Managing expectations when starting a business

Expectations are what drive our success in life and business. 

That’s why we as entrepreneurs are always talking about goal setting, envisioning our next steps, and planning for the future. However, having the wrong expectations—and setting unrealistic goals that leave us on shaky ground—is surprisingly common for new entrepreneurs. Without the experience to understand what running a business really looks like, it can be hard to know where to direct your efforts.

Want to know what you’re getting yourself into? Here are a few ways you should be managing expectations.

Optimism vs. Realism

Optimism can help us act with confidence, persevere through hardship, and achieve positive outcomes. Optimism enhances our passion and helps us envision our success, making it easier to do everything from finding funding to generating your first customers.

However, all optimism needs to come with a healthy dose of realism. Many of us start a business to follow our passion, but it’s important not to ignore the hard realities of our market, finances, or target audience. As you set out as an entrepreneur, don’t fool yourself. Allow yourself to be optimistic, but don’t forget to do your research, and to find a mentor who can make sure you keep one foot on the ground.


Lifestyle Changes

Most of us make the leap to entrepreneurship for a better work-life balance, to control our schedule, and to spend more time with our families. However, these changes don’t always happen in the way we think—at least, not right off the bat.

For example, instead of having more time, you might feel that you’re always on the clock. On the other hand, you might find that remote work lets you connect with your family and peers more easily than before. These lifestyle changes can feel out of our control in the early days of a new business, but experience makes it easier to take the reins over time.


Stress and Financial Worries

Without the nagging of your boss at your nine-to-five, you might expect far less stress with your own business. However, one study on self-employment in America found that only 55% of new entrepreneurs actually felt less stressed after their business launched.

In fact, with no top-down direction from managers, the burden of decision-making often makes an entrepreneur’s stress levels go up, not down. Many business owners also face challenges that lay outside of their comfort zone, with 44% of entrepreneurs engaging in a wider range of task types than they did in a corporate job.

And while you likely already have concerns about financial risk, it’s important to remember not to depend on a high revenue in the first years of your business. Lack of stability is a constant for new entrepreneurs, who have to expect to lose some money on the front end.

Setting expectations is the key to any relationship—even your relationship with your business. And while these expectation checks can seem daunting, keeping them in mind can help you avoid becoming disillusioned when things don’t go your way. Paired with a healthy level of optimism, being prepared for the reality of the early days of your business can guide you to long-term success. Again, this is where it pays to have a mentor or mastermind group—so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need one.

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