Being entrepreneur, aka being boss of your own, is certainly not conventional. For some, having a structured job and proper career path set out from beginning is clearly the right option. For me, paving my own path is the only choice I know ever since I’m aware that I need to do something about my life.
The journey has been no doubt full of challenges and occasionally I turned to what I classify as “entrepreneur porn” to give myself a pat in the back, since no one can. It’s not exactly easy to explain the daily or weekly shit-storm one must get through, much less expecting someone else to empathise.
So despite having only computer-science background and only ran my businesses for couple of years, I’ve reach a point where the past small achievements brought me enough confidence to pen down the thoughts I’ve learnt from the process and hopefully it won’t be just-another-entrepreneur-porn piece. My observations are usually controversial and I expect no less from what follows next.
The number one most important lesson I’ve learnt and validated over and over again is one need to become excellent communicator. It doesn’t matter what you do, which title you are holding, where your expertise lies, if you are unable to communicate well, you are not going to be seen as valuable.
I have worked with and interviewed many great developers. Ones that stood out are certainly the ones that made me understood their work, not the one with the best coding skills. When I look at the test codes, an average developer with clearly documented README easily wins over a seasoned one that shows no care to who’s going to inherit the project.
Take a moment and reflect on the people you admire and ask yourself: How do you know that they are good in some ways?
The answer is surprisingly simple: they can sell what they have done or will do. And selling is a form of effectively communication.
For a long time, I used to think that communication takes two. But if you want to raise above the rest, to be known, you need to make damn sure that people understand you, at every single different levels. Whether it’s your boss or your colleagues, if they hold a stake in your work, it is your fault if they don’t see or can’t comprehend the effort you put in.
Beyond the glory of having flexible time and work place, every entrepreneur probably knows that the other side of being your own boss is that you must very often give up your nights and weekends.
Those are rather expected and will soon become no more than memorable experiences. Those sleepless nights sometimes could even be more fun than tiring. Not really something I’d brag about too much. Indeed, from my experience, I would discount someone who talks to much about superficial suffering.
The real sacrifices are like battle scars: it’s ugly, it hurts inside and people might not want to talk about. Would you even brag that you needed to give up your family time for business? or would admit that you let your work affected your relationships?
I’m no exception. It is agonising to give up on personal priorities at times and leave regrettable mental scars behind. There’s no fix to it, you will have to do what you have to do. Life has just got a little better once I came to terms with the fact. For every decision made, I just needed to make sure that I would be able to recover from it somehow, soon or later.
Everyone comes with emotional baggages. And life as an entrepreneur often amplifies those as one’s limiting factors. These baggages are often emotion ties that one has with people/places/things, almost irrational and unspeakable. They are neither good or bad. For some it could be the desire to stay close to a place for inconceivable reasons, it could be the mental glass ceiling one has from previous failure. It might not translate to any economical value directly but occasionally I had to forego certain opportunities as I couldn’t bring myself to do it because of past struggles.
There are 2 choices, either to deal with it and unpack, or let it go. Neither are simple. I chose to let go once and paid the hefty price. But that helped me to learn to look at things more objectively. Take a few steps back and question whether your “irrational” reasoning is indeed worth keeping. Consider the decision you need to make as a form of long-term investments: What if you would be better off several years from now despite the scars left behind? You’ll never be ready but at least once the time comes, you have a way to answer to yourself.
I have met a couple of entrepreneurs seeking advices on general business direction and I could sense some of their personal hesitations. I didn’t know how to suggest a way forwards then, now I do.
Timing is everything! You have a great product but you launched too late or too early, it would most likely fail. A email sent to the right people but half a day too late could be catastrophic. A text message sent one minute too early or too late could make break the deal. I’ve been through more than enough instances of that on both ends to appreciate the fact.
What others consider as lucky, I consider as timely. Regularly, and sadly, I have had people closed to me missing out on the time window when huge opportunities come knocking. Either they took too long to decide or they failed to recognise how short the window stayed open.
Saying the wrong thing at the right time is equally damaging if not worse. Making sure the work you need to deliver or the message are right, that take times but don’t take too long. Every “luck” comes with expiry date.
With this, it connects all of above together in one theme: I believe that being entrepreneur is about making great sacrifices to deliver the right messages at the right time.