Entrepreneurship: Layoffs to Startups a Fascinating Journey
Major tech giants like Oracle, Google, Meta, and Salesforce have reportedly been trimming their workforce, leaving thousands of employees to reconsider their career paths. This global wave of layoffs is not just a statistic; it’s a reality affecting lives and reshaping the job market. And now the layoff by Byju’s , once a coveted unicorn, is rattling the peace of many families.
Amidst this upheaval, entrepreneurship has emerged as a beacon for many. But let’s pause and reflect – is entrepreneurship a safety net or a leap of faith? Understanding that starting your own business isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to job insecurity is crucial. It’s a conscious decision that demands passion, vision and a deep understanding of market dynamics.
When it comes to business, you have plenty of market gurus and YouTube channels boasting of making you a millionaire or some heart-throb within a year or two. Well, not even Aladdin’s lamp can. It is a general human tendency to be uncontented with what we have and to ask for more. It is good; one must be open to ideas and possibilities. But not suicidal. You may face difficulties in your job, but all you dream or see on TV or the blog about business or self-employment may not be as rosy as you perceive. Both jobs and businesses require the same level of hard work. I am not talking about some low to mid-skill level jobs. If you are in such a job, better upgrade yourself, and you will see that the struggle to upgrade or acquire a new skill is equivalent, if not less, than venturing out and opening a business and making it profitable.
Job or Business is not about Status Symbol or Lifestyle
For the Right & Relevant Skills, there are Opportunities – Always.
Being in a job or having a business is not about some lifestyle or status. It is all about our choices and how we want to shape our lives. Not everyone can get hired, nor is everyone good at sustained career growth and complex office politics. To be in a high-paying decent job requires skill and training. What all you have been doing in your schooling, graduation, and other technical certifications count. To drive that dream car, if you think you need to have your own business, then you better keep reading.
Being in a business is a 24-hour activity where you can touch the sky and beyond, but how many can take it to that level? Sometimes it takes more than a decade to reach a Break-Even Point (no profit or loss). It requires hard work, skill, patience, time, and luck. People often need to take loans beyond their capacity and stake everything for this roller coaster ride. Over 70% of businesses never see a second decade and end up bankrupting their entrepreneurs and dreams. This is not to discourage you but to warn you.
7 Questions Before You Start for Business
- Do you have enough financial capital to pump into business and keep it running for at least 2-3 years even if there are no profits?
- Do you have spare capital to cover up any mistake, blunder or surprise you encounter to do course-correction?
- Can you stay patient for a long time in the face of losses and frustrations? Can you see through the dark clouds? (Not imagination but realities of business)
- Have you learned about ‘Working Capital’ and ‘Cashflows’? (Lack of them shut down many profitable businesses during a previous economic meltdown)
- Is your business is based on your personal skill or someone else’s?
- Your age, family, dependents?
- Can you acquire a technical skill within 2-4 years and can get a decent paying job, which could be equivalent to the net profit of a mid-size business? (skills like Chartered Accountant, Android Programmer, Digital Marketing Expert, Attorney, yes re-graduation can help you re-correct your past mistakes, it is worth the effort)
Ditch that ‘Follow Your Passion’, Speech
Ah! Classic old trap. Follow your passion. Don’t follow your passion. Why? Well, follow what you want, but if you are not an ascetic or someone recluse and have some material desires, want to earn, get married, drive a nice car, visit places, etc., follow the opportunities. Yes, again emphasizing, ‘Follow the Opportunities’. You may be a good bathroom singer but cannot make money in it.
Money is not evil; it is a resource-getter. Money is not lust; it is what we expect out of it. I have seen people who graduated from MIT and took a job less than their potential, earning decent money and living happily, ditching all that stress which comes with proving to the world that it doesn’t care. Happiness, achievement, and bliss are different things. Sort your mind first.
This boy I met surprised me. He told me he just wants to be a school teacher who will buy a mid-sedan car after five years, marry in the sixth year of his job, and have a happy life; he doesn’t want to run after things. Want to settle down? My ambitious and competitive self could not take the simplicity of a person willing not to run the rat race but to breathe all the seconds of life deeply.
It’s Our Decisions and Choices that Defines Our Lives
If you are like me, I would also say, ‘Follow the Opportunities’. Your bathroom singing or Neighbourhood Beauty Queen Tiara will not take you to Hollywood. But certification as a Python Programmer, Game Developer, Clinical Psychologist, Chartered Accountant, MBA, Equity Analyst, etc., will get you the money. Try a government job.
