How Much Sacrifice Does it Take to Start a Business


June 20, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Be Your Own Boss

Like many people I know, back in 2007 my employer was badly affected by the banking crisis and subsequent economic climate. Given that I was working at a bank, you can imagine things got a little more precarious than usual.

Despite all that and a wobbly business climate, in 2008 I still decided to leave my job and start my own business. The allure of working for myself, in control of my day-to-day working environment was too strong. I’d been planning and plotting for probably 9 months (I’ll spare you the pregnancy metaphor), and to be honest, had initially planned to just freelance on the side, too risk adverse to take the plunge completely.

Although I wasn’t in danger of losing my own job, even just a small taste of the freedom and possibilities of entrepreneurship was irresistible. And three years later, with a fairly successful business, I have no regrets. Zero.

Along my twisted journey, which has been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, there’s been one common theme that I keep bumping into: sacrifice.

What is Sacrifice, Exactly?

The word sacrifice reminds me of an earlier discussion here on DLM, which comes first: Success or Happiness. But what does sacrifice mean, anyway? Google kindly suggests a number of religious and sports themed definitions, but for the moment, let’s choose this one:

to give up (something important or valued) for the sake of other considerations

Seems like a fair enough definition. But what does one give up when making the entrepreneurship leap? Well, everyone is different, but my list includes:

    • Time. I know zero business owners who work fewer hours than they did while in a corporate job. That can change later on in your business career, but the beginning is mostly just hard work.
    • Delegating Responsibility. If you work for someone else, if something goes wrong you can easily pass the buck. (Or in the classic corporate scenario, it’s more like a game of finger pointing.) When an entrepreneur, the buck always stops with you, whether you like it or not. Cashflow, sales, taxes: all your responsibility now. 
  • Sanity. A lot of entrepreneurs will tell you it is, technically speaking, crazy to go into business. You constantly have to take risks, stick your neck out, take criticism on the chin, fail often. It’s a wonder your average business owner doesn’t run around town screaming like a manic. 
  • Benefits. You know, benefits, those cushy things that employers give their staff to tempt them to stick around. The biggest one is health insurance, for those living in countries without public health care. Retirement funds and investments are also tempting treats that when you work for yourself, you have to take care of yourself. 

But how much sacrifice does it take to start a business?
Ok, so enough with the examples of sacrifice – just remember that sacrifice is different for everybody. But how much sacrifice is required?

It depends.

I wish I could tell you how many of your children’s birthdays you’ll miss. I wish I could warn you about how much overconsumption of caffeine you’ll have, and how many nights you won’t sleep because you’re worried about paying your mortgage. I’d love to say that you’ll be breaking even within a year, or that in 6 years you’ll cash out as a millionaire.

But alas I can’t tell you these things. Every business is different, and each is a swirling mix of luck and hard work.

What I can tell you is that no matter how much sacrifice is required, I feel it is always worth it. Why? Because as the business owner, I am the one in control. I can decide what risks are worth taking, how much time to spend, and how hard to push.

Yup. I may be crazy, but if that’s what it takes to tempt the hand of fate, then that’s a sacrifice worth taking.


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