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.

Avoid Desperation

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?

Beware Misinformation

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, they would have helped me avoid some less than favourable circumstances. Let’s start at the root. The misinformation about entrepreneurship on the internet is rife and arguably, the most dangerous thing about the game. It can trick people into a false sense of security and cause them to lose a lot. Online we mostly just see the wins, the fun team pics, the awards won, the epic after-parties and endless business mantras nice but have no real substance off camera. Before people uproot their lives and risk stability, they need to know the actual risks of entrepreneurship. Of course, none of us can truly predict the future, but a few key indicators can help mitigate risk.  Some of the most brutal regrets are based on ‘if only I had known X’. So, before you spend all of your savings and quit your job for an unproven idea, let’s chat about how to minimise the number of unknown X’s. The only way to tackle this is to do the research, not surface-level research, serious research like you’re studying for the biggest test of your life because you are.
Most truly successful people I know are not posting online about their success every day. They are too busy doing the work.
Be careful of surface-level research, i.e. the information that finds you.  As soon as you search for anything related to starting a business, you will get hit with many ads trying to sell inspiration. I am at a point now where I cringe when I hear the word ‘inspiring’ - simply because what people think is inspiring is often untrue.  I have seen people with millions of followers post about how excellent everything is with the perfect company image, later sit down to dinner and hear them divulge what is going on. I have watched business influencers take credit for other people’s work. I have watched influencers outright lie about their circumstances to sound more inspiring, simply to gain more followers and more affirmations of success in their comments.  I guess what I am saying is to be very careful. I have been fortunate to see first hand the disingenuous world of entrepreneurial ‘inspiration’ and the misinformation around the path to success. I see this as very dangerous as I have seen people dive into a major project based on excellent motivation, but the person who inspired them has not even done it.  Then, suddenly, the person who was “inspired” has real-life consequences and the influencer just goes about their life gaining more followers and more money without a care in the world that they inspired a string of poor business decisions. Of course, there are a few exceptions. Still, I advise you to be highly diligent with what you believe, always check multiple sources, ask yourself if they are sharing the information as it is a clickbait headline or factual information, think about their motivation for sharing their message. It is likely not to help you, but to gain followers and feed their ego. Most truly successful people I know are not posting online about their success every day. They are too busy doing the work.
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