What do you have when you are employed by someone else? First of all, you have a more or less predictable schedule (even in investment banking you know you will be working 75+ hours a week – pretty predictable, huh?), no financial responsibility for paying salaries to your company’s employees, you can go to a gym or to a dinner with your loved ones after work, meet friends on the weekends or take short relaxing trips to some nice places – all of it knowing that you are going to get a paycheck in the next 2 weeks. This, by itself, is a huge benefit. You are not stressed out when the company is not doing that great (after all, you can find yourself another job), occasional business trips are actually a pleasure and a short break from your work routine (and can actually be fun), and you often have time to think about life, maybe even read a philosophical book. These are all important things in life and there is huge benefit to being able to do this all.
THE MORE YOU WORK, THE MORE YOU HAVE TO WORK, AND OFTEN - FOR FREE
Now, what do you have when you are running your own business? You are the only (if you have no co-founders with equal equity proportions) person in your company responsible for getting the money to pay your employees, the daily exercise which can totally kill the effect of having more flexibility than anyone else during inevitable bad times in the company. Of course, things are great when the company is doing well – then you take time off, go on vacation, travel and have fun. But even then, you still think about your business 24/7. I mean it – you are literally thinking about it 24/7, even when you allow yourself to sleep a little.
When you only have an idea, you work hard to make sure no one copies it (and to your surprise, in a month you find 5 other companies working on exactly the same thing at the very same time). When you hired a first employee, you constantly think about increasing your company revenue, keeping his/her salary at a stable level and about motivating that single person who believed in you. The more you work, the more you have to work because you can’t trust your company to anyone else, you have to do it all by yourself because nobody can do it better than you. When you are on a flight, you are sitting with your laptop drafting investor presentations or product maps. If you are raising capital, you go from one meeting to another and keep watching the famous Steve Job’s motivational speech not to give up and not to take “no” for an answer. Then you suddenly find that someone who was supposed to be by your side "no matter what" starts to express his/her concerns about your financial situation or your commitment to your relationship. You run out of savings, have no time for doing regular doctor checkups or even for an hour of workout. You start feeling as if you are losing it all in life. So you end up being completely and totally stressed but still left with a motivation to succeed and entrepreneurial “independence”. On top of that, if you were finally able to raise money, you have a few angel investors who always think you are getting paid too much for doing too little and that you basically don’t need money at all before you raise another round. Sounds surreal but very often this is exactly what you’ll get when stepping on an entrepreneurial path.
Now, is it all worth it? Should you be considering leaving your full-time job to go and establish your own business? Absolutely – especially if you haven’t done this before. The only regret I may have in my life is not doing my own businesses when I was younger - instead of going to work for Clifford Chance, Morgan Stanley and other nice places. Don’t get me wrong, these companies are wonderful and they gave me a very strong foundation but I didn’t learn even 10% about business working for them. Starting a business gives you a totally different perspective on things (and make you even more valuable for employers if you ever decide to come back to a corporate world). You would probably think MBA will give you a good understanding of how to build your own empire – not even close! I got the best education possible and after I thought I learned it all, I realized I had no idea about how to build a business or even where to start. In fact, I would even argue that MBA might not be worth your time if you want to be an entrepreneur but that’s a topic for a different discussion.
Having said all the above and assuming you agree with me that founding your own business as early as possible is one of the best decisions in your life, here is 7 things you may want to do to be less stressed (whether you will be stressed is not even a question):
These all seem to be very common sense and obvious things. However, I know from my own experience that I needed someone to remind me about them. Hopefully this article will serve you as a good reminder.
One last thought - never give up or fall into depression! Even if it all doesn’t work out, you will get new experience and gain knowledge, and in the best case scenario you will become rich – both are very good outcomes. Try new things, experiment and do what others don't - and you will have a very interesting life which you will never regret!
Life Explorer and Startup Consultant. Moving quickly towards total happiness. :)