There may never have been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur than now – especially in the burgeoning city that is Dubai. But starting your own business is no easy task, and most people tend to face several doubts and challenges along the process. Today, following the return of World Entrepreneurs’ Day celebrations on August 21, I share some of the most common things that I’ve come across throughout the start-up cycle.
“I feel like I want to start a business.”
The incessant impulse or that initial desire to create change in your life or the market, that lightning strike of creativity and innovation, or simply the passion to move a community forward – are all different versions of the same signal to me. It’s the signal that indicates a call to adventure. Honouring that call requires an act of courage and willingness to take a risk and venture into the unknown.
Tip: Search and create an honest inventory around that impulse. What is the deepest aspiration you have for your venture? Don’t be shy in vocalising and share the big dream, not just the intermediate steps towards it.
“Oh no, I just quit my job and I might fail!”
The early stage of entrepreneurship is a vulnerable period. Fear, confusion, self-doubt, dissolution, and disappointment are all part of the starter package. For me, the only path through these feelings has always been to focus on work. Think action and forward motion. I don’t know any entrepreneur who hasn’t felt that way and, while some deal with it better than others, I was not one of them. My business career has had numerous regrettable encounters, but here I am, finally unscathed.
Tip: The marketplace is a busy and crowded space. However novel or noble your venture, success will almost always involve time, persistence, blind alleys, and wrong turns.
“Should I get a co-founder?”
I may be biased when it comes to this because all my business adventures have always involved co-conspirators. Not only did it help propel my ventures forward, but it also promoted a balanced attitude, thinking, and approach. There are, of course, drawbacks and considerations to founding teams. The wrong fit in a team will sink a venture faster than anything else. If you do not want a co-founder, you can achieve the same result through a variety of ways such as creating an advisory board or a board of directors, finding angel investors, or creating strong option plans for early-stage employees where applicable.
Tip: In the beginning stage, treat every relationship with extra care and attention. Partners, early clients, investors, and employees will have a significant impact on your growth. Make sure your values and visions are aligned and nurture those relationships.
“My business hit its first milestone!”
Make sure to enjoy the moment – but not for too long! As your business starts hitting its stride, your entrepreneurial role shifts towards a leadership role. As a leader, maintaining focus and discipline on what’s around the next corner is a priority.
Tip: As a business matures, the creative and energetic qualities of the entrepreneur can often become counterproductive. It’s important to be in tune with the needs of the business as it shifts towards administration, optimisation, quality, and performance.
“I didn’t sign up for all this paperwork!”
Depending on the country, there can be significant administrative overhead to building a business. It can come in the form of licensing, HR laws, data and privacy, taxes, and industry-specific legal requirements to name just a few. Most countries, however, distinguish between small businesses and large corporations, maintaining different thresholds of regulation depending on the size and maturity of the enterprise. In my experience, Dubai has some of the most start-up friendly culture and governance frameworks compared to other countries I have worked in.
Tip: Check out the Freelancer License. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to explore the world of freelancing and a first step towards building a business.
“Someone wants to buy my business.”
Congratulations! You are at what investors refer to as “the exit”! It’s very useful to think about the end of your entrepreneurial story before even starting. It’s not necessarily something to plan for or focus on in the beginning, but it’s useful to keep at the back of your mind. It should also influence the types of choices you make early on as it will impact everything from branding to business strategy and corporate structure. Are you building something that will be franchised? Sold to a larger company? Is yours a social enterprise that will be handed over to a community board of trustees?
Tip: Not all businesses need to have an exit – some can be lifestyle and even generational. Whatever the end of the story, it’s worth considering the options before you start.
“Prepare for a journey, not a result.”
When people ask me about my business, I generally speak about the journey – the people who I’ve met and worked with, and the places that I’ve travelled to. I don’t think my kids know a single one of my business accomplishments, and I like it that way. Having gone through a full start-up cycle from an idea hatched in a coffee shop to a global technology business, I get to now reflect on the experience, and it has inspired me to start a new adventure as a writer.
My first book Man in Motion captures love, wisdom, relationships, and creativity, all while trying to run a business and keep the lights on at home. When I look back and see where I am now, what I cherish most has been the freedom to succeed or fail, to make decisions and be accountable for their consequences, to explore the world, and live my own journey.