A dream doesn't become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, hard work, and some time. A transition period from your current situation to your ideal one is unavoidable and you need to be ready for it.
Although we all think our venture will develop smoothly, the reality is usually different. Time is needed for our project to take shape.
The journey always starts with a level of inertia to set up the company, build a team, finalize a product, etc.
Some unexpected obstacles are bound to happen. They will distract you from your main objectives.
Entrepreneurial ventures are based on iteration. Whether it is about developing a product or service, optimizing your positioning, or generating sales leads, trial and error are inevitable in the execution of your plan. That will introduce some delays that should be considered a required investment. Embrace this reality!
You will also need time to adjust to your new personal reality.
In the debate about whether people are born entrepreneurs or become entrepreneurs, I am firmly in the second camp. I believe anybody can be an entrepreneur if their motivation is sufficiently strong. Just imagine what you would be ready to do if your child needed life-saving surgery and you had to raise money…
If you believe you are not an entrepreneur, then you must become one. It may take some time but it will happen if that is what you want. That was my case. Perhaps I was a slow learner, but it took me a couple of years to fully change my mentality from the corporate to the entrepreneurial world. I had to develop new instincts and a new network, stop acting as a large company executive, and start considering possibilities that would be antagonistic to an employee’s mindset.
I also had to adapt to my new existence and swallow my ego. I was starting from zero again. I could call on some of my old contacts to get an appointment, but most people just received me as a courtesy. They did not have the time or interest to entertain my new venture in the early days. They just referred me to someone down their line who was burdened by other priorities and showed little interest.
It was hard going from managing multiple countries for a multinational to trying to secure a mere $100 subscription and being rejected. The experience was not pleasant but quite instructive. It gave me a better sense of perspective. It made me a better businessman. It is good to go back to the sources once in a while because when on top, we tend to have a short memory often resulting in a warped view of the real world.
On the personal front, I also had to manage the family expectations, move out of my apartment (as an executive I was living in a company-paid apartment costing over $10K per month…), adjust our expenses, etc. The children were small and did not see any difference, but all this would have been a nightmare without the strong support of my wife. Make sure that everybody that matters around you is on board with the journey!
To deal with this period, you need a good financial plan and a pragmatic approach. My business partner and I managed to raise a small amount of money from relatives, friends, and a supplier. It was barely enough to get started and put a team together. We operated with very strict fixed costs and tried to increase expenses only in line with revenues, which is particularly difficult to do when building a new product or software solution. It is hard to generate an income when the solution is not yet ready.
The company still needed money though. I resorted to consulting services as a tactical solution. I was an expert in marketing and management in the region, the market was growing, and I was able to find a few clients to cover our bills.
Here, it is important to focus on the importance of tactical vs strategic activities. Being a consultant was the antithesis of the project I was building: consulting is about selling your time, does not lead to passive income, and was tying me ever more closely to the company making a potential exit much harder.
But it was a conscious tactical necessity in the early days to secure our cash flow. I tried making sure that it did not occupy all our time, sometimes foregoing juicy revenues, to ensure the team could still maintain its focus on developing our strategic solution. The balance between tactical and strategic activities is a difficult equilibrium every entrepreneur faces.
The danger is that tactical activities become so distracting that strategic development never materializes itself. Without strong discipline and focus on your vision, you have a high risk of ending up with a completely different project.
Do not count on the transition to be easy. Ours lasted a good four years. These were intense years of high stress, sleepless nights, doubt, and uncertainty. Every month, we were struggling to pay salaries. Our first software contractor did not deliver as expected while costing more than we could afford. Subscription revenues took longer to come in. We faced competition from larger industry actors willing to offer similar services for free just to run our finances down. After 3 years of struggle, my partner decided to pursue what he thought would be a better opportunity and I had to find another partner to buy his shares since I had no money left to do it myself.
Basically, it was business as usual in the typical journey of a startup. You must be ready for it.
TRAVEL UPDATE - STAGE 12
Distance: 13 km
Cumulative Elevation: 676 m
Time: 2.5 hours