The Struggles And The Realities …
Let’s start with a short story. Success is a very, very lonely road. Very few people are willing to endure the pain, and sacrifices to be successful. It is an uphill battle: and along that road, you are not going to see many friends, you’re going to see your shadow most often. A client once told me entrepreneurship is his passion, it is what he had always wanted to do. Then I asked; what will it take you to make it happen? He replied; anything. Unsatisfyingly, it wasn’t the response I had expected to hear.
Quite a number of startups I have encountered and as well worked with, have claimed entrepreneurship as their purpose on earth – the change factors. It is something they claimed are destined or called to do. I do not doubt their driven purpose, but their endurance to the calling.
This entrepreneurial journey is uncertain; so abysmal. Some folks questions why certain school of thoughts describes entrepreneurship as an impossible mountain to move. But, no matter how complex and challenging the art is reported or portrayed to be, the truth still remains that, as long as human needs will remain highly unsatisfying, unpredictable, and intricate, the process to solve them will surety not be a cheap task.
The year 2017 has been a heavy load of challenges. This is when the question I had asked my client comes to function –‘what will it take you to make it happen?’ Anything will certainly not be good enough to drive the purpose. Intelligently, you will realize that ‘anything’ is ineffectual.
As the year curtains down in few weeks, I thought I would share some of the things that have shaped and certainly still shaping me into a better entrepreneur through the failures, debts, burnouts, unlevelled opportunities, depression and the beauties.
Amidst the long year of dealing with some hardcore startup issues and know how, now let’s get more practical and dare to discuss the abhorrence many entrepreneurs lack courage to talk about.
Like most businesses and their owners, we draw up new or update our strategies for every new year from the previous year’s activities and reviews. My team and I were hopeful. Projections couldn’t look better than a newly bride. Our anticipations were equitable for a company. We were set for 2017. The year ticked on a profitable note.
Knowing the unpredictive nature of running a growing business, our risks were mostly planned and SMART – (specific,measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).
Nobody said entrepreneurs are all knowing and this is not defensive. We’re no fortune tellers; we are simply ordinary beings with a sixth sense foreseeing and making things happen.
Circumstances unfolded in the unexpected events. As pressure began to weigh in on productivities and growth became stunted, life and business started run intrinsically stirring up hard emotions and limiting output.
My Struggles – Our Struggles
One successful entrepreneur said; “Being an entrepreneur is sexy for those who haven’t done it. In reality it’s gritty, tough work where you will be filled with self doubts. Entrepreneurs are survivors.” – Mark Suster, Entrepreneur, Angel investor and investment partner at Upfront ventures.
The struggles are real! I must honestly tell you. Whether or not you are a startup, a medium scale or large company, the struggles are what they are.
2017 have seemed to be a more difficult business year especially in Ghana and for many SMEs. The workload proved more difficult. It took twice the energy to get the work which previously was less to get things done.
Mentally, it became frustrating and exhausting to meeting deadlines. I would have been happier if there were an increase in workload which translated into profitability. My team and I worked more and earned less. Measuring up to consistent creativity and competition got the best of our synergies – we were broke and broken.
Around mid year of 2017, the struggles became more welcoming. I gradually as the lead, adjusted to them. I was overwhelmed. Team motivation was thrown out of the window; I was a hurricane warning of a possible destruction.
Funding of upcoming projects were on hold due to the break in our regular cashflow. A cashflow is what sustains businesses to keep operating in difficult times. Cashflow sustains productivity, demands and operations. Eventually my business was running out of cash. Sleep eluded me and imprisoned my sanity to get an infinite solutions ASAP
Look, countless times, I had recommended successful ways startup owners could avoid hitting the bottom and stop feeling insufficiency. But true they say the preacher isn’t a saint and can fall short of glory; the consultant fell short of expertism. You will not have the answers all the time. Even the expert have times they need to go out there and seek other opinions.
Sexual temptations and harassments added to my loads of luggage in my quest for financial solutions. Balancing my personal stress and comforts with work, the unstable economic challenges, and adapting to routines and habits just became an act. A lot of seasoned entrepreneurs would have won Emmys for putting the act of perfectionism in times when their businesses longer was profitable.
Experiencing this heap of challenges are normal encounters for most entrepreneurs, successful, rising and the struggling ones as well. There are no exceptions truly, even with the billionaires; they crack in their closets.
