In my journey I’ve been through a constant and relentless mix of self improvement and consistent learning, from one iteration to the next. I can safely say I have the kind of self determination you need to have to be on this path. There are many ways into entrepreneurialism, even that much mailgned phrase ‘wantrepreneur’ – whereby people want to be company founders but don’t really have much reason why, other than it sounds cool.
Personally, I have no issue with that whatsoever, I believe this can happen to you even accidentally, all that matters is you are determined to put your all into it, lead others effectively, honestly, and authentically, recognise when you’re wrong, and be resilient enough to hear the word no 500 times until you hear a yes. If you can do that, whether you’re a passionate inventor, or you just want to do it for the glitz and glam, well, you will earn your title.
My journey began 5 years ago when I ended up leaving my advertising agency with one of the company directors, and my direct boss at the time (who had hired me) to start a new venture with an advertising product whereby we collated all the halls of residences internet portals, and created one landing page that would essentially be the ‘front page’ of the internet for students getting online. It was a solid idea, but hard to execute as there were so many independent property owners, it was just doomed for failure. Nevertheless, we didn’t lose any money, but we decided it wasn’t worth pursuing. Even though I didn’t succeed so to speak, I got the itch, and that was it.
My best friend from school, Joel had left PwC and convinced me to stay ‘unemployed’ and work with him. He had all the skills I didn’t – and that’s the first lesson to share – find a Co Founder who you admire because they do everything you don’t. Secondly, find someone you trust. At no point, ever, have I questioned my faith in Joel’s ability or dedication. That kind of feeling can be toxic and cause a startup to implode.
3 companies later, we are still going strong, though the ups and downs are far more intense, and since Brexit, it feels like it’s almost entirely downs. The important thing to do is never lose faith. If you do, you cause your own downward spiral. The moment you give up, you fail. If you believe people who say you can’t do it, you won’t. You need thick skin. You can be down. You can even be depressed. You can fail. It’s OK. You can talk to people about such concerns.
We are living through one of the most enlightened periods of civilisation where it’s actually OK, even as British men, (God forbid), to talk about our feelings – and sharing your woes, issues, ideas, concerns and struggles is the best way to overcome them. Usually I find the answer myself just by having someone listen. This is one of the most important things about being a company founder.
Sorry to disappoint, but no it’s not all rocket ships and unicorns, far from it. It’s more like pedalos and donkeys most the time, so unless you’re ready to wade through the mud in those times, you’re better off sticking to your career, there’s no shame in being a dynamic specialist that can provide for their family and is in control of their future, all the while helping build something without quite the same weight on your shoulders but still a big chunk of the reward.
Finally – have a measure for success. Yes, for most of us, it’s all about the exit. But you can enjoy success along the way; the day you first launch your product? Don’t let people tell you not to celebrate that, that’s a milestone, and a success. That first employee you hire? Success. That feature on the app store? Success. Wired top 100? Success. Inspiring others? Success. Sometimes just turning up on Monday after a relentlessly negative week is a success. Your resilience and attitude is a success in itself, so recognise that.
If you look at the statistics, 99% of us are doomed to fail, and sometimes our mindset is all that causes us to win – so treasure the moments of joy along the way and take time to congratulate yourself and your team. You deserve it.