The Reality of a business Podcast Transcripts – The StartUp Reality Podcast Episode 1

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William Page (00:00):

So the reality is that being a founder of a startup, or of a small early staged business is one of the most difficult thing that a person can do and there are many reasons why this is the case.

Helen Vang (00:14):

This is the startup reality podcast, bringing you honest conversations with founders, business owners, and industry professionals aimed at sharing what it means to find your voice, grow your business and achieve success the way you define it. Whether, that’s growing your career or starting a business, the startup reality podcast, provides insight into the journey ahead, the challenges awaiting and the strategies used to overcome them.

William Page (00:42):

Whether it’s the daily struggles, the constant concerns for the company and for the employees that you are responsible for. These are concerns, but it’s more around that You are the decision maker, the buck stops with you. So you’re constantly thinking what you need to do in order to drive your business forward and to deal with some of the risks and concerns that you have.

Helen Vang (01:09):

That was William Page co-founder of one of the world’s largest video-on-demand services for international film. Today on the startup reality podcast, we’re talking about some core considerations when it comes to launching a business or kick-starting a startup. But before we start in the spirit of reconciliation, the startup reality podcast would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land sea and the community. We pay our respects to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today. For those who don’t know, we’re broadcasting from Australia and that statement of reconciliation is a core part of Australian culture to recognize national unity, but in particular, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, history and cultures, as part of that shared national identity. They are the traditional custodians of land. Talking about history today’s conversation with William Page is all about foundations. We’re talking about what it takes to launch a business, why you might ‘not’ want to launch a business, and why you ‘should’, and ‘when’ you should, and when might be the ‘best time’, as well as ‘how’ might be the best approach if you are thinking about diving into the world of business, or diving into the world of startups. So let’s start this conversation and let me know what you guys think.

Helen Vang (02:51):

Did you know that one in six Australians want to start a business? Did you know that according the 2018 census, there were 2.3 million small and medium size enterprises in Australia. Those enterprises accounted for 99.8% of all enterprises in Australia. Not only is that an amazing statistic SMEs also employed more than 7.6 million people, which equates to roughly 68% of employment in the private sector. It’s no surprise that people across the world and in Australia dream about owning their own business. You’ve probably thought about starting a business. Maybe you’ve already taken the dive into business, but what’s the reality of starting a business.

William Page (03:46):

The reality is that being a founder of a startup or of a small, uh, early stage business is one of the most difficult things that a person can do. There are many reasons why this is the case.

Helen Vang (04:01):

Okay, wait, wait, what are those reasons? Why would being a startup founder, a business owner, be one of the hardest things you can do in life. Surely, surely there’s more difficult things that you can do in life that make starting a business look like a walk in the park right?

William Page (04:23):

Now. It’s not to say that being an employee in a large corporate isn’t a stressful or different of difficult job, of course it is. I’ve done that myself.

Helen Vang (04:33):

Okay. Side note, before we continue the conversation, William Page was a corporate lawyer before he took the dive into entrepreneurship and launching a startup.

William Page (04:42):

The difference is that the buck doesn’t stop with you. And it’s that responsibility that you have, where really at times you feel like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders. That really is where the stress is because you know that ultimately, if you don’t make the right choice, then you could kill your business. And this is why a lot of startup founders and small early stage business founders really struggle with a lot with issues such as anxiety, depression, and other concerns because of the stress that starting the business puts themselves under.

Helen Vang (05:20):

Okay, I get it. Mental health, anxiety, and depression, but surely we can avoid these kind of things. Right?

William Page (05:28):

Another reason why it’s extremely difficult is you many founders fall into the trap of being unable to separate themselves from the startup or the business that they’re founded.

Helen Vang (05:40):

Okay. Let’s just stop here and think about what William Page has just said right there. He’s just said that founders find it hard to separate themselves from their business. This means that their identity is directly with that business’s success, which is incredibly dangerous. And I see this in small business owners and operators as well. When your identity is tied to your businesses, success, you take failure much, much harder, and it makes it much, much harder to receive feedback to improve your business because you’re afraid of that judgment that you feel as though when your business fails, you have failed as an individual, and this is a dangerous trap that founders and business owners fall into.

William Page (06:32):

So they literally live and breathe that business, which is actually quite unhealthy because one needs to have a separation from your, from your work. Otherwise you find that you are living to work rather than working to live. And that’s a very difficult thing for a lot of startup founders and entrepreneurs to understand. And then another reason why it’s extremely stressful is, look, the hard reality is that the vast majority of startups and small, early stage businesses fail, the figure changes according to country and time, etc, etc, but it’s probably around 80 to 90%, fail. And the issue is that society, depending on where you are, does not look kindly on those kinds of failures. So consequently, the entrepreneurs see it as a failure in themselves. So that adds further complexities and difficulties to starting the business. And that’s why the percentages for the number of people who want to start businesses are very high.

