Whac-A-Mole: An Entrepreneur's Reality
MAIN COURSE // Written BY JENNIFER JANE
In my experience, life is an elevated and elaborate game of Whac-A-Mole.
Entrepreneurship, therefore, is Whac-A-Mole on a rollercoaster — with insane twists and turns, and every mole’s on fire at the same time screaming for your attention. And yet, as I speak to more and more budding entrepreneurs, I realise that they know close to nothing of this reality. They are often thinking they will be on a consistent upward trend as soon as they control their own life, with little awareness of the real grind and total randomness involved with owning a business.
This reality is rarely communicated as it does not make for sexy headlines. ‘Entrepreneur spends yet another day endlessly typing, taking calls, learning, f*cking up, learning more, crunching numbers, making prototypes, missing out on life events and slowly but surely building their vision’. So I am here to dive into a few of the non-sexy realities to ensure you know what you’re signing up for.
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be in a continuous problem-solving mode and, ultimately, no matter how hard you try, usually the only thing you get graded on are your sales. One minute you are solving an employee payment issue, the next, your co-founder gets injured and can’t work for a year, and next, the train carrying $100,000 of your product has derailed. These are all realities I’ve faced. The problems range from the big to the small, and all will need your attention - so grab that mallet.
The rest of this essay may come across as a bit harsh, but, frankly, I think harsh is good - because the realities of entrepreneurship are harsh and the consequences of poor decision making even harsher.
From my years of meeting countless entrepreneurs at business conferences, industry shows, one-on-one meetings, and everything in between, I’ve come to learn that there are a few key indicators of an entrepreneur in trouble. From what I have experienced, they all seem to centre around one theme. When talking about business and why it should succeed, an entrepreneur in trouble often relates everything to their personal life and not the company’s nature. This, to me, is a vital sign of someone being overstretched and not having protected the downside.
Many times I have heard things such as ‘My business has to succeed, I spent all my savings on it’, ‘This brand has to work, or my wife might leave me, ‘I have sacrificed too much time away from my kids for this not to work out’, and so on. They have no mention of what might make the business work, i.e. ‘My business has to succeed, the product solves a real issue’. As soon as the reason that the business must succeed is primarily personal, there are significant problems. You are no longer thinking clearly about the business. Desperation starts to set in and quickly becomes a tricky position to build a business.
But, of course, that begs the question of how do people end up in this position? Many unknown circumstances are impossible to avoid, they will crop up from time to time, and you just have to ride the wave as best you can with the best data and insights available. But, and it is a big BUT, how much of this desperation is avoidable? I would argue that a lot of it is avoidable by first understanding more about what you are getting into at the beginning of your venture and second protecting the downside.
Is this what desperation looks like?
I have been involved in many projects, from building multi-million dollar food brands, being the original creator, director of photography and co-star of a multi-award-winning feature documentary film and being the original creator and executive producer of an adventure cooking mini-series. I have completed multiple property renovations and love doing stand up comedy, writing and producing sketches and a ton of little creative projects and helping others with theirs. These projects have allowed me to dip into different entrepreneurial worlds from food, entertainment to property - and there are a few global themes that I wish I had known when I started as, in hindsight,...