Five years into my own startup -- Deborah Mitchell Media Associates -- I must admit that joining or creating a startup, whether you're just out of school or in midlife, may not be for everyone.
"Hundred-million-dollar investment rounds and billion-dollar valuations have created a romanticized version of the startup lifestyle in the public perception. Some of it is justified and some of it isn’t," says Joseph McKeating, president of marketing and public relations firm Pulsar Strategy, whose clients are considered early-stage startups in the technology space.
"To students considering joining or creating a startup for the glory, I’d tell them that there are easier ways to make money," he continues. "If you want to reach new levels of freedom, do it. If you want to truly find out where your breaking point is, do it. If you want to remove the ceiling on your potential, do it. If you want to help change what it means to be a working human being in the 21st century, do it."
If you are thinking about making the leap, then a startup may be for you if you:
1. Don't need to follow the crowd
There will always be naysayers in any business, and you might not get the support you need. As a businessperson, you are your biggest supporter. You are stepping out on faith that an idea or business will work, and you will have to find others who believe in you and your vision. It's not always easy, but you've got to go for it. If you're OK with being a trailblazer, then a startup is for you.
2. Like living out of your comfort zone
At a startup, you may have to live without medical or dental benefits for you or your family. Health insurance is expensive, and when you are on a tight budget it might have to go. There are no guarantees in a startup, so you have to make everything happen. I've found that in a startup, it's all about the ask. Your ability to ask for what you need, for money you are owed or for collaboration on a project is essential. The worst you answer you can get is "no." If you don't have a problem asking, then a startup is for you.
3. Like working 24/7
I sent a text to a fellow entrepreneur at 7:30 a.m. the other day to see if she was up to take a call. She wrote back that she had been up since 3 a.m. The grind is real. Working from sunup to sundown is sometimes what it takes to get it done. Money should not be the motivator. If you are prepared to work harder than you've ever worked before, then a startup is for you.
4. Have money and funding
McKeating says, "Only a fraction of startups ever get funded, and if yours does, congratulations and welcome to a whole new world of pressure and problems."
If you have the resources and you can afford to spend several years establishing your brand without worrying about money, then a startup is for you. There is always the possibility that your startup won't actually see a profit for a while, so you need to be able to manage in lean times. If you are fine with putting in lots of sweat equity without seeing immediate financial results, then a startup is for you.
5. Are good at wearing several hats
Startups are usually lean and mean. They are short on money with everyone wearing several hats, including content creator, marketer, accountant, and, of course, social media strategist.
"With startups usually short on resources, the personal desire and discipline to wear and own different hats in order to build the business is critical," says Fred Cannone, director of strategic alliances and channel development at Telehouse America, a global data center services provider. "But equally important is having the strength of character to recognize that when the hat doesn’t fit. Don’t force it."
If you are able to juggle many responsibilities, often simultaneously, then a startup is for you.