Not to deter you, these challenges, these struggles were nothing new I had never encountered, they are hurdles my team and I have faced during our inception years. What was different with the current upheavals was me. I lost the will to get it together from the word go. Something changed and I was no longer in control. It did not stopped me from functioning, but it did from identifying the problem until I hit the rock. That is the true state of many startup businesses and owners. You have to learn to never be in denials. It is no shame!
“Dear pessimist, optimist, and realist, While you guys argued whether the glass is full or empty, I have sold the glass.” – anonymous.
This is the realities of running a business. While you’re at ‘A’, your competitors are are at ‘D’ beating you to the game. It is not that they have it easiest; it could be years of experience of getting it wrong, better strategies, patience and sometimes, a bit of shear luck. The reality is that action must be consistent leaving no room for emotional assumptions and the game of ‘guess what’.
The big contracts won’t just drop as manner from the heavens. Businesses have no miracles. Businesses turnarounds are work input, hard work, and team commitment.
You do not suddenly become the world’s most successful entrepreneur or a zillionaire with an enviable networth.
The reality checks are many years of consistent hard work, sacrifices, bankruptcy, excessive burnouts, depressions, blah blah blah. Hold on for a moment, the reality check can out of the blue be sudden good fortunes – boom!!! With a blast of the fortune bills. Wake up startup! It is all hard work meets potential and preparedness.
We all despise to talk about it. So least, anyone could assume you as mentally imbalanced. Nobody wants to say these words; I am going through depression. For some moment, I wanted to reassure myself, it was absolutely amazing to share my experience, then again, I’m concerned about who could take it out of context – “The CEO of Commec Ghana has finally lost it, struggling for mental sanity” Haha.
So I took some time off work to have a self moment and introspection. Medically, I had not been diagnosed with depression. I just knew I needed a luxury of time for my mental and physical well being.
No, it wasn’t a moment of sadness or nursing a broken heart. I was as deep as the sea, hiding it’s treasures from it’s shores. My thoughts and emotions run through and fro like the waves; gathering and a accommodating all it can sweep from its bank down to it depths. Nobody knows what laid beneath it. Such a bizarre description of how I had been feeling for months. My life was nothing pathetic by the way. But, It appeared beautifully and perfect to those that admired it and, within I knew I was carrying unwanted excesses. Some chaff can be useful energy you know, those I felt were not.
Being a not so outgoing person, the introvert I am, I enjoyed my comfort zone perfectly, giving brilliant excuses to avoid the company of others.
I didn’t have to wait to be told; how brave you are Harmony!, to realize I had been enduring mixed and piled up pressures from work and trying to be socially perfect. I told myself; how brave you are to admit you need to take a deep breath.
I may not have vividly expressed my situation, but I know many startups are faced with worst state of mental distress and worn out from the daily work loads coupled with their personal life challenges. You may not be self conscious and in control to manage your burnout and depression like I have. Even though I self managed my situation, it was not a secret, I shared with a friend and my Personal assistant. Don’t be silent, you can talk to some trusted friends or a doctor for adequate precautions and assistance.
The Core Truth
It is important for startup owners and rising entrepreneurs to be adequately self aware to know what they do not know. Being an entrepreneur is neither a part or full time job, it’s a lifestyle.
The hard truth is every business have it’s time of big profits and losses. Business owners are allowed to grieve over those losses and groom themselves into successful entrepreneurs. It is not a luxury lifestyle without the struggles, realities, failures and hitting the jackpots.
Experienced entrepreneurs and the great teams have had these moments and it is not shameful to admit it can be difficult and awesomely rewarding.
My share of the business war, does not mean, I keep winning, in control, going to battles unprepared without a sharp sword and armor and coming out being hailed as Hercules. Knowing there is a war ahead is half the battle won.
Hard work and preparing for the challenges ahead doesn’t guarantee you a success, but no work guarantees you no success. It’s like knowing the pill would be bitter to swallow, but failing to take it will be no cure for the illness.
The core truth: you can spend years building a business and fail in a day. Startups slave away for these hard moments, days, months and years on ideas only to gain little or no traction. If you can’t somehow clearly state and identify the problem, you probably will not be successful.
But, here is the bigger truth; just grow, learn , inspire and earn!