Helen Vang (07:46):

If you remember, in Australia, that’s one to six.

William Page (07:50):

Depending on the country, it’s around 20%, but the actual number that start the business, the actual number of people that choose to actually start their business is considerably less because of the stress and the risks involved in starting your business. Because ultimately, as I say, the buck stops with you.

Helen Vang (08:15):

Okay. Let’s think about this for a second. If society doesn’t look kindly on failures, or let’s reword that, if society is taught to celebrate success, does that mean starting a business is harder for some personality types, harder than others? What if I’m already an anxious person or what if I’m already self-conscious and worry about how people around me see me? I’m worried that I don’t fit in. Does that mean if I launch a business, I have less of a chance at success?

William Page (08:54):

That is a very question. I feel that there are some people that perhaps are not well equipped to start their own businesses or to be entrepreneurs because they perhaps already suffer with depression or they’re risk adverse or their, their culture or their mentality is not well suited to the difficulties in starting your own business. And I joke that you need to be a little bit crazy to be an entrepreneur. You need to be a little bit crazy to be a startup founder. You need to be a little bit crazy to want to do this.

William Page (09:42):

That is why I would say it isn’t for everyone. And you need to be aware of the stress and the ups and downs and the difficulties, the challenges that you will face. And sometimes you will not have all the answers to stuff. So you must be comfortable to think on your feet and you must be comfortable with that level of risk and crucially, you must be comfortable that your family will be okay. If you have responsibilities to your kids or a mortgage that needs to be paid, then you should not start a business, you know, walk away from your job and just do your business unless you have put in place, risk mitigation strategies.

Helen Vang (10:22):

Okay. This makes me sad because I fundamentally believe that if you really want something, you should just go for it. It doesn’t really matter because whatever it is that you want, you can overcome, or it can help you overcome challenges in your life. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that personality types might have a part to play in whether, or not, you can live out your dream. But this is why self-help motivational speakers play such a big part in getting people started with growth mindset or changing their mindset. However, William Page has another interesting statistic that actually shows how you might be able to overcome this. Even if you naturally suffer from mental health or have anxiety, or have a personality type that takes that takes failure a little harder than other personality types.

William Page (11:31):

However, having said that, some of the most successful entrepreneurs are…. what we would define as accidental entrepreneurs. And these are people who have been made redundant. Typically they have lost their job often for no fault of their own who have maybe, perhaps maybe wanted to do a business at one stage, but have never been able to do it because the circumstances have never been right. And actually these accidental entrepreneurs can be some of the most successful entrepreneurs because it’s sink or swim for them. They have been made redundant. They have no job. They have to make it work. And consequently, they may, they may obviously have some of these issues that I’ve discussed, but they’re, well-placed in sense that they have a drive and determination because they have to make it work.

Helen Vang (12:16):

There it is guys, it’s drive and determination. Drive and determination can overcome adversity. So you may not have the right foundations or starting point that tick all of the boxes for successful entrepreneurship or business personalities that is going to build enterprises and take the world into the future. However, when you are in a tough situation, because you have drive and determination, you can build success because failure is not an option. Even if it’s a reality to you, someone with drive determination, it’s not an option. So you will find ways to achieve what you need to achieve. So now that we recognize that starting a business is hard work. Why do we all want to still start businesses? Why do we put ourselves through this? The real question is, are we romanticizing the idea of starting a business or launching a startup?

William Page (13:33):

I think we are romanticizing the concept of starting a startup. The media likes to portray it as: You have a great idea, you found a company, you go out and you raise a ton of cash, people throw money at you, you then build a product, launch it into the market, grow the business, get lots of potential customers who probably don’t pay anything, but then raise more capital. Bang. You’ve got a unicorn. Bang. You sit there and you’re a millionaire or billionaire in some cases. Well, this all sounds well and good. And it sounds wonderful. But the reality is that that is not how it is done. The vast majority of startups do not succeed. The vast majority of startups do not succeed in raising capital. And the vast majority of startups do not succeed in successfully going to market and failing at some of the most important basics such as product market fit. So I think there is a certain amount of romanticism that goes on, and that is why we need to talk about the reality of starting a startup and the difficulties that you will face. I firmly believe that you should start a business if you can, if you have a passion to do so. But it’s important that you are aware of these challenges and that you are aware of the problems that you will face, and you are aware of the difficulties that you will need to overcome. And if you’re aware of these points, and if you’re aware of the reality, then you will do well.

Helen Vang (15:13):

So if there’s all these downsides to starting a business or launching a startup, then when is a good time to launch a business, or when do you know that you have a great idea and that it’s going to work? What do I need to do? What, what’s the next steps? These are questions that go through all of our heads. Anyone who wants to launch into the world of business. These are questions we ask ourselves. We acknowledge, the problems that come and the insecurities that come with launching a business. So when is it actually a good time, but more importantly, is it even worth doing, should I take that risk?

