Starting your own business can seem like an adrenaline-fueled adventure. You may be drawn in by the undeniable appeal of fast-growing, vibrant startup scenes in exciting cities. You might also have an idea for a service or product that you’re positive will change the world and bring you heaps of success. You could be completely right, but the path to establishing a startup requires a giant leap into the unknown, which can be full of unsavory surprises that you might be quick to overlook. When ditching your day job for the entrepreneur hat can involve some massive risks to your personal finances, quality of life, as well as your physical and mental well-being, it’s a good idea to pause and do a serious assessment of your readiness before taking that leap.
Sam Björklund is a business coach, international project manager, and MEGE Mentor. The Multicultural Encounters, Growth, and Entrepreneurship (MEGE) Program, which aims to boost the number of growth companies by international professionals in Finland, helps entrepreneurs validate their ideas and launch operations. Sam says that many entrepreneurs are too enthusiastic about the product and not realistic enough about the negative aspects of starting a business. “Everyone talks about making a company, but not about things like how you survive one year without a salary. All the costs of living, how do you pay for that without income for maybe 1-2 years? These problems are not spoken of enough,” he says. “Someone asked me, ‘How can I hire five people if I don’t have any money?’ Well, the answer is you can’t.”
Sam has a solid background in helping entrepreneurs find their path in Finland, so he is well-versed in the mistakes people often make after they plunge into startup life. He has worked with initiatives like Kasvu Open and Startup Refugees, coaching early-stage companies towards growth and development. He thinks a critical part of growth to challenge entrepreneurs and make them question their ideas. “A lot of people who want to do something think a certain way, and it may be hard to change their perception, so it was powerful for them to get another point of view. It can help them to save time and skip steps that aren’t important.”
Another common problem for early-stage startups, he says, is a lack of willingness to put the leg work into solid sales. “Many of them are so eager to make the product, but when it comes to selling, they are not interested. You might have to call several hundred companies just to make ten sales. Those are some of the hard realities that come into your personal life. A solution could be that you need to sell first, just so you have the customer. Then later on, you can develop the product more.”
As far as advice for anyone thinking about taking the leap and starting a company, Sam emphasizes practicality over excitement. “Get to know the local ways of business and local jurisdictions. To the people who come to Finland from abroad to start a company: sometimes it’s smarter just to get a normal job in the field that you want to learn about. For example, if you’re interested in the food industry, then maybe work in a restaurant for a while and learn about how it actually is and how it works. Then if you’re ready financially and emotionally, you can think about whether you are ready to start a business.”
So do you feel fearless and ready to take the leap? The MEGE project assists entrepreneurs with all the necessary operational details you need to start a business in Finland. If you’re thinking of starting this path, join us in any of our upcoming events and let us help you find your way and get your business rolling!
By Esmeé Xavier – August 31, 2019