Why Not to Become an Entrepreneur – Written by Doug Neal

Much of my days (and many of my nights) since joining U-M have been focused on helping develop programs and activities that foster entrepreneurship and commercialization activities.  Students, Faculty and Staff seem to have an insatiable appetite for entrepreneurship and this, in many cases, is a good thing.  But should everyone become an entrepreneur?

In my opinion, definitely not!

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and great stories from individuals who have braved new paths and followed their dreams.  The freedom that comes from creating your own company and potential huge financial reward can be intoxicating.  But having been an entrepreneur for many years I still find it a bit odd that everyone is so romantic about entrepreneurship so I thought I would share a short list of the darker side of becoming an entrepreneur:

1)      There is no structure.  Each day when you wake up you must figure out what (of the million things) is the right hundred things to get done first.  No one is going to sit there and tell you what is more important or what needs to get done, it’s all on you!

2)      There is no 9-5.  Forget the possibility of a typical work day, that doesn’t exist.  The best you can hope for is that from 9-5 you will actually get something done as that is the time of day the rest of the world is active and most likely getting in your way (assuming you have the luxury of operating within one time zone).  The real work gets done before 9 and after 5.

3)      There is no financial security.  Most entrepreneurs realize that cash is king and you have more important things to spend money on than salary (especially your own).  There is no 401k or annual raises.  If you are in it for the money then you are likely to be very disappointed.

4)      There is no leaving your work at the office.  See “There is no 9-5” above.

5)      There is no sleep.  Sleep is something you can do when you retire.

6)      There is no catching up.  You may have found that by working a little longer or a few hours on the weekend you could actually “catch up” or even “get ahead”.  That isn’t true when you are creating something from scratch.  You never catch up – there are always a hundred things you need to get to but can’t.

Yet, with all these negatives there are an equal or even greater set of positives that drive people forward down the path of entrepreneurship:  Personal accomplishment, self improvement, lifelong learning, changing the lives of people around you, following your dream, etc.

So why am I writing about all this?

The answer is simple.  I think all the attention and focus on entrepreneurship and fostering it at the University is terrific and ultimately it is critical to our long term success.  If we are going to put entrepreneurship under a microscope, explore it, teach and strive for it however, we better fully understand it.


3 thoughts on “Why Not to Become an Entrepreneur – Written by Doug Neal

  1. Pingback: gmarris

  2. That’s a very good list. One of my biggest problems is prioritizing tasks according to importance. It’s very easy to be busy but not easy to be busy doing the right things. Finally, if your work is done online you can literally work 24/7. This can be a problem. Nevertheless, I will fight to remain an entrepreneur and live the dream.

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