From the olden days, animals migrated following the seasons, and nomads migrated where the animals (opportunities) migrated. See, it’s natural. Your favourite tree will lose leaves in autumn, and you can starve to death; better track those opportunities.
For Whom Job Sucks, Business Also Sucks
Yes, the truth pill – bitter. More true than ‘Mirror Mirror on the Wall’. Let business not be the escape door from the job. If your job sucks, then deal with it and, overcome it, change your Company. Be like a strategist; plan your way out. You are in the job; if Company has the option to fire you, then you also have the option to find a new Company.
But if you are a low-skilled worker, the problem can be solved by acquiring new skills while toiling the toxic life of the office. Just bid your time and ‘Roar’. Till then, duck as if some sniper is scanning for you. Work and build your skills in silence and then make the jump. Running towards business because your job is tough will make matters worse.
Do you know many entrepreneurs were in the same kind of jobs where they later opened businesses? They were at higher management positions, built contacts, understood all the nitty-gritty of business, and then kaboom. The media never tells the true background. The research behind the glitz.
Learn office politics; the biggest mantra is never to say anything negative about anyone to anyone, no matter how confident another colleague is to you. Learn to manage people and stay calm under pressure. Neve loses cool or controls in any situation. It is a skill that can be learned. Learn people skills. You may fail many times, but when you succeed, you’ll grow. Till then, don’t stop learning and adding new skills.
Building a Startup and Career: The Analogy
Well, those who claim that being in the business means you are your boss and you get all the benefits of your hard work forget to tell you that you are the one who is liable for everyone’s error under your command. By ‘liable’, I mean legal obligations, which include ‘jail term’ or ‘penalties’. It also means that in case of recession, economic meltdown, or lockdowns, you can hit the street, and to rebuild means decades of efforts washed away. While those in the job will also have to take some brunt, when the situation normalizes, they’ll return to their old lifestyle faster. Plus, those in the job have experience added to their resumes, making them a prized catch.
Building a resume takes time. You must stay employed for at least three years to signal a stable and dependable employee. Frequent job-hopping for paltry increments can damage your prospects but won’t destroy them.
Bosses do take their premium share while managing the teams. But an organization has defined roles, promotion standards, and timelines. There are departments; he cannot ask an employee of the supply-chain department to make salary slips. His role is also limited, and so is his scope of exploitation. Plus, in a good MNC or a corporate, there is a growing emphasis on work-life balance.
Companies are going out of their way to retain good talent. If you are an average talent, you better start seeing useful things on YouTube and other learning platforms. It is our passivity that puts us in any hopeless situation.
If you think being in a business means you don’t need to learn anything, then better ask a business person. He/She has to learn everything from scratch. Even complex and tough company laws, tax laws, compliances, etc. So be careful what you wish for.
Being Your Own Boss – Reality Check Before Entrepreneurship
Go to your office, and soon, the office boy will get you water and tea, and if you are in a good MNC/ Corporate, your lunch will be on the lunch table for you. But in your own start-up, wait, you may not even have an office. Forget about a peon, office boy, or any such thing. You may be on the streets negotiating, conducting research, tanning your face while walking in the scorching heat, etc. Owning a business that can buy you a car, house, and travel takes a decade. Till then, it is a roller-coaster ride. Many times a horror movie.
Being in a job, you have one skill or job. You have learned some basics in it, and then you practice its application in your job on the Company’s expenses. You become better at it and gain experience. With that, your market position in the job world increases. You become a known figure, or your experience gets you more pay packages. You can change the Company if you find other higher-paying opportunities.
But in business, you have to learn everything, from staffing, salaries, income tax rules, compliances, sales and indirect taxes, supply chains, managing distributors, sellers, even drivers, etc. The list is unending. You need to do a lot, and that too for nil or negative returns for a considerable amount of time. Not everyone has that kind of backup or financial deep pockets or an understanding family. There could be dependents, financial obligations, EMIs, mortgages, etc. Realities of life shape our decisions, not some fancy luxury magazine.
In a job, you are responsible only for your job-related work, rest even if the office goes up in flames, you are not to be bothered unless you are behind it. Don’t burn your workplace.
Entrepreneurship : Bankruptcy is Riskier than Layoffs
Your salary will be credited to your account during the pay week. Your paycheck is the only thing that is needed. In the most unfortunate circumstances, you always have the choice to leave and find new opportunities. It may take time, but you have the world. Businesses can take a hit, suffer a loss, or any issue. If your paycheck is coming, you are okay. If the paycheck is in the doldrums, you know what to do.
