What is The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship?
Before I answer, “What is the dark side of entrepreneurship?” let me ask you a simple question.
A question that will help you understand – how messed up the concept of entrepreneurship has become for all of us and why no one is telling us – behind the scenes stories of the world of entrepreneurship.
Since you have decided to tolerate the ignorant me and move forward with the blog, here is the question for you – “What is the first thought to come to your mind when someone asks you to describe entrepreneurship?”
I want you to close your eyes. Take a deep breath and then tally your answer with the answers I got from a few colleagues. (you do not lose marks for cheating :))
“Entrepreneurship is about changing the world” is what one of my close friends told me. Full marks to him.
Another noble soul answered, “Entrepreneurship’s goal is to disrupt the existing ways of doing business .”
The rest of the answers I received, too, were similar to the grandiose concept of Entrepreneurship fed into our mind by the never-ending supply of news from media.
One notable exception was an answer from a friend who I love for his straightforward, no-nonsense approach- Entrepreneurship is the way to getting rich fast by building a company that receives the highest evaluation in the shortest time frame.
This answer made my day. Full marks to you too sire for being so upfront on what entrepreneurship means for you.
Now, if you have never tasted entrepreneurship and have been devoid of the fascinating entrepreneurial life – you will enjoy it when I unravel the life of an entrepreneur for you.
Trust me – it is unlike the imaginary world where you the pauper fights the big evil, mean world, and build a business empire that everyone envies.
Time for me to be a party spoiler. (you are going to hate me for shattering your dreams and showing you the ugly side of entrepreneurship).
What if I told you – Everything that you have read and understood about Entrepreneurship was a lie.
What if I told you that you were living in a fool’s paradise. Why – fool’s paradise? Well! Because you only heard or read the selective stories of entrepreneurship — stories from the world of Tesla, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Amazon.
You ignored to look at the dark side of entrepreneurship. You chose to scroll past the stories of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Two famous entrepreneurs who committed suicide.
It took the death of VG Siddhartha, founder of CCD, to wake you from your rosy dreamy world of entrepreneurship – made up of the life of wealthy entrepreneurs, the million-dollar funding, a multi-million dollar exit, etc., etc.
Why on earth would you want to hear depressing news that involves stress and suicides?
The motivation coaches only ask us to stay “positive.”
The truth is – It is a lonely world at the top.
Most of the time, the Entrepreneur is a lonely guy (presumably) sitting at the top of the food chain. At times, he is a misfit, and at times, he is a misunderstood genius who is struggling alone to achieve the unachievable.
The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship includes Depression, Stress which at times lead to Mental and health issues.
Quoting from the study published on springer link on a bunch of Entrepreneurs(source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11187-018-0059-8)
“Entrepreneurs reported experiencing more depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance use (12%), and bipolar disorder (11%) than comparison participants. Furthermore, 32% of the entrepreneurs reported having two or more mental health conditions, while 18% reported having three or more mental health conditions. Asymptomatic entrepreneurs (having no mental health issues) with asymptomatic families constituted only 24% of the entrepreneur participants. “
I know – No one told you about this hidden article on the internet.
How “the dark side of entrepreneurship” took me by surprise:
When I started my first venture, I (like you) was attracted to the entrepreneurial life because of all the fascinating stories told by media and my entrepreneur friend, who (supposedly) was smacking every challenge he faced out of the park.
In my mind, I thought – How hard could it be? It wouldn’t be harder than the tedious job I held at that time.
Now, those were the days when leaving a job in an IT Company was an unforgivable crime that could ever be committed by a person coming from a middle-class family.
The repercussions were – The marriage stocks would plummet. Family standing would go down. Everyone would talk behind your back on your foolishness.
You become a Pariah who people would praise for his bravery on your face, but deep down, they all mock you. They would talk and snigger behind your back.
How naïve could you be to leave a job in an IT Company?
We leave our jobs out of frustration, salary issues, family issues, and many other reasons.
I wasn’t very fond of my job, but it was not a reason big enough to leave my job.
For me, the fascination to build something of my own was more prominent than anything else, and fuelling my fascination was my “entrepreneur friend.”
His entrepreneurial stories dwarfed my corporate drudgery. I could hear him talk for hours about how he made sales despite being from the technical background.
Like a snake dancing to the tunes of a snake charmer, I forgot to look beyond the glowing facade. I was charmed and fascinated with entrepreneurship.
Soon Fascination turned into inspiration. His tales of conquering the big evil world of business was no joke. And then, I started assessing my current situation as a programmer in a company, where I worked on a small module of a big project of a more prominent company.
Though the glass façade of the building was enough to keep my stocks high in the highly competitive Indian Marriage market, it would never give me the emotional satisfaction of living life on my terms.
One beautiful day, I quit my job.
Hello, Entrepreneurship! Your fanboy has decided to come on-board.
A few months into my first venture, and the charm had weaned off.
This was nothing near to what I read in newspapers and what I heard from my friend.
Everyone said, “There is nothing like Entrepreneurship.” I didn’t realise the meaning in “between the lines.”
And it hit me hard.
What they do not tell you about Entrepreneurship!
So, here I was – An overworked donkey who felt duped by everyone who sold him the concept of entrepreneurship.
No one told me that, entrepreneurship’s real world involves:
Failures, not Successes, make you an Entrepreneur:
Yes. You read that right word to word. Failures are more common in entrepreneurship than successes, and for someone coming from the corporate world, that will be a big set back.
You will be required to move fast and not let the failures stop you because, as you slow down – the competition will outpace you.
12 to 16 hours word day is a norm:
Let’s be practical. You, as a first-time entrepreneur with a limited budget, cannot have a staff for every line of work. You will hire multi-taskers and, in turn, will fill in yourself for anyone who is overworked.
