ups and downs along the way, and if you’re not quite ready for that, then you might get discouraged a little too early and then right off your entrepreneurial dreams later on.
If you liked this article, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week. I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning if being an entrepreneur is right for them.