The stars will never align. You will never have enough time, money or information before starting a business. A job opportunity, a promotion, moving house, not knowing where to start, no experience, no mentors, no savings, no idea, too young, too old, too clever, too dumb, too in love, too comfortable. These are just some of the dream killers that prevent people from starting to build great things.
Great entrepreneurs start before they’re ready. While others are planning, researching, waiting, real entrepreneurs get going.
Being in business for yourself brings a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty around money, around timelines, around whether you will ultimately succeed or fail. As a business owner you need to train yourself, one step at a time, to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This won’t happen overnight but as you start with one small step and start to carry a little bit of uncertainty in your life, that risk will slowly build to a point where a couple of years down the track you will be taking calculated risks every day that would make any normal person nervous.
When I was 18 I was studying a Commerce/Law degree in Melbourne. I had a great job, was enrolled in a good course and had a support network that was cheering me on every step of the way.
I threw it all in.
Inspired by looking at business people that had come before me, one day as I walked into class, I sat down, said goodbye to my friends and walked out never to return.
After being rejected by four different lenders, I was finally able to borrow $20,000 from a very reluctant bank and buy in to my first start-up, a business to business call-centre that I would start with two people slightly older than me. In a matter of weeks I’d gone from a cushy job that paid well, studying a good degree with great career prospects and being cheered on by everyone around me. To being a start-up business (otherwise known as unemployed), $20,000 in debt, zero income and a very concerned and discouraging group of friends and family.
I loved it. Finally I was in the game, finally I had taken the step and was in the arena.
Having studied so many successful entrepreneurs before that time, I was well aware that it was very likely this business wasn’t going to succeed. I was okay with that, I viewed it as my apprenticeship. Rather than spending $40,000 and five years ‘learning’ at uni, I’d spend $20,000 and a few years learning about business in the real world, and hey who knows maybe it would work out.
It didn’t. We started losing money, going backwards, working harder than anyone else we knew while not taking home even a wage let alone a profit. We had spread ourselves too thin, tried to do too many things and as such the bills, wages, tax payments were all piling up, and of course being a start-up business we simply didn’t have the cash-flow to support it. We dug ourselves a financial hole so deep that at different times my business partners would take time out due the stress and pressure of the situation.
After making some fundamental changes to our business model and leadership team, we begun to climb out of trouble inch by inch, step by step. After another 18 months we saw the light of day and we’re no longer in debt but had pulled ourselves up out of trouble.
Although this was a very stressful and even discouraging introduction to business, I knew that almost every successful entrepreneur I had ever looked at had gotten themselves into a similar situation and often hadn’t got out of it as unscathed as I was.
I loved it. Not in the moment. In the moment I hated it. It was Muhammad Ali who said,
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.”
As entrepreneurs we don’t hate “every minute” of it, but we recognise that particularly during the start-up phase of business we will be challenged more than we’ve ever challenged before. Like a marathon runner who learns to love the strain of training, business owners must learn to love the pressures that come hand in hand with being the master of your own destiny.
Today I am onto my fourth business, two of which have become multi-million dollar enterprises – MBE Education and The Entourage. I continue to work incredibly hard and challenge myself every single day, only these days I am a lot more comfortable financially. When I was 23 I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could buy my Mum’s house to help her retire which made the early days that were incredibly difficult seem worthwhile. I’m fortunate enough to be able to take my entire team on overseas holidays to stay in luxurious holiday destinations, help my father with his investments and invest into startup companies that are lead by up and coming entrepreneurs.
I’m in a position where I’m regularly meeting with and working with some of the smartest and most brilliant minds in the world.
All of this because I wasn’t afraid to start and fail my way forward. Today the people that used to tell me I was crazy for even trying are the ones who now tell me I’m lucky.