There are many rewards for running the show when you’re the founder of a business. In fact, we often only hear about the enticing aspects—it is glory and beatitude, being the exalted founder. When a youngster says they want to be an entrepreneur, they usually mean they want to be the next Elon Musk, or Mark Zuckerberg, or some TikTok sensation … but they don’t really count.
Starting a business comes at a price. No one sees the underbelly of starting and growing a legitimate for-profit entity. For every Musk or Zuckerberg, there are 100,000 struggling founders developing all kinds of new technologies, gadgets, apps, energy sources, tools, and on and on.
These men and women are on the journey. It’s always a journey.
That journey in business is often long and harsh. Many, many don’t make it, as we know, and many shouldn’t make it. The founder’s journey is not for the weak, which is why many people won’t take the risk. It is not often glamorous or sexy. Rarely does the founder’s journey take someone where they expected—even when they’re successful. I have started eight companies, and none wound up where we thought they would, even with several successful exits. There are many twists and turns, small wins, big losses … ups and downs.
It can become monotonous and lonely. When things are not going as planned, we feel isolated and have no one to talk to. We may not want to express our concerns to our significant other, fearing they’ll just tell us to go get a real job. (In my case, that’s not possible, because I have no redeeming qualities for which anyone would actually pay.)
We certainly don’t want our investors to know our dark thoughts. So who do we talk to? Who would understand or care what I’m dealing with and going through? I’ve actually been going through some of this myself lately, for several different reasons. Who do I talk to, when I’m the person many come to for their answers? There are also times when we feel as though we’ve built a job and not a company. This actually happens a lot with small consulting companies. There is no exit, because you are the company, Without you, there is no value.
In 2011, after the recession, my buddy Rod Hosilyk and I were developing an early entrepreneurial curriculum for JOIN Inc. to help out-of-work professionals understand that their professional lives weren’t over. Some had the same job or career for decades, and many of those jobs were not coming back. Our position was always, “Now that your stupid jobby-job isn’t in the way, you can do anything you want, and build your dream instead of someone else’s.” It’s a contrary message to most people, who are risk-averse or who have never started a company before.
When the initial classes ended, a chemical engineering student asked, “Now what?” My reply was: “Now go and build your company.” We then had them determine things they’d accomplish over the next 30 days to build their business. We set up a follow-up workshop to check in. That former student is a dear friend now, a successful entrepreneur who travels the world training university engineering departments on how to get their labs certified to U.S. standards. She is amazing. (Visit AccreditationPreparation.com to learn more.)
This process started a 12-year journey of “founders helping founders,” and Entrepreneurs Assembly Inc. (EA) was born. The award-winning mentoring organization has helped bring founders together, and we’ve gotten a lot of buzz. We’ve brought more than 1,000 startups together over the years to have them openly share what keeps them up at night—and then solve each other’s challenges in a confidential and non-judgmental forum.
Like all organizations, EA has gone through many changes—especially during the pandemic years. We changed the name to BizAssembly.org (BA) due to an unexpected legal pissing contest with Entrepreneur magazine, which sues any company that tries to register “Entrepreneur” anything. (That’s a wild story for another time.)
BA has continued to morph and change with the times, due to a strong and effective board and die-hard founders who appreciate the network and accountability that we can provide. We went virtual through the pandemic, and still largely operate virtually during the summer, when everyone is traveling or staying in due to the heat.
Are you starting a business, or a side hustle, or trying to grow an existing biz? Are you trying to go from pre-revenue to revenue, revenue to growth, or even build an exit strategy? BizAsembly.org can help. There are savvy mentors, serial founders and first-time founders from many different sectors, all coming together monthly to strategize, network, vent, commiserate and build. It is powerful.
How cool is it when you can get a 25-year-old grad student mentoring a 60-year-old on tech, with the 60-year-old mentoring the grad student on proven sales strategies? Recall Vistro, the ghost-kitchen startup I featured a few months back? They came through the program, as did the Imbib founders and many other Northern Nevada success stories.
BizAssembly.org will be launching Fall Founders Roundtable workshops at the UNR Innevation Center, at 450 Sinclair St., beginning Saturday, Sept. 9, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Mark Pingle will be leading the workshop, with some guest appearances to be announced soon.
No one knows what a founder goes through … except another founder! Come find out.