It’s all about seizing opportunities.
The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?” is written by Alexander Goldstein, founder and CEO of Eligo Energy.
The main thing to remember whenever you decide to become an entrepreneur is that, at some point, your idea and your business will grow far beyond you while simultaneously taking over your entire life. It sneaks up on many aspiring entrepreneurs, and they’re left wondering how it all happened so fast. One day you have a great idea, and the next you’re on your way to become the next Richard Branson—or at least you hope you will be.
In order to reach that level of success, you have to have the idea, but more importantly, you’ve got to have the plan. The plan is imperative, but you have to be ready for things to change at a moment’s notice. Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” It doesn’t matter if your best plan never sees the light of day. You’ve prepared yourself and considered all possible outcomes, and therefore will be better prepared for whatever may happen. This is especially important because your original idea may not actually be what catapults your business into the stratosphere.
Think of Google. What was once a simple search engine has seized every opportunity—and even a few it shouldn’t have—and is now responsible for our go-to products for everything from web browsing to email and collaboration, and from art education to driving directions. Google has changed how we interact with each other on a daily basis and has even introduced new cultural norms, all from realizing its potential and applying its founding principles to other areas that needed improvement. Being able to recognize the opportunity in front of you and react accordingly will make or break you and your business.
When we started Eligo Energy, we planned on scaling quickly into the individual residential market. But as we were building the Eligo Energy platform, we realized that the opportunity that matched our expertise lay in the underserved business-to-business market segment. We retooled our platform and created something innovative, allowing small businesses for the first time to get instant custom-priced energy contracts on our website. Instead ofselling rack rates that don’t fit their businesses, we can custom design an energy plan to meet their needs.
It’s monumentally important to roll with the punches when you’re starting your own business and realize that your initial vision may not be what ultimately takes off. You will make mistakes. Times will get tight. You will encounter ridiculous setbacks and will have to overcome much more than you may have anticipated in order to get a foothold. There are no roadmaps for entrepreneurship and it definitely isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to be ready to work hard and sacrifice in order to build your business from nothing.
The good news is that if you can find your idea, your philosophy, and your passion, and combine that with a killer business sense, and just happen to be at the right place at the right time, you’ll be able to create your own success. And that’s really what being an entrepreneur is all about.
Alexander Goldstein is founder and CEO of Eligo Energy, a technology-based energy retailer in Chicago. He is a serial entrepreneur and investor focused on applications of technology and big data analytics to new industries. Prior to starting Eligo Energy, Alexander cofounded Pangea Properties and Enova International.
(This article was originally published in fortune magazine.)