You know what’s nice about learning about math for the first time? Getting an opportunity to practice solving hundreds of problems before its time to take the big test. Unfortunately, when its your first time starting a company, you don’t have the luxury of practicing beforehand. You also don’t have a teacher to correct your mistakes, and you will inevitably make mistakes. But if you’re lucky, none of them will bankrupt your company. When I started Enovative Kontrol Systems I definitely made mistakes. So far, none of them have been lethal to the company, but there were some close calls.
If Enovative was a practice problem and I had the opportunity to go back and start over, the ascent to corporate profitability would have been much smoother. Here are 3 valuable lessons I’ve learned that you should keep in mind, but with some “fine print.” In the end, the only way to truly absorb the lesson is to go out there and work through your challenges.
1. Be Resourceful and Adapt
Plans change and an entrepreneur must adapt quickly. My original business plan called for selling equity in the company and leveraging the capital to get an SBA loan. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the loan and I had to start Enovative with 1/5 of the cash that my business plan called for. You could pretty much throw all the planned budgets out the window at that point. Not starting with enough capital can be a fatal mistake for a company, and we were at one point literally about $2,000 from bankruptcy. Every dollar matters. Use it wisely and be prepared to change. This leads me to my next lesson:
2. Sacrifice is necessary
Being cash deficient didn’t stop us, we just had to sacrifice more and cut spending on anything we could with the hopes that all the initial sacrifice would come back later down the road. Specifically, I didn’t take any salary for the first year of the venture. I slept on the cold, hard floor of a friend’s apartment for 3 months while I conducted one of our first projects on the east coast (we are now headquartered in CA). I even took a second job to survive, which I don’t recommend as a startup takes 200% of the entrepreneur’s time. It was not the glamorous life of running a company that every entrepreneur dreams about, but it took me to where I am now and was worth it.
3. Maintain Balance
The life of an entrepreneur is extremely volatile in the early stages of the company. It can literally mean you have created an infinite, never-ending workload for yourself until you get that exit. In the course of making my sacrifices I learned how to maintain balance between work, health, and social relationships. In the first year, my office doubled as my studio apartment with my desk right next to my bed. My personal life and company life blended so much that I burned myself out. Having paperwork on your desk as the first thing you see when you wake up, eat meals, or anytime I was in my living space is more mentally wearing than anything I have ever dealt with. The cloud of infinite work was constantly there overshadowing my life. As I learned to separate the two and as the company grew out of my room, my productivity and happiness increased dramatically.
Being an entrepreneur is a tough and risky job, but to me, it is one of the most rewarding things in the world. Creating and defining your own job and jobs for many others is extremely satisfying. Though you have to work your way through the dangers of a startup, the end result will always be worth it.
Guest post by: Derek Zobrist
Enovative Kontrol Systems