It is believed that the decision to resign a prestigious job and plunge into the adventure of entrepreneurship – is a bold and risky one, and these are the qualities that distinguish real startuppers from the ruck. But the consequences of such a decision can be very different, sometimes even dramatic – as, for example, the founder of piqers.com Ali Mesa. Although his story ends happily, it can also serve as a warning to all who are inclined to take hasty decisions. We publish the translation of his article.
Finally I got the SMS: «Tomorrow, at 5 am, flight number AZ610, « Rome-New York”.” All the messages, which came to my BlackBerry on Sunday evenings, usually were related to a client, which I was going to meet in the week.
I worked for one of the three top international consulting companies.
It is a life on a suitcase. It is a life of a consultant, in which you overlook everything and everyone, except the tables in Excel. We are coached as ideal slaves for the life of cool businessmen in the best business schools which diplomas, we are proud of.
After a few hours of sleep, I was already sitting in my personal car, and the driver drove me to the Fiumicino airport in Rome, so I could fly to New York awesome business class. After the flight I was put up in a beautiful five star hotel and went to the office of the client. What about the salary? It was excellent too. My company was proud of being on the list of firms with the highest salaries in the sector.
But something was wrong in this life. I could not stand this shit anymore, so one day I called my parents and said: “Mom, Dad, I just quit my job and I want to launch a startup.”
My mother almost had a heart attack. A mom-perfectionist clearly doesn’t want to hear something like this from her son which she was inspiring to study at the elite business school and was praising for good grades. I tried to ease her blow, but I had no chances.
“Mom, I hate this life. All consultants pretend terribly happy, as if they are high. I manage to sleep 3-4 hours a day. All the bonuses that the company promised me just do not exist. Remember that cool five-star hotel? I work 20 hours a day and I cannot enjoy it. Great breakfast? I have no time for it. Lunch, dinner? Most likely, it will be a sandwich in front of a computer screen with the Excel tables. And by the way, instead of champagne in business class during the flight, I enjoyed watching the charts. Good salary? I’ve got no time to spend even a penny of it.”
Mom, I hate to live this way, it is a life of a loser. I do not even see my girlfriend, and I can bear it no longer. I want to start a business.”
My parents, by the way, retired after a tedious bureaucratic and official job.
I understood that the family had had no business experience, so it would be difficult to explain the parents the situation. But I never expected that my mother would call me the next morning: “Well, how’s your business? Any success?!”
No matter how I tried to explain her, she did not understand that business growth needs more than one day.
Girlfriend, friends, circle of contacts
My girlfriend was always ready to support me, so I shared the news with friends, busy with climbing the corporate ladder in a brilliant corporate world.
I told everyone that I had left my work to realize the startup of my dream. Someone gradually reduced contact with me considering me crazy: for a short period it was the second time I left a cool job. Others supported me, but in communication with my friends something went wrong too: soon I realized that I try not to visit parties and gatherings.
Every time I met my friends, I had no answer to the constant questions about my startup. “Well, how’s it going with your startup?”, “You are looking to become a new Zuckerberg, aren’t you?” “Oh, dude, we are so proud of you, we all believe that soon you’ll raise huge investments.”
Work on a startup – is a long journey, and it was hard for me to go through it, considering how much I was worried about public opinion.
Day after day, I became more and more lonely and got depressed because I rarely met my friends. My startup was not developing as quickly as it seemed to my friends. I was terribly sick of repeating the same thing: startups need years and years to reach the success of Facebook or Twitter. The only place I felt comfortable was near entrepreneurs. It’s true: only a startupper can understand a startupper.
Money, money, money
Lack of money – a source of stress appeared as if it wasn’t enough solitude and social pressure. I was run out of money much faster than I could imagine. It just killed my productivity and ability to make reasonable decisions. I was constantly in panic, trying to find the path to success and earnings.
I remember the day when I had to beg for a few cents my girlfriend: I just had no enough money for a bottle of water. Then I did not realize that this was only the beginning of the difficulties.
It’s enough of drama: more than two years passed since that time. I write this post, sitting on the beach of one of beautiful resorts in Thailand, Phuket and drinking mojito. No, I’m not bragging, and no, I did not become another millionaire -founder of a startup.
But now my business generates a steady inflow of money, this is enough for me to travel around the world, I can also afford to work anywhere there is Wi-Fi.
But I have a regret. If I could only ask myself five questions then, before beginning the painful journey, creating a startup. Five questions that I think every prospective entrepreneur should ask himself:
- Are you ready for social pressure?
If your friends and family do not go into business, they won’t really understand what you are trying to achieve and the pressure from their side will be palpable. I was so worried about what others thought of me that it has almost ruined my life. I was so demanding to myself, I punished myself with more work to bring closer the day when I could tell everybody about my success. It lasted until the moment when I realized: if everybody did not care about me at all, what the hell did I worry then?
You are just a few seconds, which others will spend reading your status on Facebook. In the 2014, no one got time to really care about others in a noisy, crowded world. If you are so much worried about the public opinion, you will spend much time trying to prove them that you are successful, instead of just working on startup. Begin to live your life. I got it quite late.
- Are you alone? If not, will your partner support you?
I was lucky to meet a wonderful girlfriend, but I saw many friends-entrepreneurs who broke up with their girlfriends, doing business. Building a startup is a very hard task, much harder than I ever imagined. Your brain is constantly filled with a million questions and problems, and no one, including friends and relatives, has even an idea of what’s going on in your head. If you’re not alone, try to explain your partner that sometimes it’s normal for a businessman not to be in mood even for a simple kiss.
- Do you have enough money to hold on for at least a year?
OK, now multiply that number by three, because your savings will run low faster than you ever imagined. There will always be hidden costs, payments to lawyers, broken “iPhones” or computers, accountant’s salary on your way.
Inwardly, prepare yourself to move into a humbler apartment, to eat less, to count pennies, and to do things of which you did not even think in a previous life.
The last few months before the money on startup finally run out, will be particularly hard, and the psychological pressure will grow exponentially, so that you lose your normal sleep. Success will come gradually, and the money will be literally burned. Act cleverly: plan everything from the very first day.
- Are you ready to sleep a few hours a day?
After escaping from the world of corporate consulting, I thought I finally got into a dream: to work where I want, until I saw a Lori Greiner’s quote: “Entrepreneurs are those who are ready to work 80 hours a week for not to work fixed 40 hours “.
It all started with waking up in the middle of the night – at first because I was caught by more and more ideas. I just could not wait until the morning to start work on them. Then the phase of exaggeration came. I worked too much, as I always wanted to improve the idea. But the more I worked, went to bed later, the harder it was to fall asleep, and so the sleep became restless. As a result, two or three days a week, my performance was equal to zero.
Don’t let yourself to be fooled by delighted discussion of news about startuppers-millionaires. These success stories conceal painful days, sleepless nights, constant failures and refusals. The journey to success is very long.
- How do you define success?
Each of us has his own priorities in life. For most of us the priority #1 is money, for others – it’s a balance between life and work. Basing on what you consider as a success, you can estimate the complexity of the way before you. If money and public recognition are important for you, you will have hard times.
But don’t forget the words of Hemingway: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”. Successful entrepreneurs are not necessarily those who earn millions. Do not forget, this happens very rarely.
But there are thousands of dreamers who do not get into news, but who manage to run a startup, and to be happy with their life. However much the way to your business could spoil your life, no matter how difficult it was, enjoy it and follow your passionate hobby. Tony Gaskins said good words: “If you do not build your dream, someone will hire you to build his one”.