If your intent in life is to be very rich, then avoid entrepreneurship as a career choice. True, the richest people in the world are entrepreneurs and some of the most celebrated figures are entrepreneurs.
Take your pick from amongst Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Aliko Dangote, Warren Buffet, Beyoncé, Oprah, Bill Gates, etc. These guys (and girls) have broken barriers, pushed limits, and done the near impossible. As celebrated as these people are and as much as you want to be like them if your objective is money and fame, then my advice remains the same: avoid entrepreneurship as a career choice.
This is really bad advice coming from me considering I have been an entrepreneur for fifteen years now and, if I have to start all over again, I will still choose entrepreneurship as a career path.
Entrepreneurship is starting to take the form of professional sports. Whether in soccer, basketball, or baseball, the top 10% of players earn about 70% of the total player payouts. These figures can really be mind bugling.
You read about a Cristiano Ronaldo earning £400,000 a week and you go buy your five-year-old five footballs. Same thing as reading about entrepreneurs selling their businesses for millions of dollars or getting millions of dollars in investment funding; we then resign from our jobs and try to start a business.
While the world talks about Cristiano Ronaldo and Elon Musk, what they don’t talk about or celebrate are the several thousand who never make it to pro sports. They never talk about those who gave their all and traded their time trying to go pro but never made it.
They not only did not make it but also missed out on opportunities to acquire any other form of education, training, or skill that could be applied towards earning decent wages. The world never talks about the countless entrepreneurs who are unable to scale their businesses or who have had countless cycles of failure and no visible success.
Someone shared an entrepreneur’s experience in one of the entrepreneurial groups I belong to. The writer had gone to an Ivy League school and was working for one of the top three consulting firms in the world. His life was a routine of business class air travels, five-star hotel stays, countless hours behind the screen of a laptop perusing excel spreadsheets, and several cans of energy drinks and junk food. The pay was good, he got to travel a lot and spent time with people at the highest decision-making levels in the organisations he worked with. One day he got tired, resigned his job, and started a business.
His life changed, his economic and social standing took a nosedive and he used an article, How Entrepreneurship Completely F*^k!d Up My Life to capture his story. What I found most interesting was the reactions to the articles. The people in the group (all entrepreneurs) could totally relate. Many talked about how they hated their jobs on some days, many had on several occasions toyed with the idea of preparing a CV for the purpose of getting paid employment. Many felt they had been set up on this entrepreneurial journey and it was too late for them to retrace their steps.
Entrepreneurship is a lot of hard work with very little payout in your early days. You earn peanuts and sometimes earn no money. You could have staff strength of 10 and still be the lowest-earning person on the payroll. You pay everyone else first, then you pay your taxes and you will be lucky enough to be left with any money.
You will also constantly be needing money. When business is bad, you need money to cover your overheads and fixed costs. When business is good, you are looking for money to fund growth and expansion. When you finally do find the money and in time you will find out the money is not enough, you add another layer of accountability to the existing layers. You now have to manage your investors, bankers, or family and friends who made additional capital available for you.
Entrepreneurship also has no specific work hours. It is not a 9 to 5 job. It is a 24-hour job. Your workday starts yesterday. It starts when you open your eyes in the morning and ends when you close your eyes at night. Sometimes we even take work to sleep – how else do you explain going to bed with a business challenge and waking up with a solution? You must have been working or thinking even while you slept!
Entrepreneurs are also cash-strapped individuals. While they may have money, they can’t afford to buy new model vehicles or make big budget expenses. Eating out, TGIF meet-ups with the boys, Brazilian hair and Mary Kay products can sometimes be small perks they can’t afford. Even with a million naira in the bank, the entrepreneur is technically broke as long as he needs two million to execute their next growth phase. A spouse who doesn’t understand the entrepreneur would conclude they are just plain stingy.
When traveling, the cost of the journey plays a more important role than its safety or length. If it is an international trip, the entrepreneur doesn’t mind long layovers if it saves him a significant amount of money. A dangerous night bus between Lagos and Abuja might be considered if they absolutely must be at an event that will be beneficial to their businesses.
So it begs the question, which I must answer. If entrepreneurship is as horrible as I have depicted it to be, why then do people stay in that career path? Fact also is many of the highly driven and passionate entrepreneurs I have met will do very well and rise quickly to the top of any other career that is not entrepreneurship.
The answer is satisfaction. They may not be satisfied with several things about their ventures, but they are satisfied with living their dreams, satisfied they are creating products and services that help others, satisfied they have the freedom to make their choices, satisfied they have the chance to build something of immense value that might outlive them, satisfied to travel the road less traveled, satisfied they are on a path to build serious wealth if they get it right, satisfied about today and satisfied with the hope tomorrow offers.
If you seek any other thing, money, fame, but satisfaction, you might be better off choosing another career.
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