23 September 2018
A few years ago when you asked young people what they want their career to be in, many would say footballers or something glamorous. Inevitably someone would say social media star! However, these days, it’s cool to be an entrepreneur.
People want to be their own boss, to run their own empires.
Whilst this is fantastic and we, of course, want to encourage more and more people to set up British businesses and boost our economy, ultimately, there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
When you look at young entrepreneurs online, seeing their Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories filled with private jets and glamorous lives, you’re seeing a minute part of their real world. Behind the scenes are the hours of hard work, the stress and the sleepless nights. What you also never see are the struggles that come with setting up and growing your own business.
Gail and I spent months living off cereal to make sure that we had the money to pay our small team and our suppliers. There simply wasn’t the money in the pot to stretch to any better lifestyle for us back then.
But, I think that motivated us even further. When you have to struggle, when you have to live a basic lifestyle to put everything into your ambition, you’re hungrier for it. You know that you don’t want to go back to the days of wondering where your next meal would come from.
So it is concerning to see the current trend of young businesspeople rushing the journey. You can’t skip ahead in business. Everything has a price. If you want to get into business to live a lush life, you will fail. It is that simple.
When money is your motivation, you will inevitably rush your growth; taking the Dragon’s Den approach and giving away huge amounts of equity into your business far too soon. You can only sell shares in your business like this once. Once you give away that chunk of your business, you give away a portion of control and of the rewards that you’ve worked so hard for.
Whenever I think about this topic, I always remember the story of Ronald Wayne, the lesser known third founder of Apple. Imagine owning a 10% stake in the now $1tn company! Unfortunately, Wayne sold his stake for just $800 back in the late 1970s.
It would be easy to think when you watch business owners giving away 20 or 30% of their business to the Dragons in the Den that this is the usual way things are done in business. Unfortunately, it does seem that this is the new trend in upcoming business but it should be treated with real caution.
When you choose your business partners, you’re choosing the person or people who will be with you on the greatest journey of your life. You’ll share success and failure, stress and joy.
More than money
For me, a business partner has to be more than just a monetary investment. You need a network, experience and access to all of the things that are currently out of reach. How could potential investors help with marketing, how could they help boost your client base, could they link you in with better suppliers? You have to really think this through before you decide to give away a chunk of your business.
Whilst it is a cold fact, it’s worth remembering that just like aiming to be a footballer, only a small proportion of people actually make it. You have to be ok to fail and pick yourself back up again. The reality of being an entrepreneur is years of hard work and sacrifice, but when it all comes together it’s a special position to be in.
At the end of the day business is a marathon not a sprint.