William Page (16:01):

It really depends on timing. As a timing is an important point. It depends on the risks that you have in your life. It depends on the responsibilities that you have. It depends on the opportunities that come your way. It depends on the people that you want to work with. It can depend on many, many factors. Some of them you can be in control of them. Some of them you cannot be in control of them. So it really depends. But my advice is to still make that choice to go into doing your own business or your own startup, but just being as prepared as you can and ensuring that you mitigate as many of those risks as you can. The reality is that, you know, we believe that startups have an incredible potential to overcome many of the challenges that we’re facing in the world. And innovation is a very powerful driver for solving many of the problems, whether it’s environmental issues, whether it’s poverty, whether it’s social issues, whether it’s moving forward, moving society forward in a better way. So I think, you know, as much as we can, I certainly always encourage people to be entrepreneurs. And I work with a number of entrepreneurs to do what they’re doing, but as long as they’re prepared and they understand that they won’t have all the answers and that they can turn to other people for advice, I think they will be well, they will be well-placed.

Helen Vang (17:35):

I think the point here is that despite all of the challenges associated with launching a startup or starting your own business, as difficult as it’s going to be, as long as you acknowledge that, you can also reap the rewards of starting a business or launching a startup. Some startups naturally change the way we do business. It changes the world in one way or another. And that is not only personally rewarding, but also benefits the world. So if you have a strong cause that you believe in, for example, you believe that there should be more sustainable investing options, or you believe that we need to pay more attention to the environment. And you have a idea as to how you might be able to promote change in behavior. The rewards still far outweigh the downsides provided you can manage the risk and the timing is right, and that it doesn’t come at a substantial cost to your personal life. Let’s listen now to some of the benefits William highlights about when it comes to starting a business.

William Page (18:57):

So I think the benefits in starting your own business, there’s many benefits, but there’s probably two major benefits. The first are the micro benefits to yourself, into your family, provided that you can get sufficient income to obviously support your family into, to pay your bills. The benefit is that you can, of course be in controlled of your own time. And if you need to pick the kids up from school, go on holiday, you’re in control of your time. So firstly from a micro point of view, it’s very, very beneficial. From a macro point of view, I think it’s really crucial because startups have the ability to solve many of the problems that we’re facing in the world. So I encourage people to start their own businesses for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of wider society. Because, you know, innovation and creativity can unlock a lot of potential opportunities for society. And I think that’s a very powerful reason why a lot of people become entrepreneurs because they not only want to help themselves and help their family, but they also want to help wider society. And I think that’s extremely important.

Helen Vang (20:22):

And there we have it. Now we recognize the great value and contribution that launching a business or launching into startup land can provide what’s the next steps? What are we doing now? Where do we go from here? I’m ready. I acknowledge the problems, the hardships, the challenges ahead. How do I actually get started?

William Page (20:47):

So fundamentally every startup needs to fundamentally start with, what problem is it solving? How is it helping the customer, whether it’s consumers or whether it’s businesses, what problem is it solving or where is it adding value to people in their lives? Or where is it making a difference? Now that is why I always say to entrepreneurs. You’ve got a great idea for a product. Fantastic. That’s really good. It sounds fantastic. Sounds really great. But tell me what research have you done to show the problem is being tackled to show the needs that the customers have that are currently unmet by other competitors in the market to show that there is a real demand for what you are trying to solve, because you could have the best. You could have the best product since the creation of sliced bread. But if people aren’t prepared to pay for it, then your product will fail and it will not achieve product market fit.

William Page (21:49):

And that’s why it’s great that you’ve got a product in mind. It’s great there’s something you want to solve. It’s great that you want to make that step into the unknown, but your next challenge must be to make sure that you’ve done your research. You’ve done your homework and you understand that there is a, there is a sufficient customer base for that product because it is solving a problem that needs to be tackled. Undoubtedly, you need to have passion for your startup. You need to really believe in what you’re trying to do. You need to believe that you can help people. You need to believe that you can have an impact on the wider society. If you have passion that will flow from you into your business, it will flow from you into your product. It will flow from you into how you connect with customers and potential purchase of your product. So first and foremost, you must have passion. And especially if you are going to go out and raise capital, because a lot of investors want to see passion in the entrepreneurs that they’re going to invest in. So undoubtedly passion is key.

William Page (22:58):

However, you must have more than just passion. Because the risk that you have is if you just have passion and you haven’t done your research, or you haven’t ensured that you are solving a problem, then ultimately passion will only get you so far. You must ensure that you have something that people will buy and they will achieve some form of product market fit. Otherwise your passion will eventually lead to you burning out because there will not be sufficient demand for what you are trying to do.

Helen Vang (23:33):

And that’s the key for launching a business, recognize the hardships that come with launching and owning your own business, growing it, but also recognize the core business fundamentals, which is ensuring that your product has a place in the marketplace. I hope you enjoyed this podcast and I will see you guys next time.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash


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