I'm getting a lot of on-the-job training regarding entrepreneurship. I've started writing about it on this blog so that others can share in my experiences. The first was about failure and the second about focus. Today is the third post in this series and I'm going to talk about glamor in this line of work.
Entrepreneurship, to a lot of people, is pretty glamorous. To be honest, a lot of it really is — it's all very exciting. There's certainly a sex factor to building a business and being behind something great. You meet cool people (sometimes famous ones), get to have a fancy title (like CEO), and have a real chance and making a difference (and a lot of money to boot). It's the kind of glamor a lot of people would kill to have.
But it's also a job. A regular old job, just like any other. And like every job, whether you hate it or love it, it has it's more unsavory aspects. It's not all fun and games. You get faced with really difficult problems you've never thought of before. You have to make tough calls. You get stuck in a corner with only one way out, and it sucks. Your money is stretched thin. You have to fire someone.
Sometimes, though, what you're faced with isn't even all that gloomy; it's just not all that fun.
Let me take a recent example from my own experience. We recently attended a conference. Like all vendors at conferences, we had to have something to give away. But: what?
I wanted to have the perfect giveaway — something practical that people would use and would remind them of us every time they used it. I wanted something that'd put our name in front of them — hopefully daily. That way whenever they left the conference and our constant presence they would still remember us — and, hopefully, call us!
I spent weeks thinking about it. I called a lot of different promotional companies. I asked around, getting feedback and suggestions.
In the end, we decided on coffee mugs. Coffee mugs. I just had spent three weeks in painstakingly detailed thought over coffee mugs. Even after we decided on the mugs, there was still color, type of ceramic and copy to consider.
Needless to say, I never thought that this would be a part of my job description or my life. Coffee mugs.
But, it worked! After the time I spent on it, our mugs were a raging success. Everyone took one home — some more. In fact, the conference used them to serve the morning coffee in. It wasn't glamorous or fun, but — success!
Another example from my recent experiences is dealing with lawyers and accountants. We're growing and so we need a great professional team backing us as we go about our business. In evaluating which firm I'd like to represent us on both lines, I did a lot of research. There were weeks of evaluations, reference-checking and meetings before we made a final decision and retained a firm. I'm not going to lie: it sucked. It really did. I'd rather be programming or talking to clients, but instead I was stuck driving around town talking to prospective firms — awful!
After we selected a law firm, I then had to work with them on getting our contracts squared away. For a few weeks, I was reading up to 100 pages of legal documents. It's dense. There was a lot of googling involved (I learned a new word: usufructuary). It wasn't fun in the slightest — I'd liken it to pure torture.
But we needed. It had to be done. It wasn't glamorous or fun. In the end, however, I'm glad I did. We now have an awesome team backing our plays. It's freed me up to think less about our finances and legality and focus on our clients, projects and future. It feels good to know we've got competent professionals behind us.
On a more technical front, I've recently been evaluating different cloud computing platforms for us to deploy on. There was a lot of testing, talking to support and researching. I read a lot of reviews online about the different providers we were looking at. I'm not a sysadmin by any stretch — I'm an engineer. A lot of that stuff is hard and boring to me. But we need a good platform to deploy our apps on. Our clients count on us to provide a solid service, and for that to happen we need a good cloud platform. It needed to be done, but man is it tough to get through.
This represents a really good lesson for all of us entrepreneurs: sure, it's what I am, but the thing I need to remember is that it's also a career — a job. With it comes responsibilities and tasks that might not be all that glamorous or cool. But it doesn't matter — it still needs to get done.