The Harsh Truth About Being an Entrepreneur and Why Everyone Won’t Become One

Nov 02, 2019 1 Min Read
Learn What it Takes to be An Entrepreneur

It’s a familiar story. Glamorous twenty-something- year-old entrepreneur has a great idea, moves to Silicon Valley, makes millions working four hours a week and retires at 30. It looks so easy, just about anyone can do it. But there’s a lot more to starting a business than these ‘success stories’ would have you believe.

Social status means nothing in business

According to the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Australia report, Australians saw entrepreneurship as “a good career choice and that successful entrepreneurs attain high status in society”. Chasing glamour is a dangerous and often futile path. If you’re in it for glamour alone, then don’t get too comfortable – your business won’t be around long.

The odds are against you

Regardless of their reason for starting a business, less than 10% of entrepreneurs will succeed in their new ventures. Those who do, possess a peculiar combination of tenacity, flexibility, a solid financial buffer and a knack for timing.  Most importantly, they are calculated risk-takers. These are hard and not particularly palatable truths that rarely make headlines.

But I can learn that stuff, right?

Much like being a musician, there are aspects of entrepreneurship that can be learned, but those who were born with rhythm and a good ear have a huge advantage.

Some people just have a natural ability to read the market and take the right risks at the right time – and if they’re hard workers, they might just make it. Having a good idea is simply not enough.

READ: One Thing Holding Entrepreneurs Back and How to Overcome It

Starting a business is one of the toughest things you will ever do

The glamour stories of entrepreneurs who have made it big also fail to acknowledge the inevitable challenges and setbacks that face every start-up in the early stages. You might make a few sales and feel like you’re getting somewhere. But then your competitors adjust to your presence in the market and step up their game to compete. Have you got an ace up your sleeve?

Perhaps you’ve entered the market during an industry boom, only to find out a year in that it’s now in decline. Have you got enough money in reserve to weather the financial storm?

Maybe you and your business partner have had a disagreement and they want out, but you can’t afford to run the business without them. Worse, you’ve re-mortgaged your house to make the business work and your family is depending on you. Many start-ups fail for reasons like these, and it’s not pretty. But you won’t see them in today’s paper.

Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle choice

Just like joining a gym, being an entrepreneur will only work if you do. Advertisements for gyms feature beautiful people looking and feeling fitter than most of us could ever hope to be.

You could join them and achieve your dreams, too, just by signing up and paying your membership fee. The hard part is committing to turning up on a regular basis and sticking to your plan. If you can do this, you’ll be well on the way to a new you.

It’s a lifestyle decision – and so is starting a business. You won’t achieve your dream unless you plan, commit and follow through, even on days when you would rather stay in bed. A recent UK study reported that from a sample of more than 340,000 health club members, just 52 per cent had retained their membership after 12 months. 24 per cent were still members after 24 months and only 14 per cent lasted 36 months.

The road is long – keep the faith

Lifestyle changes like getting fit and starting a business don’t happen overnight. They involve significant sacrifice, persistence and a certain stubbornness than not many of us possess. It’s a mindset which can be learned. Be realistic, cultivate the right attitude and anything is possible. You will make mistakes, but if you have planned for the inevitable hurdles, you will develop staying power.

As Apple founder Steve Jobs once said, “Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” It’s time to get real about entrepreneurship.


Alan Manly is the founder and CEO of Group Colleges Australia, one of Australia’s largest private education institutions and recently launched the private MBA school, the Universal Business School Sydney. From a high school dropout to successful entrepreneur, Alan is a true disrupter in the private education space.He is the author of two books, The Unlikely Entrepreneur and When There Are Too Many Lawyers There Is No Justice.To connect with him, email us at

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Alan Manly is the founder of Group Colleges Australia and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur.

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