The other side of entrepreneurship
The things they don’t tell you when starting a business
As young adults, you must have heard about the big entrepreneurs and their stories. There was Bill Gates, who took over the PC market with his software Microsoft, we have Elon Musk as the main man behind Space X and Tesla and Denise Coates created the biggest betting company the United Kingdom named Bet365. Their stories trigger people to become an entrepreneur themselves. I am one of those people: in 2017, I started the tutoring organization Sophistès, along with my business partner Mark van der Meijden.
To be honest with you, at first I completely underestimated the impact of being an entrepreneur on my life. I even started with a master Econometrics at the same time. The workload was really high at day one, so the master was stopped in three weeks. I believed in Sophistès and it was clear to me how we helped students, especially the students of Econometrics and Operations Research. Therefore, I was happy to give up my master for them. However, it was the first sign of the other side of entrepreneurship. It is not a way to easy success, you cannot be successful without making sacrifices.
So I am not going to tell you a fairy tale about entrepreneurship, like Jia Ruan with his team unstoppable is doing. With juicy words like ‘as a drop out I became a millionaire at age 21!’ he wants to make it looks like being a great entrepreneur can be done in no time. My aim is to tell you the other side of entrepreneurship.
The most important thing people will not hear about entrepreneurs is their sacrifices. As was told earlier in the article, I stopped my master to focus on Sophistès. However, that was just a small sacrifice. The biggest one was giving up most of my social life to work on our dream. In the last year of the bachelor, my life was pretty relaxed, I had just 5 courses and a thesis for the whole year, I worked parttime as a tutor and as a mathematics teacher for a high school named ‘Hermann Wesselink College’ and most of the time, I was partying and hanging out with my friends. With relatively low responsibility and a lot of free time, I could do whatever I wanted.
That changed drastically when Sophistès was born. I call myself lucky when there is a free day in the week, my friends gave me a sign of worry that they saw me only once a month just because of the workload and going out on a Friday or Saturday night had become a very rare occasion to me. This change was quite a lot for me, as a 21 year old.
Another side of being an entrepreneur which is barely told is that you do not have everything in control. There is a famous expression, which goes as follows: What you know is important, who you know is essential. You must build a network of people who are able and more important, who are willing to help you. Sometimes it does not even matter how much you can provide them or their organization, compared to anyone else. If they do not want anything to do with you, they will deny everything, even when it becomes ridiculous. Worse, their refusal to cooperate will affect your organization. In that way, leading an organization can be an emotional rollercoaster. In those situations, a quote from Severus Snape always comes to mind: control your emotions, discipline your mind.
Last but not least, being an entrepreneur gives uncertainty compared to a regular job. As an econometrician, I could probably work for a bank or an insurance company and get paid really well. Especially during this corona crisis where a lot of people lose their job, I would be safe knowing that every major company is looking for econometricians. Now with Sophistès, there is no guarantee that everything will be the same as before. More than 70% of the businesses go bankrupt eventually. A big part of these businesses just had bad luck with a certain event where they did not have any control over. It sometimes feels like you put your faith in destiny, hoping that it will bring you prosperity.
I hope that you all have seen that entrepreneurship is not about getting easy money or living the free life because you have no boss. You need to give everything you have, try to connect with people and be patient with them even when it does not look like they are acting rational. Even when this is the case, you cannot be sure that your business will be a success. To end with a positive note: Do not be discouraged by this article if you are planning to start a business. I wanted to give you a look to the other side of entrepreneurship, a side which is always neglected when you read a story of a successful entrepreneur. If you are passionate about something and you are willing to give it your all, you should start your business. It is totally worth it!