When I first became an entrepreneur in high school, it was SO not cool. I was heavily into Junior Achievement when “Risky Business” came out, so I got a lot of “Future Enterprisers, eh?” snickers. This was back in the day when you could safely go door to door after dark in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, and oh, we did. I sold tie racks, trivets, pieces of ribbon that pulled into bows, and for some inexplicable reason personalized BioRhythm Calendars. (“Today is not a good day for you to take a calculus test…”)
In the past decade, the pendulum has swung; now it’s hip to have a Square and run credit cards at tradeshows. I’m pretty sure Shark Tank had as much to do with this as the recession. When LA law was on, law school applications skyrocketed. When ER aired, medical school became much harder to get into. I bet admission to a forensic scientist program now is just about impossible.
Because being an entrepreneur is au courant, most articles are 5-point advice lists or “how I made my millions” or click-bait to sell entrepreneurs services. In other words, peppy upbeat stuff. For a dose of reality, here are my 6 favorite quotes for commiseration (or reassure yourself that keeping the day job was a solid move).
1.“Ah, entrepreneurship: every day is better than the next!" - Phil Palermo, Founding Partner, Formation Design.
Ten years ago these guys made Buzzy on spec because they thought needle pain relief was worth bringing into the world. Their entrepreneurial glamor life included a 5 year period basically sitting on each other’s laps, talking in open-office whispers because they grew faster than the tight Atlanta real estate market. They frequently do all-nighters to deliver last minute work that the customer then says they may not need (and won’t pay for). Ouch. Formation Design, I salute you!
2. “Entrepreneurship is a series of near death events.” -Lynne Laube, COO, President and Co-Founder of Cardlytics
Lynne and I were on a panel for a high school class on entrepreneurship. Lest anyone emerge from our session dewey-eyed, Lynne emphasized scrambling for payroll, lawsuit threats, and the slings and arrows of large companies trying to copy your ideas. I think her quote to myself all the time when people ask me how it’s going.
3.“Get a good idea, and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right.” -Walt Disney
Posted outside what used to be called “Countdown to Extinction” in Animal Kingdom. (Dark entrepreneurial metaphor?) I like this one because “dog it” is such an old fashioned phrase, and because everyone knows how hard Disney worked before catching a break. Plus, it goes to show you can always change your first product from a Mortimer to something catchier, and you should listen to your spouse when they tell you to change a bad name.
4. “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” -Unknown
This is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, but there’s actually no good support for this. I also don’t find it to be particularly good advice, but more a good way to lose investors. Instead, if success is your goal, take from the good Prime Minister the admonition to “Never, never, never give up.” Then couple that resolve with his rationalization, “I have taken more good from alcohol than it has taken from me.”
5."It's never as good as it seems, and never as bad as it seems." - Philip Petracca, Co-Founder & CEO, Fizzics Group
Fizzics Group had a giant, hugely successful crowdsourcing launch of their beer tech, (bringing the classy keg vibe to your kitchen countertop!) So successful, in fact, that they then freaked out – demand was high, and overnight they had to bring it to mass market. Seems like a great problem to have, until you realize you’re understaffed and people start yelling at you. Stressful.
Finally, the most ubiquitous entrepreneur quote of all…..
Daniel Rensing, CEO of The Smart Baker, is a fellow Shark Tank Pal. (Shark Tank Chum? heh.) His generosity with insight and experiences from his multiple businesses is legendary. Seems you develop a lot of wisdom (and gut wrenching gastric acid) being up in the middle of the night, reverse bidding a huge contract live with countless other companies, while on the phone with factories to get the best pricing, only to lose it by trying to do it by the book. Until you’re awake with your stomach hurting at 3AM, I’m not sure you’re a real entrepreneur. Hence Daniel’s quote, echoed by those in the 3AM club ‘round the world:
6. "What the @#$ did I get myself into?!?"
Honestly, though, curating snarky quotes was actually a challenge - entrepreneurs are probably the most optimistic group of people I know. Thriving isn’t as much about gold-plating the crap that comes your way as maintaining a constant silver-lining lens. “That glass looks like it’s WAY more than half full, doesn’t it? and that’s SUCH a good branding on the glass!” Formation just got a new office, Cardlytics was named top 5/360 best entrepreneurial companies last year, and Fizzics had one of the most successful crowdfunding launches ever. And I hear “Mickey” is going to be big! As my dad used to say, “Never be too influenced by any one day.” Keep perspective, and keep it real, y’all!