Self-made millionaire shares 3 hard truths no one tells you about being your own boss

Ski-mountaineering in the Triglav national park, Slovenia.
M. Milani | Getty Images
Ski-mountaineering in the Triglav national park, Slovenia.

Thinking about being your own boss and going at it alone? Working for yourself can be very rewarding, financially and personally, when it's successful, and very expensive and painful when it's not.

I went into business for myself at the age of 29. I quit my job because I thought I had been treated unfairly and, rather than going to work for someone else, I started my own business.

Here are the most important things I learned along the way.

Working for yourself is not a way to escape your problems

Fifty percent of all businesses fail within five years, and over 65 percent of small businesses break even or lose money before they go bankrupt. 70 percent of small businesses have no employees; the owner is responsible for everything. We call these people "solopreneurs."

I started out a solopreneur, but now l've got about 50 employees. There are big differences between the solopreneur I was at 29 and the successful businessman I am today.

As a solopreneur, I had more tasks than hours. Today, I have the ability to prioritize because I can delegate.

Self-made millionaire Grant Cardone.
Courtesy of Grant Cardone
Self-made millionaire Grant Cardone.

I had the naive impression that I would work with a handful of clients and really concentrate my attention on them. Today, I focus on monumental quantities instead of just serving a handful of clients, which gives me the ability to spread the word about myself and my company to a growing number of people.

As a solopreneur, I couldn't take time off, because business would stop. Today, I can take constructive time off to spend time with family, recharge, and plan for future projects.

I also had no scale, little cash flow, and no market dominance. Today I'm scaling, I have cash flow, and I am beginning to dominate.

I used to think people cost money. Now I know that a lack of production and a failure to grow a business is what really costs money.

Working for yourself won't mean a raise

I have never met anyone that made the transition from working for someone else to working for themselves and found that their pay went up. It took me three years in my first business to just get back to where I was when I left my previous job, salary-wise.

I thought I would be making more money in three months. It took 36 months.

Small businesses fail because they are unable to sell their products in volumes great enough and at margins fat enough to continue to reinvest and sustain unexpected events. Could you anticipate 9/11, Sandy, Katrina, the economic collapse of 2008 or war with North Korea?

Working for yourself won't mean working alone

Three-quarters of all small businesses have zero employees. That highlights the fact that a lot of people don't like to delegate responsibility — they don't trust others to produce the same quality and level of work. But you have to grow your business to become and stay successful.

Solopreneurs need to be prepared for objections, conflict and lost revenue if they stay small. Always remember that great companies have both volumes and margins.

Stay hungry, but don't stay a solopreneur.

Grant Cardone is a highly successful entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, and sales training expert.

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