There’s a certain idyllic perception of small businesses that persists among many people. It’s the idea that small businesses are universally plucky, boostrapped passion projects making a go of doing what their owners love. And while passion is important to success, there’s definitely a risk to romanticizing small businesses as places in which it’s possible to skip the grind and the need for experience, make it big on the strength of your determination, and find the ticket to freedom.
Entrepreneurship and small business leadership have long ceased to be fringe pursuits. More and more recent graduates are heading straight into the field with their business ideas to test them in the waters of the marketplace. A recent study of 21,000 business school alumni found that 45% of entrepreneurs who have graduated since 2010 started their businesses straight out of school, compared to just 7% among those who graduated prior to 1990.
Turning a hobby or long-standing interest into profit is an appealing idea: while it can offer more personal fulfilment than producing widgets or working from a cubicle, it is subject to the same need for organizational rigor, whip-smart planning, reactivity and accountability as any larger enterprise. Small business owners know the risks that come with their way of life, but many small business service providers still romanticize the big dream without acknowledging the need for solutions that make it sustainable over the long term. For most small businesses, the road to profitability and stability requires intense hard work and time committment.
The need for access to effective tools, financial support, and knowledge resources is especially critial for those who take the entrepreneurial path as a first career, rather than making a transition to small business after spending time in the more traditional professional world.
Those who build the business of their dreams don’t get there by simply wanting it. It takes work—grinding, questioning-your-sanity work. They’ll all say it’s worth it, but few will say it’s easy. To position success as a natural outcome of a simple choice is to set up the entrepreneurs of tomorrow for failure.