Imagine giving your all; your nights, your weekends and even your sleep to something and not seeing your return for days, weeks, months, or even years. You spend the dreams of your days and nights working, thinking, and re-imagining dilemmas, new approaches, and ideas for this thing. But, nothing gives. All that stands is what you’ve given and there’s no take off. There will sometimes be a glimmer of flight, but then it doesn’t sustain. So again, you go back to the drawing board and think, where’s the damn love?
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” – T. E. Lawrence
Business ownership is often touted as possible for everyone, withstanding through time, passion inducing, exciting, and even sexy. But, just like that ex, it’s got no love for you. A small business does not care how much time or energy you’ve given. It doesn’t care that you’ve told everyone you love about them. It doesn’t care that you have given the most precious thing a human can: time. It does not care that you have the education, experience, network, capital, or drive. It’ll take, and take, and take and look at you like any parasite does: pathetic.
About two years ago my father and I prepared for two weeks for a major bid submission. It was two weeks of 12-14 hour days mulling over contracts, cost analysis, vendor research, and combing through verbiage. I ended up sick during this time and between the piles of tissues, stacks of documents, and going cross eyed we treaded on. By the end of our submission we were wiped. We stood back and looked at the marvel. We felt so proud. This bid was our baby and we just loved the damn thing.
A year later that baby looked at us brand new and rejected us. Yes, sir. We did not win that bloody bid and we felt so defeated. We gave it our all; our snot, sweat, and tears and we lost. How? I mean, we were perfect for it, in every possible way. It was going to be our major break. We prayed over it, our family prayed over it, our friends did as well. And there it went: our time, energy, and hopes. In the weeks following we heard of other competitors who won and couldn’t help but wonder, “but they couldn’t love or treat you better than we could”. Ha!
All jokes aside, we heard that the bid was a bust and that those who won were being paid very little and being enforced by rules and regulations that were strict and daunting. Reimbursement for services would allow most to break even and the demographic was not necessarily desirable. In the end, the loss was a win. All that time and energy we put in, the several months after we remained faithful and envisioned a future with this win, and in the end it served us better to be without it.
The moment we let go other opportunities and contracts became available. And, because of the crash course we experienced, we shaped up our own policies and procedures. The experience made us better, and in the end we were rewarded with better opportunities because of how we grew from the experience. It’s funny, because now, if offered to us on a silver platter, we’d kindly decline that bid. Maybe not kindly, but we’ve got better having to do less. So, bye.
“Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference. Perhaps this is why we always love madly someone who treats us with indifference.” -Cesare Pavese
I believe, this is often why so many business go bust within the first few years. You cannot unwaveringly love someone without knowing them to their core. In business terms you’ve got to know the industry, you have to know the market, you’ve got to offer something new or different, you’ve got to have the startup or be willing to work for free, and finally have the kind of focus and ethics that will ingratiate you to not only your consumer base but any partnerships you forge within or outside of your business. Just like you know that love like the back of your hand, you must have a command of your industry. You know who that person may be seeing or have an interest in; know your competitors and what they offer. You know that your ex is a compulsive liar; market on that weakness and market integrity as your leverage.
The business itself has eventually learned some reciprocity. The toxic relationship it once was is now turning a bend and offering a return for our tireless commitment. But it’s a love not meant for everyone. It’s an endless endeavor that carries you beyond the computer screen and into your bed. It’s there in the meals you miss, the social activities you cannot go to, the bottles of wine you empty, and arguments you regret. It’s there, a pit in your stomach, that you cannot pass. Entrepreneurship is for the unrelenting; for the kind of formidable force that will not recoil at “no” and retain hope in the face of seeming failure. It’s an endeavor not for most for it’s a love that even when seemingly won, requires constant attention.
If in the face of failure you leave and look elsewhere, a 9-5 working under Bob or Sue may be better for you. Otherwise, if picking back up and taking failure as leverage excites you like the sadist you are, entrepreneurship is an adventure to eventually grip the reigns of. A love to not see as hopeless, but always on the horizon.