Entrepreneurship is not “fun and games”

Today, I had lunch at a popular locally owned sandwich place (named after a sausage) in the city.

If I remember correctly, this sandwich place started nearly the same time when I started Adonai Group. I was a regular at this joint because they served the best “sausage between bread” and wholesome sandwiches. I also remember that the owners had great vision of educating Singaporeans on the art of good quality sandwich and gourmet sausage appreciation. They were passionate and did well in their early years to add their second outlet in the central business district.I remembered they had at least 5 staff manning each joint during the peak hour – grilling sausages, heating up sandwiches, taking orders and ramping the whole production process to meet demands.

When I visited again today, it was just before the lunch hour and one of their owners recognised me as an “old” regular and engaged in a brief chit chat. It turned out that despite my impression that business was good and that he (the owner) had possibly achieved his dream, he told me with much weariness that he still had to run between the two outlets and was still struggling with having a team of staff, let alone “competent staff”.

As an entrepreneur myself, I understood the pain of the challenge he faced. Regardless of the nature of business, all entrepreneurs faced this challenge of having a good team to support their vision. This is especially so for companies that are just starting out or are growing – where each employee had to be multi-skilled, multi-tasking thinkers and doers. And in his words, competent.

In fact, I find it ironic that whilst most of us become entrepreneurs because of the innate discomfort to be accountable to “a master”, we started our business to end up with “many masters”  in the form of our customers, shareholders and our employees.

As entrepreneurs, we are constantly reminded to be better “servants” and serve the interests of our stakeholders in order to retain good people, loyal customers and trusted partners. Put simply, as an entrepreneur, I traded my selfish interests to serve the interests of everyone else.

Being an entrepreneur often means that we are the last ones to pack up, the last ones to get paid (if there is enough to be paid from), the ones who will clear up the mess that no one else wants to clear. I’m sure you get the picture.

So, to all those out there who are convinced that entrepreneurship is their “thing”. Consider again. Because the bountiful harvest you envision for the business often takes a long time to sow, and an even longer time to reap, and it is guaranteed to come with painful challenges of staffing, revenue generation, and many others.

I believe that at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is no longer about our “self” but something greater. A greater common good that many will benefit from – be it a job opening, a needed product or service, timely dividends to support a retirement fund, or a development that creates a whole new market.

If I have pricked your fantasy of entrepreneurship, I’m glad. Because I wish someone did that for me. But that is a separate post altogether.


About Michelle Ling

Michelle is the founder of Adonai Group Pte Ltd - a boutique business consultancy that advises organisations on organizational sustainability.
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