Here’s the frustrating—and exhilarating—thing about being an entrepreneur: You can read all the books and articles in the world, you can see a business coach and you can develop a relationship with a great mentor… but really, there’s no way for you to know exactly what to expect from your startup launch until you just do it.

I’ve consulted with enough young business-starters to know that everyone’s a little shocked—and not necessarily in a bad way—by their entrepreneurial experience; there’s really no way to fully prepare for starting a company. With that said, there are a few tips I’d offer to help you brace for the complexities and uncertainties of starting your own company.

Before you launch…

  • Have a support system in place. You’re going to need to talk to someone, and it needs to be someone other than your parents who will tell you you’re doing great no matter what. Have some friends or colleagues who understand business, who you can bounce ideas off of and who you can just talk to as needed.
  • Think about your company culture. You’re going to have one, the second you launch, and it’s probably going to be an overflow of your own personal culture. What are your values? What’s important to you about your business?
  • Think about how you’re going to sell your company, your services, your product, you­—because without sales, your company is just an idea. Of course, your sales strategy is going to come out of your company culture.
  • Make sure you have a real passion for what you’re doing. Make sure that your business/vertical/niche is something you will be able to eat, drink, and breathe, more or less around the clock, without losing your love for it.
  • Set some goals for your company, but also set quarterly meetings to re-evaluate those goals. Seriously. Schedule those meetings now.
  • Make reading a priority. Whatever your schedule is, factor in 20 minutes every morning to read a paper, a couple of blogs, or what have you. Stay informed. Read.
  • Expect the unexpected. Expect turbulence. Expect the first 18 months, minimum, to be just crazy, wild, and possibly awful. If you have those expectations, you’ll be okay.

Entrepreneurship can be tough. It can also be a great deal of fun. Keep these tips in mind, and enjoy seeing your passion become an everyday, working reality!