By: Adam Toren
Starting a business just out of school? Take notes, as there are a few things you should know about entrepreneurship that college simply won’t prepare you for. Here are 10 things your university won’t teach you:
1. “Hope you liked living like a college student.”
Now that you’re out of school, you’re ready to get your own place, maybe buy a car and stop eating Ramen noodles. But, when you’re working for yourself, personal overhead can kill your business before it starts. The more money you spend on yourself and your lifestyle, the less you’ll have to invest in your business.
2. “There are no right answers.”
The problems you tackle in school are designed to have both right and wrong answers. When you start a business you can get good advice from experts, but every business is different and you may not know whether you’re right until your business flourishes or founders. You need to find a way to thrive without a clear path.
3. “Cramming won’t help you succeed.” Skills such as memorizing information and following a professor’s directions won’t get your business off the ground. It’s time to break out of the good-student mode and take chances. Stop meeting expectations and start exceeding them.
4. “Average is never good enough.”
You may have been able to pass a class by just earning Bs and Cs, but if your business isn’t scoring As, the competition will destroy you. Many of the best and the brightest choose to start their own businesses and you will be facing them for funding, attention and customers.
5. “It’s finals week all the time.”
Plan on doing plenty of hard work and withstanding long hours. Starting a business means sleep may take precedence over going out and partying with your friends. For entrepreneurs, there are never enough hours in a day.
6. “Your degree doesn’t matter.”
It’s true that some schools take more time preparing young entrepreneurs for the start-up world, and the contacts you’ll make can help you down the road. But generally, where you graduate from won’t matter to venture funders or other entrepreneurs. Having a stellar idea and the ability to turn it into a reality is what counts.
7. “You’re on your own.”
In college, you have the advantage of learning from and questioning faculty who often have insights that help you understand a class. With your own business, it’s important to find mentors to talk you through obstacles. For guidance, draw on operations such as SCORE, which is a group of retired businesspeople. Or, check with your past professors or alumni groups for people who can lend a hand.
8. “Say goodbye to your old friends.” Maybe you chose your friends based on shared interests such as liking the same kinds of movies or a shared preference for the hamburgers over macaroni and cheese in the cafeteria. You’ll still want to have relationships, but your criteria will change. Old friends who move into salaried positions won’t understand your challenges as well as other entrepreneurs. Look for people like you so that you can compare notes and share approaches. Your social life, such as it is, should also include getting to know potential customers and suppliers.
9.”You can’t skip work.”
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be present. You need to be there, committed and willing to work hard, every single day.
10. “Failure is OK.”
One F won’t ruin a college career, and one failure — or more — doesn’t mean that your next idea won’t take off. Keep working your hardest, modify your business or start another one, and you may graduate from this demanding school of business with a company you can be proud of.