A friend of mine and I were talking the other day and the subject moved on to setting up business on one’s own. My friend had already chosen that road and is running a successful business. Yet, the words he spoke left a strong impression on me, one I felt would be relevant enough to write an entire article on.
When you are working for someone else, said my friend, you know you are getting a salary at the end of the month. When you work for yourself, you don’t always get that. Besides, you have to worry about paying the salaries of your employees - all of whom depend on that salary to keep their families fed. The responsibility, we both agreed, could be overwhelming at times - even though you have created a strong business.
That just about brought home the reality of going into entrepreneurship from a regular job. Not that entrepreneurship is too tough – it has its unique set of merits and almost all big businesses started out as entrepreneur-driven companies somewhere down the line. But in a nutshell, it must be noted, it isn’t for everyone. It comes with its risks and obligations and may not always yield what you think it would yield as a personal income generator although the company in itself may be successful.
There are many mistakes those starting on their own make – I have made them so I know what I am talking about. Chief among these is to assume that since you started the business, you can wait without taking some kind of a financial take home until things get better. Never make the mistake of foregoing a salary for yourself. Even smaller, always remember you need to take a salary home. That’s your part for building the business. If you don’t, in the long run, fatigue will set in and the business in itself can lose the flavour it once had. Rewarding yourself financially is always important to overcome practical problems too. Many entrepreneurs forego a salary initially hoping that it will enable the company to achieve a better financial outcome but they could be wrong.
As an entrepreneur, you need to make sure your financial planning is all planned out – it makes sense to ensure professional financial help is enlisted from day one – if not, the repercussions can be deadly enough to ensure the business will finally have to close down. A prudent financial plan will help you lay out what you need and what you can manage in terms of investment and meeting working capital needs. Entrepreneurship may be lean and mean for a while – it doesn’t always pay from day one although there are businesses that do. You must be able to manage your fund until the company can stand on its own and brings in an income.
It is also important to go along with a bank or a financial institution that understands and is able to help you manage your business. Not all banks are able to do this so you need to do your homework before you venture out and select your options carefully.
Real life vs case studies
Even if you are not taking home a pay for yourself, you need to make sure the staff you employ, however small, are compensated for. It is not right to expect them to put in the kind of effort you are contributing without being financially rewarded for it; often enough they do but it is only right that they are paid a reasonable salary at the end of the month.
Starting on your own almost always requires a strong will and a commitment to seeing it through – entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted, as attractive as it may sound. It is a tough call to manage a business and turn it around into a profit-making venture. Real life is not the same as the case studies you read in books. There will always be challenges you didn’t anticipate, circumstances that may rock your world. If you are not able to handle such deviations and still emerge unscathed, think twice about starting on your own. The road to business success has never been easy; just ask a man or a woman who built a business and they will tell you.
Of course, the rewards are great. More so for women who at mid-career level or when faced with raising children, find entrepreneurship a better option than a regular job. When you work for yourself, you can manage your home, juggle the children’s schedules, supervise homework and still run a business. And that, sometimes, is of a higher value than even a well-paying job. There is always the advantage of having a husband who earns the regular bread and butter; it opens up a world of possibilities for the talented, courageous and enterprising women to start a venture they can turn into a successful business.
But on the whole, starting one’s own business is not the best option if you believe you are better off getting a salary at the end of the month. There are some entrepreneurs who, having tasted the spirit of entrepreneurship, have chosen to close shop or hand over the company to someone else and go back to a job when they realized that running a business is not exactly their cup of tea.
From Steve Jobs to Richard Branson, entrepreneurs are the ones who have often enough put the shine on the face of business – their stories have inspired millions of others who have built their own rags to riches stories. But the fact remains that for every one of them, it was a tough road to travel. They were at the right place at the right time and their ideas were powerful and groundbreaking. There can be Steve Jobs and Richard Bransons among us but what it takes to hold out until the business becomes a success, is almost always a tough ride.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)
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