Additionally, these days, many corporate jobs are high paying. If you have some skills and have reached middle management by your late thirties, then you’ll own a house, a car, and a decent lifestyle, while many entrepreneurs will still be struggling to break even. However, around 10% of those entrepreneurs who started a decade ago might have their Ferraris. But the rest, 90%, will still be figuring out changes in the business environment and adaptation strategies while in the back of their head regretting the decision to start the business.
My aim here is not to scare you but to tell you that to be in that 10% is not just about hard work or luck. It is more than that, more than TV interviews and YouTube channel motivations. Rather you have seen the realities of life, so why not trust your own judgment?
In a job, you have a steady income which increases by some percentage annually. You plan your long-term finances, buy a house, cars, etc., on the basis of your credit score. Improve y our lifestyle. Your income inflows are predictable, based on which banks are ready to give you loans. If you pay them back, your credit score makes you an ideal customer.
For many first-generation entrepreneurs, they stake all their futures, assets, and mortgages to run the business; imagine if around 70% fail within a decade, how much losses they incur. The media limelight shows only the top 1-2%. Seen that neighbourhood grocery store owner? Don’t you think they also tried to make it big?
When running a business rather than being an entrepreneur, you need to work 24*7. There is no work-life balance. You need to work, work and work. Even Sundays are like Mondays. You must keep track of business developments even when roaming in a shopping mall with your spouse and kids. For the first five years, there is no time to die even. Like a person in a job, you cannot fake sickness to enjoy the small pleasures of your life. You don’t have those ‘casual and ‘medical leave’.
A person in the job has a thing known as ‘weekend’. For a person who has started a business or owns a start-up, he/she is putting in more than 14 hours of work at least the first two years just only to make his/her business relevant enough to be recognized in the market, forget about profits. All those ‘Instagram’ pictures boasting about huge profits and private jets are to get more views.
If you think that by imagining or by the dreaming, you can get that fat cheque in your account, then wake up Cinderella. Real-life needs real work. Your imagination will get a fat cheque, but that will be in your imagination. No mind-training trick can get the real work done; you are your hero and saviour. That’s the only truth.
In a job, things are easier than being an entrepreneur. But even a person in the job also works hard. The Company squeezes every second of work in an eight-hour job, and sometimes even lunch breaks are sacrificed. But you get that work-life balance; you get those weekends, those fake sick leaves, an option to go for better opportunities. And in case your job sucks, even then, you are earning some experience in your resume.
Flexibility – Opportunities Galore
Do you know in any business, there are some business cycles? Every business grows, then stagnates, then needs a further push and has lean phases, and a calamity like a pandemic lockdown or an economic meltdown can even lead to its closure.
In the job there is only one graph, go up. You do what you know, gather and polish your skills, and earn experience and promotions. Become a hot shot by the mid-40s, and you get recognized in your organization. You make things move, and you lead a big team. There are limited risks and a controlled environment. Your Company takes actual risks while you build your resume. If you achieve something big, you are recognized and rewarded too.
You get opportunities as you scale up. See places, chances of visiting other nations. Maybe a global worker if your skills are so damn good. Maybe you are good at financial management, analyzing markets, advising people or organizations, etc. All that effort you put into studying in college while others were busy with unproductive things is now paying off. You gathered some skills and invested time in learning them.
Your investment is making good returns. If you are senior enough, have made good contacts, and have a good amount of money saved, now you can launch your own business in the field where you have gathered experience for so many years. Many other experience people will join you. Your name is brand new; your experience is your credibility. Now you can also be an entrepreneur.
Just after college, you start earning an income from your job. You may have started as a trainee or intern, but as your gathered experience, you became the resource for which other companies want to bid for. If you are smart enough, you’ll also gather some extra skills to be a booster for your career. All the knowledge you’ll gather will start paying off when you get either actionable skills, certifications, or both.
While in business, you need to learn a lot of knowledge, but business success depends on other uncontrollable factors like the state of the economy, fads and trends, competitors, technological environment, your product or service quality, for how long you have been visible, etc. Businesses can generate astronomical profits, but to reach those heights, you need to burn your ass like a rocket and don’t forget that friction from the atmosphere. You need to go through that ordeal to make a mark.
Comparatively, there is less stress and headache in jobs. If it is too hectic, you can change the job in the next hiring season, which can be just 3 to 6 months away. All that pain can last only 3-4 months if you are seriously hunting for a job. I know there will be innumerable interviews, rejections, etc. But compare it with all the leg work needed in a start-up start-up for straight 2-3 years, with even that; there is no guarantee that the business will succeed.
