Do you want to be your own boss?
If you want to ‘Be your own boss’ … .or really be a boss at all … don’t start a startup. Buy a business. Or start an existing business with a known model and defined, pre-prepared customers. People are out there waiting for new restaurants, retail shops, entertainment venues, etc. These are the kinds of businesses that have the lowest barriers to entry and operation complexity. Plus, there’s a healthy stream of demand.
There’s a BIG difference between a new business and a startup. RISK
One of the most acceptable definition of a startup is Steve Blank’s, “A startup is a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” The biggest thing to test whether something is a startup or just a new business is asking, “What problem are you solving? Who for? And how can that scale?” If you struggle on either of those last two, then you’re likely building a new business, not a startup.
There are lots of ways of looking at and for opportunities. It all depends on what you’re aiming for and what you have to work with, and your personality! It’s quite easy these days to quantify known consumer, business and even personal problems with the pool of digital conversations going on about practically anything. If you can’t be bothered spending the time to interview a hundred or more potential customers before jumping into building a product, being a startup founder isn’t a good path for you. Not so glamorous sounding, I know.
Risk vs. reward. / Comfort vs. potential.
It’s easy to sell a shiny idea of ‘success’ to fill conferences or get a TV show onto a major network…but this is the exception, not the norm. The reality is that to get a decent reward you have to take risks. Your potential to ‘win’ in business life is directly correlated with your risk tolerance and Grit. Test your risk tolerance out before you start daydream fantasizing about being a startup founder and you can save yourself a lot of time, trouble and heartache. If you don’t know how you’d live for one, three or nine months without a salary; make a plan to save up so you could. If you couldn’t sacrifice the time or money it would take to do that. Guess what…reality check. How much debt would go into to get your startup idea off the ground with no solid evidence that it will work?
Potential is a funny word. People like to think of it as a compliment but is it really? If you have capacity and ability to do something but are not taking action, how is that a positive? To activate your potential you have to get uncomfortable. If you think growing pains are just something for kids, then you might not be founder material. Practice getting yourself into challenging, uncomfortable situations to flex your mental and emotional founder muscles. If you think running a startup is just about having an idea and then telling other people how to action everything, you are in for a rude awakening.
When you take on the risk and challenge of testing a new business model or establishing a new market for something, you have to be confident but not arrogant. An unchecked ego can (and in most cases will) kill a decent startup. It’s vital you surround yourself with people who will keep you in check wherever you fall on the ego spectrum. A great way to check this is by figuring out what kind of leader you are?
So this comes back to this idea of ‘I want to be my own boss.’ It seems to be as easy to sell the concept of ‘Have idea …raise cash….build company’ both are over simplistic at best and highly toxic at worst. And both are inherently wrong. You should be willing and able to start building the conceptual foundations of a business before you accept a single dollar or hour of donated time.
Don’t run around convincing people to jump on your train if you’re not sure if there’s a track yet. Have a plan! And that plan needs to start with knowing what problem you’re solving and who for.
But when I grow, I’ll have employees!
You aren’t your own boss when you start out, there’s just yourself. Hopefully, you’ll have a co-founder or two along for the challenge but not always. When you’re raising capital, you sure as hell aren’t the boss. Yes, you have power and will need to influence a lot of people to get onboard with your crazy idea but still… not ‘Boss like’ in the traditional way. Once things are going and you have a few early stage employees, they will most likely be there because they love the mission and challenge but undoubtedly will not be doing it for the money, stability or lofty career aspirations.
Ladder climbers don’t join early stage startups. So, if you act like a traditional corporate boss guess what? You’ll hemorrhage those early staff…possibly lethally. “So when do you get to be the boss?” you ask? That’s the thing… most likely not until after an IPO…which most startups don’t make it to. It’s a funny thing that, after an IPO you’re not really a startup anymore. You’re a major corporate entity that’s publicly listed. You a full-fledged business by then dear!
When starting and building a startup (as opposed to a new but existing type of business) you will always be both leading and influencing, and of course making heaps of important decisions but you won’t be ‘The Boss.’ You might be one of the bosses, but not top dog.
You will have to answer to investor/shareholders, co-founders, and even to some extent your early stage team. Getting a successful startup off the ground is about being a strong leader without having to be bossy. If you can’t win friends and influence people in your current professional and personal life, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be a good startup founder (unless you have bucketloads of your personal cash you’re willing to invest in this idea to get it all the way to stable company territory…which case, go ahead!).
So what are you telling me?
If after all this hard talk, you’re thinking “Nah. I still want to be my own boss.” Then awesome! That is your real goal. Figure out what resources you have to work with (savings, assets, debt to leverage) and that’s your budget for buying an established business.
If after all this you think, that’s actually me! I want to lead from the front, am so ready to be the first person to fall on my sword and the last person out of the office on any given day…then you might have the right stuff to be a startup founder! Craft up your idea, collect the resources you have to work with and jump in. A great way to start is by pitching to us!