12 to 16 hours is the average time that you will be expected to spend in the office. Again, coming from the corporate world – it was a shock for me.
Family time is a myth in Entrepreneurship:
When you spend 12 to 16 hours working and get 4 to 6 hours of sleep, how are you expected to find time for family?
I remember not spending any time with our firstborn and missing all his essential events in life (a regret I will carry to my grave 🙁 ).
Though I am more involved in my kid’s life than before, the time lost has never come back.
How our families suffer is another story?
After two years of marriage, we took our first vacation. We still refer to the trip after two years as our honeymoon 🙂
Since then, I am either busy handling projects or finding funds to grow our company further.
A wise man once said, “No amount of money or success can take the time spent with your family.” I wish I could meet “the wise man” and ask him, “Did you write it from the perspective of an Entrepreneur?”
Where is the time for family?
Add to above, missing all anniversaries, birthdays. I once forgot my birthday 🙂
Money Issues are real:
From loving the 1st of every month as an employee to hating the same date as an entrepreneur, you will witness a significant transformation.
Money issues can get to you.
As someone who has just started a business and has no reputation in the market – Every vendor would want an advance, and every client would delay the payment.
In the end, your Salary cycle would always be running ahead of the payment cycle. In dire need of staying afloat, you will dig into your savings. Take loans at exuberant rates (heard of loan sharks?).
And all this for – what?
To live “The Entrepreneurial Dream.”
It’s a lonely world at the top:
Let me start with how Employees view the owners of an organisation.
“Dude! The guy sitting in the cabin has the best job in the world. He makes money. Spanks us for work and always cribs about client payments and then, we do not get a hike. Life is so unfair.”
The above lines came from my conversation with college buddies who are employees in some of the best companies.
I am sure the employees in our company do not have any better views to share about me.
Most of my friends think, “I am the luckiest guy on earth.”
They have their reasons to believe how lucky I am.
At times, I wish we could trade places.
There have been times when I have begged employees to not leave in the middle of projects (there goes my boss ego). Only to see them leave me in distress.
Now, you as an Entrepreneur can not go and cry your heart in front of anyone because you took the decision when everyone else opposed it.
You decided to change the world. You were the maverick who was to swim against the tide.
Won’t the cribbing hurt your macho image? Aren’t you the indefatigable Entrepreneur?
This is where things start going south. You feel lonely and defeated.
Since you never had time for friends and family, they are no more close to you, and it would like an act of selfishness just to discuss your problems.
Also, you know – no one will understand you.
Let me tell you a story which covers everything that I wrote above:
At the start of my entrepreneurial journey, I got the chance to work with the government. Yes – the prestigious government that had an endless supply of money to waste on their employees but little or no money to pay their vendors until you greased their palms.
I am an idealist who does not like to bribe. The idealism led to delayed payments. Within months, all our money was stuck in government projects. Employees had not been paid in months.
The owner of our office would pop out of nowhere and ask, “when will you pay your rent?”
Worse. I had no money in my pocket.
The dark side of being an Entrepreneur was starting to show its true colours.
I would not be exaggerating if I said – Life was shit.
I had almost decided to close the company when destiny smiled. Yeah. Fortune does smile after screwing your life upside down.
As soon as I paid everyone – predictably, they all left. I was the only employee of the company sitting in the company at the end.
Now one of the employees, who had left us after this incident, recently came to my office and asked me to prepare an experience letter with a fake experience.
When I confronted him for his stupid request, He replied, “even you are no angel.”
You worked as a contractor under the name of a different company.
I have no idea what my working as a contractor had to do with him, asking for a fake certificate. But he made a point.
So – like a disgruntled employee, what do you do?
You go on the internet and post a bad review about a company. In this case, this “disgruntled” employee made few fake ids and then posted all bad reviews about us.
I will let you decide who is guilty here?
But, I, as an Entrepreneur, is expected to maintain composure and drown in my sorrows. I just have to keep up my composure. Take a deep breath and get ready for the next challenge.
Entrepreneurs cannot confide a lot in their employees.
What if the employee leaves tomorrow? He/she takes all your confidentiality along with him.
I have heard stories of friends losing money and reputation when their trusted lieutenant joined the competitor.
The dark side of being Entrepreneurs at times is too dark to see through. When I see all the hype around youngsters starting startups for all the wrong reasons, I wish I could tell them the dark side of entrepreneurship.
Within years of starting a startup, you might end up without money, friend, family. I am sure; the wise men didn’t tell you this before you started.
A budding Entrepreneur in our family once told me how inspired he was to see my company grow from nothing to a company with a decent turnover without any funding or help.
I didn’t want to be a party spoiler and dampen his spirits by speaking to him on the “ugly side of being an Entrepreneur.”
The dark side of Entrepreneurship is a secret that unravels itself after you become an Entrepreneur.
We, the entrepreneurs, are supposed to encourage. Speak nice stuff about startups and paint a rosy picture of being an entrepreneur.
I always lived up to the expectations and spoke beautiful things about being an Entrepreneur. I did not want to come across as a cry-baby who cannot handle the pressure.
However, I have changed over the years, and now – I handle the pressure strategically by openly speaking about my struggles.
I make it a point to speak about the hardships youngsters can expect while starting a venture and why the world is so lonely at the top.
I have come to accept the fact that Entrepreneurship is like life. Everyday You can not have a good day. To make sure I do not screw up – I try and not to let the bad days get the worse out of me.
Do I still get depressed over failures and challenges?
Yes – I do, but then I take happiness in the small joys of life like thinking on my kid’s smile or coming back home to a beautiful family who, despite being a part of my struggle, never complain and always greet me with a smile.
The dark side of entrepreneurship is a reality of being an entrepreneur, face it before it gets the worse out of you.