Top 10 Cold Hard Truths About Entrepreneurship

This is the 7th post in December’s Top Tens in 2010 Series. This guest post was written by David Stehle, a Network Security Consultant (Founder and CEO) by day. By night, David is active in the 20sb (20something bloggers) community and blogs at The Rest Is Still Unwritten.

So you want to take the plunge! Say so long to corporate America and start your own company. You want to be an entrepreneur! Well before you tell your boss to suck it, there are some things you should know. Things that all those entrepreneurial books, blogs, TV documentaries and motivational speakers don’t want to tell you. I’m talking about the cold hard truth about entrepreneurship. The less than glossy side of what you need to know before taking the leap, as well as tips on how to stick the landing once you do leap. Because let’s be honest, starting your own company is a lot like jumping from the top of a building without a parachute. And no one likes to go splat. e is for entrepreneur

In an effort to keep you from becoming a stain on the pavement and another startup company statistic, I want to share with you my Top 10 Cold Hard Truths About Entrepreneurship. As the Founder and CEO of Network Security Consulting company and someone who is on track to tripling his company’s revenue in this final quarter of 2010, I think I know a little sumthin sumthin. So take it from a guy who has been there, done that (in some cases is still doing that), and has learned the hard way – first hand. I’m going to count them down backwards to help prepare you for the leap!

10. Be Your Own Cheerleader

You need a support system. Ideally that would be family, friends, a significant other, and/or a dog (I prefer a Bulldog). But you can’t rely solely on them to pat you on your back when you’re doing well and pick you up when you fall. You must be your own cheerleader. As impossible as it may sound, you need to have a positive attitude day in and day out. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anyone else to believe in you? Confidence is a must!

9. Plan On Working Without A Paycheck For Awhile

Those who don’t like hard work need not apply. Or rather, those who like stability or live paycheck to paycheck should stick to their regular 9-5 job with a steady income. Because being an entrepreneur often means working with a fluctuating paycheck or no paycheck at all! Yes, lots of long thankless hours and no green to show for it – similar to being a new Mom. This company is now your new baby. So bank on making sacrifices. You may need to dip into your savings, take out loans, cut living expenses, and survive on Ramen Noodles for awhile. The average startup doesn’t see a profit for 2 years. And many entrepreneurs (including myself) often go months, if not a year or two, without paying themselves! Being an entrepreneur doesn’t make you fancy. It makes you humble.

8. Embrace A Side Hustle
Starting your own business can be expensive – duh! But instead of thinking of ways to save money, why not think of ways to make MORE money? That’s where the side hustle comes in. It’s a part-time job you do on the side in addition to pursing your dream of being an entrepreneur. It can be anything, like a passive income collecting royalties from a book you’ve written, to bussing tables at the local diner. Sometimes keeping your regular full-time job and pursuing the dream of running your own company on the side is the way to go. Whatever works to keep cash flowing in and you a float.

7. Social & Love Life Take A Backseat

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, your company has to be your #1 priority. So unfortunately, that means your social and love life are going to take a hit. There was a time I skipped going out and even skipped dating because I didn’t have money to buy a girl flowers let alone a decent meal! And really, I didn’t have the extra time to devote to much of a social or love life. Of course this doesn’t last forever, but it does take some getting used to in the early months.

6. Prepare For The Roller Coaster of Emotions

I don’t care if you’re a grown ass man. There will be days when you’ll want to cry. There will be days when you’ll want to quit. There will be days when you’ll bounce between feeling angry and frustrated to feeling euphoric and unstoppable. There will be days like this. But as Kelly Cutrone once said…”if you have to cry, go outside.”

5. Being In Charge Isn’t Always Fun

It’s said that most people start their own business because they don’t like being told what to do. Of course work for yourself long enough and you’ll quickly realize how much you miss having people take charge of certain things for you. For instance, healthcare benefits. Not only are you in charge of selecting your own plan, but all your employees’ plans as well! Arrgh!

4. Have Some Game

Even if you aren’t in retail, you need to be a good salesman. How else are you going to get investors or sign clients? You have to pitch yourself well! And when it doubt, you’re not above kissing a little ass. So even if you hate golf, take a potential client out for a round. Wine them. Dine them. Become likable, if not lovable to them. Earn their trust, but more importantly earn their respect by not pouring it on too thick.

3. Have Lots of Plan Bs (and sometimes a Plan C or D)

It’s inevitable that you will get rejected. You will hear no. And your ideas at times will be laughed at. But be open to constructive criticism. Learn from it. Grow from it. Let it give birth to new opportunities. And always, always have a Plan B to fall back on.

2. Hire Slowly. Fire Quickly.

I can’t stress this simple rule enough! The hiring process is long and tedious for a reason. Because it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your company! You need to surround yourself with creative, brilliant minds. Hard workers. People you can trust. Personalities that mesh with yours. And when it comes to firing, remember you’re their boss first and their friend second. Don’t put something off until tomorrow that should be done today.

1. You Will Give More Than You Get

The average entrepreneur works a bare minimum of 60 hours a week. Many work closer to 80 hours a week. Like the children’s book “The Giving Tree,” you will give until it hurts and then give some more. You will give so much that you will question what more you possibly have to give. Then, you’ll give again. You’ll slave and you’ll sacrifice. And you’ll do it for one reason. Because this is your baby. And you love selflessly like any good parent would.


As the saying goes – if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!  The truth is more startups fail than succeed. So above all else, please remember that being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. It’s not the luxurious or glamorous lifestyle as many would like you to believe…especially not in the early years. I hope what I’ve said here hasn’t discouraged anyone from pursuing their dreams, but rather gives clarity to that American Dream that all too often becomes clouded due to society’s glossy representation of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. And to those that still have the courage to leap, you’ll have no bigger cheerleader than me.

6 thoughts on “Top 10 Cold Hard Truths About Entrepreneurship

  1. I went to a PRSA career fair recently where one of the breakout sessions was about starting your own firm or going solo and they had a lot of the same tips to say…mainly you’re not going to be a huge success overnight..and you have to be willing to work yourself to the bone.

    Great post! I’m loving this series.

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth!

    I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that people think they will have more leisure time because they are working for themselves and not answering to a boss. Not the case! Sure you set your own hours, but usually that means starting earlier and staying later than the typical 9 to 5er…and often working weekends. Of course over time the long hours and stress lessens.

    Entrepreneurship is just one of those things you have to carefully weigh the pros and cons of. And not get caught up in the glossy image that is often portrayed, usually falsely portrayed.

    Loving Elysa’s Top 10 Series as well!

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