If you personally know someone just beginning to start their own business – whether it be a laundromat, a medical practice, or an online venture like Fellowstream – then you know someone who has no idea what they’re doing.

Here’s what I’m talking about – my dad’s family has always been heavily involved in the Idaho potato industry.  In fact, my great grandfather was one of the key businessmen who launched the entire industry.  On a more personal note, I’m a classically trained MBA (a proud Oregon duck in fact).  I took several classes with the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.  I even pitched a medical business called Armozyme to real investors at four different business plan competitions in two countries.  (My good college buddy eventually launched that business with medical investors in southern California.  And if that isn’t enough, I’ve been employees #3 and #50 respectively at two small businesses.

That’s me, showing off a diabetic monitor as part of “Team Armozyme”

If anyone were ready to launch a business, it should be me, right?

Well, yeah, technically, I’ve got the knowledge and even some of the experience.  But, as I’ve found with lots of things in life, it takes more than know-how and first hand observation to build something worthwhile.  Launching Fellowstream has been a huge drain – on my finances, on my free time, and yes, even on my relationship with my husband.  There are so many reasons why an entrepreneur shouldn’t launch a business that some days, I really have to push myself to get out of bed.

There are already hundreds of articles on the interwebs about how to survive being an entrepreneur, but for me, it boils down to two essential principles from which all others derive:

Principle #1: Have Passion

If you love your business, you’ll get through the “why did I quit my day job for this?” moments.  You’ll be excited every time someone shows up at your (digital) doorstep, and each new customer will feel like an Olympic feat.  You’ll create something you love, and you’ll love talking about it with everyone.  You’ll be proud, not only of yourself, but what you’ve built.  And somehow, you’ll find a way to get through all those little obstacles that eventually crop up.

Principle #2: Know When to Quit

When the “passion” is gone, it’s time to get out.  I’ve seen it both ways with failed and successful businesses.  You may need to quit because you’re tired of eating ramen noodles with your wife every night.  Or, if the business grows, you might find that others take over leadership positions you once held and the company is no longer yours.  It could happen.  Either way, you must know your threshold and respect it, otherwise you make yourself and those around you miserable.  (NOTE: Just because you quit one business doesn’t mean you can’t start another.  I know several people who are much happier starting a business than following through and making it grow, and that’s okay.  The world needs all kinds.)

So for now, I’m happily floating around in Principle #1.  Here’s hoping it lasts a long time to come.

-Deborah Fike

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