Due to all the factors I have mentioned above, the stress levels in a job are much lower. Additionally, there are holidays, promotions, pay raises, paid tours and, if you reach higher levels, stock options, etc.
Being in a business is not bad; I am not demotivating business or glorifying jobs. Every profession has its own merits and demerits. It’s just that the media limelight distorts many things. While watching the news, we forget that many PR (Public Relations) Agencies are running propaganda to make some rich businessman famous or to polish his/her public image. They glorify his normal daily life routines as some Great Struggles and try to portray him as some messiah. At the same time, the same achievements had been made by some billionaires in some third-world country or another side of the globe. It’s just he hasn’t yet hired some agency. Wait, soon you’ll get to know about them too.
Jobs are certain specified roles within some businesses and organizations. You are responsible only for your seat and what your boss has allotted to you, as per your job specification and job description. He cannot cross those boundaries. You are well protected within those rules. At the worst, you can change jobs, or if you have committed any blunder, you can reset by taking a job at a lower position in some other company. +
But imagine being an entrepreneur, you committed some blunder; what will be the extent of damage, and what will the reset cost? Will the entrepreneur be able to reset or correct it in the first place? Think over it.
As an employee, you need to do the work assigned to you and need not do more. If the work is too much, and you feel it is unfair, then make that online resume or talk to the job consultant and switch.
But do business entrepreneur has that option? Hell no. Unless and until he has enough cashflows to hire people, till then he has to take that burden alone and cannot complain. Remember, he made his own choice. That is the curse and the boon. The curse causes you to carry the burden of unimaginable work, a boon because if you succeed through the grilling process, you have better chances to grow.
Howdy Neighbour – That Social Life
Remember that work-life balance thing. Yes, your new car, promotion, or office trip can make your neighbour jealous. At least you can have a social life. You meet people, enjoy weekends, and see your in-laws, maybe grudgingly, but you are meeting people. Now you must understand it better after the pandemic lockdowns. You can take a half-day for your kid’s annual day, paternity leave, wife’s/husband’s birthday, etc.
Do you think a person who has dived to open a start-upstart-up can enjoy these little pleasures of life? Surely Not! If he is attending his kid’s first poem recital, then who is looking after the business? The bread and butter are his own work, and if he does not work, the paycheck will not automatically come to this account. It is not a job. He is on his own. Remember this before making a jump.
Dealing with clients, tolerating customer rants and maintaining that fake smile, treating that miser customer as a king, waiting for your distributors to pay, etc., takes a heavy toll on the person. Even if you are working in a digital environment, sitting in front of a computer screen for 14+ hours straight looks possible for 2-3 months. Wait after half-year goes by and then a full year. Your return on investment will determine your enthusiasm when the initial charm of being an adventurer rusts off.
Social life takes a back seat. As more time passes, you feel the pressure to prove to yourself. Patience is the rarest virtue, then. It takes a lot to dig in and find that normal person every morning, which a job-goer finds with every sunrise. But for an entrepreneur, slogging becomes a norm, and those evening strolls and beach walks are rare.
Being an Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneurship Mindset
If you felt that battering business people was what this article achieved, then you should know that business and job are two different things. They require a different mindset. No option is more heroic than another. It should never be based on what you want to prove or your dream car etc. It should be based on the following: (not an exhaustive list, but helpful)
- Realities of life.
- Your capacity to take risks.
- Your patience level to keep on working for the dream while failures are mounting.
- Your ability to put 10+ hours of daily hard work into a business and still ready to give more.
- If you feel disheartened easily, then the business is not for you.
- If you are the type of person who is generally contended and does not love too many surprises, setbacks, or uncertainty in life, then the job is for you.
- If you do not have too many business resources like proven contacts, trustworthy and dependable advisors, credibility in the business world, business acumen, etc. Then sticking with the job is surely a good idea.
- If you have dependent children and you are able to support them, then taking risks is a bit: Risky.
- If you are running from the job only because it sucks, then believe me the effort taken to set things right in the job world is far less and profitable than doing market research, idea development, convincing suppliers, financers, buyers, underwriters, etc.
Make a choice and make an informed choice. Being in a job or self-employed should not be based on what you see on TV, read on social media, or what your peers are doing. It should be solely your decision based on your personality. Whatever decision you take, remember it comes with consequences. Good or bad, they are yours but will affect many others who are related to you in a direct or indirect manner.
Stay empowered and make a thoughtful choice. Make life meaningful, not a photocopy.