Ever had the dream of starting and running your very own business?
If so, you’re in the majority. Most people have entertained the idea of becoming a business owner. At first glance, it’s a notion that has appeal on several levels.
First you get to fire your boss (that IDIOT!).
Then, you get to set your own schedule (I’ll work when I WANT to!).
Then, success isn’t predicated on office politics. The business frontier seems to be the ultimate equalizer – you are paid on performance of your business, period. You don’t have to spend X amount of time in a certain position before you give yourself a raise. Plus, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make it happen. Many famous business owners never even attended college (click here for a big list of ‘em).
On top of all that, you never have to worry about being made redundant (i.e., FIRED).
So the question is…who in their right mind WOULDN’T start a business?
The answer is: because there are plenty of thorns on this rose. And they are not insignificant.
First, lets dispel the notion that you can just “work when you want”.
To get a startup off the ground, you will need to invest a significant amount of time getting it moving. Gaining momentum is the most challenging part of launching a venture. And it takes time to do that. If you don’t have the capital to hire a bunch of employees, that means it will take YOUR time to get it done.
Next, lets take a look at the benefit of firing that idiot of a boss that you have. I’ve had my share of idiot bosses in the past, and I don’t know where your boss falls on the “idiot scale”. But when you start a business, YOU are the boss. And if you haven’t run a ton of businesses before, then you will be learning how to be a boss. And in that process, you will make mistakes. Plenty of ‘em. Guaranteed.
And chances are, someone, at some point in time, will think YOU are the “idiot boss” whom THEY would like to fire. Are you ready to take on that responsibility?
Be honest. I know some who read this will say “Oh, no no no! I”M not EVER going to be an “idiot boss”. My clients and employees will love me and sing my praises until Marshall Applewhite returns, riding the comet-dust wake of Hale-Bopp”.
Reality check: you can’t please everyone all the time. You are human. You will make mistakes. And your clients, customers, employees, co-workers, and colleagues will all let you know when you make mistakes that affect them. As the business owner, you cannot dismiss them with a wave of your hand. You must address their issues – respectfully, courteously, and promptly.
And just because you don’t have a central authority figure over your head doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss. It just means you have a new boss. And this boss is much pickier, much harder to please, more finicky, and more quick to fire than any boss you have ever had in the past.
This boss is your client.
Doesn’t matter how big you get. Or how small you start. As a business owner, your boss is your client. If you let them down, they will tell you. If you let them down hard enough, they will tell the world. If you treat their concerns or issues as trivial, they will stop buying from you. If you ignore their requests, they will tell others to stop buying from you.
And if you have employees, the issues simply compound. Now, you have other people that are interacting with your clients. The difference is that their name isn’t on the line…but YOUR name is. And if they screw up, YOUR tail is on the hook.
Trying to foster an atmosphere where the lowliest employee has the same amount of pride and passion as the business owner is a folly many have indulged in over the years. Some people are great, some are not, and you won’t know until you put them in the water whether they will sink or swim. The job of the business owner is to build systems that help the swimmer to swim FAST, and provide an environment that allows them to swim to the best of their ability. The sinker must be made to sink quickly as well – so that you can get them out of there, and get a swimmer in their stead.
A business owner must come to embrace headaches. Always and forever. The headaches involved with business keeps the ranks of business owners relatively thin. You will get late-night phonecalls that you’d rather not take. You will consistently receive critical feedback on you, your ideas, your decisions, and your opinions.
And even if you’re willing to endure all that, there is still no guarantee you’ll make it. While the stats vary, we do know that the vast majority of small businesses fail within five years. There could be all sorts of reasons for this. It could be your business was under-capitalized. It could be that the product or market isn’t what you thought. It could be something completely beyond your ability to know ahead of time.
Are you starting to see the picture?
Many people have an idealized perspective of owning a small business. The truth is that owning or starting a business can be high-risk, time-consuming, emotionally draining, and capital depleting. That’s the truth.
Let’s not forget the rewards.
First, there are the significant emotional rewards.
Because I’ll tell you…it feels damn good when you are able to build something that was YOUR idea, and you made it come to fruition.
It feels GREAT when you get positive feedback on your product or service. And it feels AMAZING when you are able to impact others in a deep, profound way with your solution.
It’s especially rewarding because of the very challenges we listed above. When you give it your all, and you succeed…well, that’s what the most moving, most popular movies and stories of all time center on. When you have ALL the odds against you…and you STILL pull it off.
Then, there are the financial rewards. Very few people get rich working for others. But a good number of people do very well when they are willing to accept the responsibility of the business owner.
In my experience, the biggest challenge we face when we start a small business is not finding funding, or the “right” market or the “right” product. The biggest challenge is our perspective.
Because (like it not) our perspective has been shaped since childhood to HATE failure. Mistakes are bad. Grades in school are awarded on a scale of A (good job!) to F (failure). We have expectations put upon us from day one that reward conformity and punish individuality.
That’s our perspective, and to a greater or lesser degree, we all share it. To become successful in business, we have to innovate. We have to create. And innovation and creation are processes that are riddled with fails, mistakes, and goofs.
To say it another way…if you want to cook an omelet , you’ll have to break some eggs.
Many times, our biggest deterrent to business success is ourselves. If we can get out of our comfort zone, get comfortable making mistakes (and learning from them so that they are not repeated), and view the journey as a process and not a destination, we can work miracles. YOU can work miracles.
But do you want it bad enough?
Are you willing to continue when others would quit?
Are you willing to innovate where others accept mediocrity?
Are you willing to solve the problems that cause others to stop?
If so…then you may very well have exactly what it takes to start your own successful business.