By Michael Gunther

Do you remember when you were in your early twenties? The world was full of opportunities—your mind was spinning with new ideas to make it a better place. You were excited about your life’s goals and dreams. The passion, creativity and energy you had for your career and personal development were beyond compare to where your life may be today.

I was reminded of that time in my life about a month ago when I spoke at a Cal Poly entrepreneur class. The students in this program are exploring the possibilities of turning their ideas, inventions and concepts into potential business ventures. There was passion and excitement clearly evident from some of the students, along with the ‘not so sure’ confidence of others.

They’re being presented with an amazing opportunity to begin learning about building a business while they’re still in college. This next generation has a stronger desire to be “an entrepreneur” and build careers around their own businesses. For most of us, including myself, we were part of the “learn by doing” generation, and often our learning meant going to work for a larger company to gain enough experience to allow us the confidence to eventually venture out on our own.

What surprised me the most were some of the questions the students asked—actually, more like the questions they didn’t ask. They wanted to know “What motivates you to run your own business? Have you had any failures? What are the biggest challenges in growing a business? What prevents some companies from ever thriving? Why do you like owning your own business?”

Approaching two decades as a business owner, and having worked with hundreds of other owners over the years, so many other kinds of questions came to my mind that would have been more valuable: “What are the creative ways to finance your business? What are the things that keep you up at night as a business owner? How many hours do you typically work in a week? From where do you get your support, because isn’t it lonely at the top? What have you sacrificed to own your own business?”

All too often I come across business owners who didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to build a business until after they had already started it. They’d heard plenty of success stories about businesses that grew quickly, with owners constantly on vacation or playing golf. They’d heard about great product ideas that started as small projects and were quickly bought out by a large company, financially securing the developers for life.

Those situations certainly do happen, but they are few and far between. The reality is it takes many solid years of working hard and focusing on your dream to create a sustainable, profitable business—living through all the ups and downs of employee transitions, economic hardships and shifting client bases. There are also many sleepless nights and stressful periods that probably age us faster than normal. These are the things most entrepreneurs don’t think about or understand before starting their ventures.

So, is it all worth it? I think so. To see your dream or vision become a reality is amazing. I know for myself, I’ve impacted many people’s lives and businesses. The rewards may not always be the big financial gains from selling out to a “Google,” but the flexibility of my schedule and working with a great group of high performance individuals focused on inspiring, educating and empowering others is a significant added benefit.

Bottom Line

It’s never too late to dream and start something new—but if you do, don’t forget the value of understanding yourself, asking the right questions, and building a strong advisor group of those who will support you on your endeavor.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

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