Surviving in a start-up business is a bit like a marathon. Anyone can put on a pair of sneakers, but not everyone has the strength to make it over the line. Although it’s certainly not for everyone, starting a business can be immensely rewarding for those with the stamina to make it through the race.
In the US, only 6.02% of the adult population owns a business as their main job. Australia fares slightly better with an estimated 14.6% of the Australian adult population actively engaged in starting and running new businesses in 2016. This equates to 2.2 million early-stage entrepreneurs, which is roughly equivalent to the number of people working in the public service.
So why do these people choose the road less travelled?
Every entrepreneur you meet will tell you their unique story but, ultimately, they all have one, fundamental thing in common. They have chosen to live life on their own terms.
If you ask them why they chose a particular business venture, they’ll respond with one of the following phrases: “I decided that”, “I found that”, “I saw an opportunity”, or, “I always wanted the freedom to”.
This demonstrates that entrepreneurs are motivated by a desire to take control of their business and personal lives. They’ve had a taste of 9-to-5 life, but they’re hungry for something more meaningful. Country music legend Willie Nelson summed it up perfectly when he said, “Freedom is control in your own life.”
Entrepreneurs want to build something that will improve their position in life, both financially and emotionally, and they’re prepared to shoulder the risk that comes with that decision. In making their choice, they’ve said goodbye to luxuries like job security, regulated work conditions and paid holidays. They must face the constant fear of total and public failure. At times, the ‘what ifs’ that once had positive outcomes look more like ‘maybes’.
In the quiet of the night, entrepreneurs lie awake, face-to-face with the risk of personal and professional failure. What if it all gets too much?
Well, the choices are few. Maybe go and ask for your old job back. Try diving back into the employment market before anyone really notices you started a business. You could always say you missed the work–life balance of a steady job.
Or… take control. Commit yourself to successfully setting up a business and silence that doubting voice once and for all. Realise that starting a business is a sprint but surviving in a start-up is a marathon.
As former GE CEO Jack Welch told the Society for Human Resources Management, “There’s no such thing as work–life balance. There are work–life choices and you make them, and they have consequences.” So put your sneakers on, make the choice and accept the consequence. That’s living life on your own terms.