Taking The Plunge

Owning a successful business is very ideal indeed. How nice.

But getting there? Everyone knows it is quite a different story.

Switching to business as a career is so overwhelming that most people are just content to dream about it. The courageous few who, after repeated cycles of procrastination, have finally decided to take action would have read materials in preparation. There is not shortage of books that share tips on money considerations, business technicalities and marketing strategies, to mention a few, that are critical for success.

In this article, I share some of my own experiences in the journey – mental and emotional aspects that never did cross my mind before I took the plunge. Where I am coming from is: if you know what to expect, you can handle them better when they do come.

I left my job to in 2001 to nurture a courier service business that I started the year before. There was no time to waste and I made a subconscious resolution to occupy every second of my time in productive activities.

Courier service is a labor intensive function, and I found myself supporting my dispatch riders in executing the deliveries. At that time, helping them out because kept me occupied and that was good, because I felt helpless and overwhelmed by compulsion to do something – anything at all – when there were idle pockets of time. I simply could not allow myself that break.

I recognized my problem with compulsion soon enough, but that did not help me become comfortable with lack of activities. It became habitual even after the business turned profitable. It became a part of me that defeated one ideal of entrepreneurship, which is freedom of time.

Speaking of which, unlike employment where work and family hours are defined, the lines are not so clearly drawn for entrepreneurs. And neither are weekends. You may find your business always in your mind, including during vacations.

A customer base takes time to build. The wisdom: work consistently and do not give up. When you sign on a new customer, celebrate the success – it is very important that you do. Expect that it could take months to land the next customer. During those next months, you experience a daught. Will the next customer ever come? This silence can be painful, and it demands patience on your part.

As a result, you treasure your existing customers. By hook or by crook, you make sure they stay. Subtly, you become emotionally attached to them. When a customer leaves, you feel like you lose a baby. You start examining where you had been delinquent, what you had done wrong, and a host of related thoughts.

Well, maybe you could have done something differently, but you should also understand that in business, circumstances are often beyond your control. For example, your customer may have been in financial stress. The point is never to be hard on yourself.

As a sole proprietor, you feel lonely from time to time. Previously in the workplace, you only had to walk over to your colleague in the next cubicle for a break. Share a joke. Not anymore. More than that, you have no one to turn to when you get stuck with technical difficulties. Such as the PC breaks. Or otherwise you just could not merge those data fields into a letter. Things like that. It is frustrating to waste time fixing such technicalities. They zap energy you could otherwise channel to more productive efforts.

There will be times when you crave the addiction of a stable income. While you should not give in to the craving too easily, you should also not exclude the possibility of going back to employment. Know when to cut loss. Evaluate your financial situation frequently and cater enough time to land a job.

In fact, going back to employment offers a break from business. You can re-assess your emotional practices, responses, habits, strengths and weaknesses. In addition to replenishing the coffer, it also allows you to work on these exercises in preparation for the next business attempt.

Starting up a business requires effort. You work harder and longer at the beginning. But be mindful of how you evolve mentally and emotionally in the process. Ultimately, the aim is to enjoy the fruits of your work. Not be enslaved to it.