In business, there are ups and downs. The path of entrepreneurship is undulating, which is at best the mildest way to put what actually happens in that line in words. There are things you’d see that will surely rip your heart in two literally, and I’ve not even started about losses monetarily, which in my estimation is the least that can happen when a business fails. On the plus side, the adventure can be exhilaratingly interesting, and monetarily satisfying when the going is good. But this is money we are talking about, and anything that helps grow it should be interesting. The experience isn’t something that can be learnt even in an MBA class, the degree of which I earned a few year’s back. There are gains in every bit of it, even in losses for that matter. From my major setback, I will share with you a bit of the pitfalls, hoping there’d be a thing (or two) that you can pick from this as a lesson for your future entrepreneurial endevours.
You would’ve gleaned from related posts that last year was a nightmare for me businesswise [see: https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/entrepreneurship-series-xvii-the-year-of-the-locust/%5D. I didn’t also fare too well in my nine-to-five because of the prevailing economic condition and reality. At the beginning of the year, I had five going concerns, three of which were foundational i.e. associated with the side hustle I started with, while two were expansions into bigger interests. One of the expansions I had conceived with two other partners, and we were convinced at the time that though I’d honed my skill in knowledge about the foundational ones, we could earn more by doing something bigger, though with greater risks, besides the fact that we had no personal experience of the terrain, other than the fact that I know a relative that was into the business. The business failed mid last year (barely six months into it) and I just disposed of the assets last week and shared the meagre proceeds with my partners. We probably thought that we could ride the waves like I did my foundationals and made a success of it, even without experience initially, and while that isn’t so bad, we failed to milk from others who had tried and have become aware of the pitfalls inherent in the business, and now know how to get around and about them, such that when we fell severally into the hands of operators who shared none of our ideals and dreams, they totally messed us up.
The other expansionist business was even bigger than the above. In fact, it remains to this day my single most expensive project. Again, I engaged in this with a partner, because of the huge sum involved, also in a bid to spread the risk. I admit to not having any experience in this as well, besides the fact that I knew close relatives that have succeeded in it, and indeed wouldn’t have ventured if I had heeded advice from several quarters. It was a business decision I took based on emotions and not necessarily the math of it, which was actually impressive if all goes and had gone well. The emotional part of it was what was all wrong about it, because even my own advice was unheeded to by me, which is not to employ someone you can’t sack. Eventually, I did the needful after about ten months of virtually nothing as regards financial returns, and a few months back, sold off the assets related to the business as well, and with my partner, shared the proceeds.
It wasn’t all bad news, as within that same year, as I’d stated elsewhere, two contracts were logically brought to their ends, after running their full courses, while I initiated a new one, and another one that couldn’t be completed which I also put out the assets for sale for what it was worth, though that hurt less than the aforementioned bad businesses, because the proceeds from sale of assets was closer to what was left of the contractual sum to be remitted before the challenges set in. I waited this while to qwerty this because I wanted to settle all outstanding cases of businesses gone awry, bring a closure to them and share with you my thoughts on the way forward. Fortunately for me, I managed to keep my day job through out all of the malady that I experienced in the life of my side shows. My only regret was my inability to fulfill the promises I made to investors especially the new ones who hadn’t partaken in the successes of any of my other businesses, as those who had, still have and therefore couldn’t be averse to charting new paths when called upon.
What happened to me further strengthens my belief in the fact that for starters, it is imperative not to abandon one’s day job fully in trying to fulfill an entrepreneurial dream in the early days. I wonder what would’ve happened to me now, if in the days of plenty from my side hustle I’d disrespected my boss at work believing that I could survive outside of work, the pride of which I was beginning to notice but quickly checked myself to avoid “stories that touch the heart” in future. I had known an elder in church when I was just a boy, who left his job as the procurement staff because he was promoted and made a manager, feeling that he wouldn’t make so much money in that position, opting rather to become one of his now former company’s suppliers as a freelance agent, as well as to other companies, but as soon as he was on his own, the stooge he set up as his own man within his former company began to hatch plans of his own, and eventually knocked the elder out of bids and tenders in the company, and things went downhill from there. So, once again I wish to reiterate the importance of holding to our jobs while starting off, or as long as our side hustles are small, or such that requires minimal supervision or physical presence at all times, because when things go south, that job may just be the saving grace, like it has been for me, is currently for me, especially in funding yet new endeavours, as well as supplementing and complementing proceeds from present business interests of mine.
Yes, I could never understand or come to terms with life without having my own business. I think for entrepreneurs the activity of getting so involved is like an addiction. You can even become a serial entrepreneur, seeking new vistas, establishing new connections, placing yourself as the solution or the go-to-person to help meet the needs of a desirous market of and for certain goods and services, and in the end beside lining your pockets with much needed cash, you leave your clients, many of which you’ll never know or meet, satisfied. I had intended to make this academic, and list the dos and don’ts in running side hustles with your day job, but seeing that these experiences of mine, are just a minuscule of a larger and much bigger state of things, I decided to storify it, so you can easily see the pitfalls and lessons embedded within for your admonishment. I know I have learnt a lot so far, and going forward, the only kind of mistakes I intend to make would definitely not be the old ones, and even the new ones must be novel (of course there’s nothing new on the face of the earth), and/or unavoidable, but not such as have been experienced by others that I fail to heed their advice.
For now, it’s back to the basics, returning to my first love. The business that hasn’t failed me yet, and consistently provided while all else proved otherwise. Sometimes I wish I had stayed with Frederick Anderson’s advice in the comment he made as an adjunct to my – https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/entrepreneurs-series-ii-on-your-mark/, feeling that I shouldn’t have rushed into expanding further afield at the time I did, without getting firmer footing in my “bird in hand“, before going for the two or more in the bush. This is where I intend to stay for a while till other opportunities come, given proper due diligence to ensuring that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. I look forward to sharing happier news with you on my entrepreneurship odyssey in future, and to also encourage you, that for what it’s worth, regardless of how inconsequential it might appear, do not depend on a single source of income, but you may not also dip your fingers into every dish, no matter how enticing, as there’s nothing wrong even in specializing and becoming an authority that can be consulted on issues related to your side hustle. Mazel Tov!