Many of you after leaving the military will want to start your own business. Some of you may spend some time in private sector employment first to gain needed “real world” skills and experience, and others of you will use your GI Bill benefits to pursue higher education before launching your own venture.
We know that military service gives veterans an advantage for self-employment. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. There are currently more than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States (comprising about 9% of business ownership), according to 2017 research by Maury & Boldon.
But before you write the business plan, set meetings with investors or look at office space, there are some realities of the entrepreneur journey I’d like to share with you.
I became an entrepreneur in 2008. If you remember 2008, the markets were in a tailspin and many of us in the private sector found ourselves in a job search. As I considered various options one popped up for the first time: Instead of working for someone else, what if I worked for myself? I’d never considered launching or owning a company before, yet I had 20 years of experience building and promoting companies at various levels.
As much as I knew about business and the value of what I would be offering, I did not fully appreciate the entrepreneur journey until recently, 11 years into my company. Here are some pros and cons to consider as you pursue entrepreneurship:
- Being your own boss means you are in complete control. You’re not accountable to anyone (except your staff, investors and customers, when you get them). No one can tell you how to spend your money or your time.
- Most entrepreneurs enjoy a highly flexible lifestyle. For instance, I can work on a Sunday, and then take off Monday afternoon for something fun. There are no set hours or schedule most business owners must adhere to.
- What you earn is yours. You are the driver of revenue and expenses. Want to make more? You can work harder and spend less. There is no broker or company taking a percentage of your sales or efforts to line their pockets.
- You can grow the company to whatever scale you aspire. I’ve never wanted to have a big team or a brick and mortar office with my name on the marquis. I keep my team small and flexible and as my company grows, I realign skills and talents to meet demand.
- No regular paycheck ... for a while. If you’re accustomed to having a paycheck every two weeks, this can be shocking. Until the business is at a size and revenue stream to support a paycheck, you might be eating what you kill (figuratively speaking, of course).
- You make all the decisions. While it might be appealing to be in complete control, unless you surround yourself with teammates or advisors you can turn to, you’ll be making every decision – from what paper stock the business cards are printed on, to pricing a prospective client job, to hiring employees or contractors to whether you offer generic or name brand coffee in the lunchroom. This can feel exhausting and may tax your skills in areas you didn’t know you were insufficient.
- It can be lonely. If you consider a service business where you will be working by yourself a lot, the loneliness of not having a team to interact with like you did in the military can be jarring. You might miss the camaraderie and mutual support that comes from being around others who are working towards the same goal.
- If you are not highly self-disciplined, the lack of daily structure and routine can be a problem. Entrepreneur journals promote the necessity to institute routine into your day as a business owner. From showering in the morning and dressing for work, to ensuring you keep personal errands to “off hours,” it’s important not to fall into the lull of the flexible lifestyle to the detriment of your business.
Being an entrepreneur is certainly the most exhilarating, frustrating, wonderful and challenging job I’ve ever had. For me, the pros far outweigh the cons. Before you launch, talk to other entrepreneurs about their journey, learn from their mistakes and capitalize on their good ideas.
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