Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs have been idolized, which often means that we stop recognizing the struggles that they initially faced in creating their businesses. After all, success stories sell, and most of us do not want to hear about the missteps that our heroes made.
Unfortunately, this adulation can set a very high standard that is almost impossible for aspiring entrepreneurs to live up to—they might even feel like they are failing when they are right on track.
Dispersing the many myths about entrepreneurship and setting more realistic expectations is critically important for maintaining enthusiasm and confidence in budding entrepreneurs. Read on to learn some of the myths that should be dispelled.
Myth #1: Entrepreneurs need to do it themselves.
Often, entrepreneurs are characterized as self-reliant individuals who built their companies with their two hands alone. In reality, while entrepreneurs are generally solo workers, they also benefit immensely from a large network and perhaps even a partner. While founders should make sure that the governance structure of their company, as well as ownership, leaves the ultimate decision-making authority to one person, that does not mean they cannot consult their network or have a go-to partner for discussing issues.
Typically, the ideal partner is someone who is passionate about your vision but does not enjoy the limelight. This person provides balance and support, and they must be someone you can trust completely.
Alternately, a strong professional network can provide support, but it often helps to have one or two go-to individuals to talk through decisions. Having this support is smart, not a sign that you are failing as an entrepreneur.
Myth #2: Entrepreneurs stick to their visions.
One of the prerequisites for entrepreneurship is having a clear vision with the confidence to execute it. However, younger entrepreneurs should recognize that no one can predict the future, so their vision will most likely change over time. Some people feel like pivoting their company due to changes in the market is somehow a failure or shortcoming. While it may seem like some of the most successful entrepreneurs saw the future clearly when developing their ideas, it’s more likely that they pivoted from their initial vision at some point during development.
When you reevaluate your initial vision and change trajectory, this is a sign of smart, reactive entrepreneurship. People who do not pivot according to changes in the market will ultimately fail. No one can foresee what is going to happen, but great entrepreneurs think about contingencies so they are ready to adjust when necessary.
Myth #3: Success happens overnight.
Too often, we believe stories about entrepreneurs initially struggling to make it and then coming up with one good idea that put them on the map. Certainly, some entrepreneurs secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for a good idea, but this is a very small percentage of all success stories.
Most entrepreneurs have decades of industry experience and put in a lot of time developing a string of companies (of varying levels of success) as they slowly learn, build connections, and perfect an idea. Thinking that success happens overnight can make you feel like you are failing when you are really making good progress. Even when it seems like others have had overnight success, there is usually a lot of work that went into that success. Entrepreneurship is ultimately about perseverance, not luck.
Myth #4: Entrepreneurs follow the market
A common narrative in entrepreneurship is that someone saw an opportunity that anyone else could have spotted and made the solution into a reality. This story is not reflective of how many entrepreneurs work. Listening to the market only tells entrepreneurs what customers already know, when their real goal is introducing something new that many people might consider unrealistic.
The market is unlikely going to provide good feedback when you are developing something novel. Because people can’t ask for something they don’t know they’re missing, many business ideas are often developed independent of the market. The time when entrepreneurs need to follow the market is once the new product has been introduced. Then, it is time to pivot, adjust, and re-envision according to the feedback from customers.
Myth #5: Entrepreneurs are risk-takers.
People often think of entrepreneurs as risk-takers. After all, devoting your whole life to an idea that may or may not pan out sounds very risky. In reality, entrepreneurs do not have to be natural risk-takers. Many are quite conservative when they found a company.
Often, the fiercest risk-takers fail because they do not fully consider the ramifications. Sometimes, it pays to take the safer route. Entrepreneurship often involves taking risks, but they need to be calculated. The idea that entrepreneurs must bet blindly can make younger entrepreneurs take reckless action.
Great entrepreneurship means finding the balance between risk and safety and making the right call for each situation rather than reflexively opting for one or the other option. When taking a risk, you should always recognize the potential ramifications and have a plan in place for how to deal with them.