Starting a business always comes with a certain amount of risk. You’re opening yourself to the possibility of both the successes and challenges that come with entrepreneurship, many of which are difficult to predict before you start.
As business owners, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council have experienced firsthand the unexpected challenges of starting a company. Below, they share 10 of the toughest obstacles they didn’t expect to face, and how other leaders can prepare for them.
1. Maintaining A Full Pipeline
When I started my first company (a service-based business) over a decade ago, I did not know how difficult it would be to build and maintain a full pipeline of clients for the year. Given this, I learned how to target very specific niche audiences, build an engaged email list, understand client pain points and deliver what they needed to fix those issues. I would advise any service-based business from freelancer to agency to segment your audience, build your thought leadership in that industry and provide a solution to whatever is keeping them up at night. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
2. Ignoring Naysayers
When starting a business, you often come across people who don’t believe in your mission. They think that you won’t be successful or let you know that your idea isn’t going to work. Later on in your career, you might discover some people who dislike you and your business due to jealousy. It’s sometimes hard to ignore these people because often times they can be louder than the people who believe in you. You need to learn to ignore the nonbelievers and the haters if you want to be successful. Instead of trying to prove them wrong, focus on making your supporters and your customers happy. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
3. Blocking Out Doubts
Lots of people, including myself, doubted the success of my business even as the idea started to turn into a reality. Sometimes it’s difficult to push out the negative self-talk and convince yourself to take the leap on something. In the beginning, I had a lot of people asking me if I was sure this was what I wanted to do, which heightened my anxiety and made me worried. I’m glad I ignored them and made my own path because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
4. Detaching and Letting Go
When you start a company, you have full control of every aspect of it. When you grow your business and hire a team, you start losing that control. The practice of detachment from the outset and the creation of strong processes for a traditional and remote workforce can help you relinquish the need to control each outcome. Trust your team and employees to take over vital aspects of your operations. Your systems, corporate culture and mission are the life force of your business and will change frequently. The methods with which you handle these changes are how you will always maintain control and be able to guide the direction in which the business will grow. Practicing detachment is one of the best skills I have learned to handle change in my business and build trust in my teams. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
5. Maintaining Healthy Business Relationships
When outsourcing to offer more services to your clients, remember to have NDA and non-compete clauses. Even if you trust your circle, agreements have to be in place so that the workflow is clear while rules and boundaries are set. Never introduce a client to one of your vendors and vice versa. This will allow you to maintain your position of control. I ended up learning the hard way and losing both relationships the only time I did the opposite. Be amicable, but do not give the same confidence you’d give to a friend to your clients and vendors. It is a thin line and seems easy to maintain, but it can be very tricky. Protect your circle with healthy business relationships at all times. – Simonetta Lein, Ausonia Partners
6. Not Earning Money Right Away
As someone who never took outside funding, building a company through a true bootstrap mentality is always more difficult than you imagine. I didn’t land my first client for months and there were times I was convinced I made a mistake and thought about packing it in. When you do start making money, it all goes back into the business. You are always going to be the last person to eat because it becomes about growing the company and making sure your team has what they need. There have been many times over the years where I put it all on the line, cleaning out my savings, not taking a paycheck and putting myself in debt. I’ve always weathered the storm and came out on top. Never be afraid to bet on yourself. Starting a business is a huge risk and you need to be able to take risks if you want to be successful. – Frank B. Mengert, ebm
7. Building The Right Team
When you’re starting a business, you can’t just go out and hire any worker who possesses the skills and talents needed to get the job done. You have to take into account the company culture you envision and how they’ll fit in. Will they be able to adapt to an environment that’s potentially filled with constant change? Can you even find what you’re looking for in today’s general work ethic—which in some cases equates to the desire of less work and more pay? Our company went through all of these challenges in the beginning. Other leaders can prepare by taking an educated and well-thought out approach to hiring in general. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
8. Forgetting Rituals And Reflections
There was a time, especially in the beginning, where I had very specific rituals that let me reflect, learn and grow. As business started picking up, I noticed I wouldn’t meditate, journal or keep records like I used to. I was learning a lot from my experiences, but I wasn’t putting them anywhere to process and cement as an important lesson. This is a tragedy of lost opportunity and can really steer you off course. Make sure you force yourself to do your rituals and reflections everyday, and if you don’t have anything like that, I highly recommend you start. It’ll take you far. – Richard Fong, Bliss Drive
9. Having 24-Hour Workdays
When I started my business, I knew it would take a large investment—more than I could have imagined not just of money, but of time and energy. I do business domestically and internationally, so the hours I keep are largely dictated by my clients’ and partners’ schedules. I have had to continually work to overcome the challenge of managing my time. I believe work-life balance is important and I work hard to make sure my loved ones feel prioritized. The message I would pass on to those looking to start their own business is that there will be an adjustment period where you feel like you have 24-hour workdays. If you can get through those and not give up, you can succeed. – David Chen, GTIF Capital
10. Building And Fostering The Right Culture
Fostering an inclusive, productive and empowering culture is among the biggest challenges leaders face when building a company. It’s one of the most critical components to get correct from the company’s inception. In the beginning, it’s vital that you embed your mission and values in every process of your new company—from recruiting and onboarding to product development and sales. As your company scales, you must ensure all employees you onboard are aligned with company goals and empowered to live them. It’s important to take the time to establish the best way to communicate your culture so that you and your staff can make your company vision a reality.