Question for all entrepreneurs

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SARubin

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When it comes to your business, do you own your life? Or do you just own a job?

This question came to mind the other day while I was talking with another business owner I know.

She was feeling a little stressed out from the daily grind of being "the boss."

She went on to say... "The money is great. But even after 3 years of running this business, there always seems to be a problem that needs my attention. Whether it's dealing with an unmotivated employee, a customer complaint, or a vendor that doesn't deliver as promised.... It's always something."

My friend continued by saying, that when she first started, she thought she was going to own a business. But now it seems like her business owns her. It's taken over her life, and she barely has any time for herself.

As I listened to her, I was reminded of the old adage... "one definition of an entrepreneur, is a person who's willing to work 80+ hours a week, just to avoid a 9 to 5 job."

Well, I could certainly relate to where she was coming from, because I've been there (got the T-shirt, the bumper sticker, and the battle scars to prove it)

But these days, I have a slightly different outlook ( I dunno, maybe I'm just gettin' too old and tired, to waste my energy worrying about every little thing that comes along? ) ...

Sure, my career is a big part of my life, and part of who I am. And yes, stuff still happens that stresses me out, and makes me wonder why I even bother trying sometimes.

But for the most part, I enjoy the process of being an entrepreneur. (most of the time)

These days, I see most business problems as challenges. And I'm often eager to prove I can conquer them. (like taming a wild beast, and turning it into a house pet.)

Of course, there's also the challenges that simply aren't worth the investment of time, energy, or cost it takes to overcome them. So we do need to pick our battles, and either outsource those issues or file them away, and move on.

Anyway, the last couple days I've been casually asking some other business owners if they enjoy what they're doing? And the life they're living?

I've gotten a range of answers, from "it's stressful" to "it's great," and everything in between.

And now I'm asking the same questions here...

Do you enjoy what you're doing, and the life you're living?

Do you like being a business owner, or entrepreneur (with all of its ups and downs)?

Do you feel like you're making a difference in the world? And in peoples lives? (are you living on purpose?)

Or, do you wake up in the morning, realizing that being your own boss simply means you've created a job for yourself? One with a ton of responsibility... and a boat load of stress... (and hopefully a decent paycheck) ?

I guess there's no right, or wrong answer. Only personally subjective interpretations.

So, what do you think?
 

Edvin

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SARubin,

This is a great post.

I am among first generation immigrant from a third world country.
Both my immediate and extended family have picked-up the entrepreneurial stick to provide for their families.

Though I have yet to be an entrepreneur, I've observed first hand the 5am to 12am (19 hours) seven days work week and the challenges/pressures that imposes on the families. I've even seen an entrepreneur succeed financially within the family circle to only have lost his family due to impact on family dynamics.

For many hard working people, having their own business is the only way to earn a decent living for their family.
Yet there are few, at-least from the outskirts, that appear to be running their business as a co-pilots because they have evolved their business to be self-sufficient entity.

As an outsider, I keep thinking about The E-Myth (I highly recommend it), which talks about turning the business in to self-regulating and operating machine by establishing processes. It uses fast-food stores (i.e. McDonnald) as an example where everyone knows their tasks because of established process; for instance, when was last time we worried about food being under/over cooked by a teenager preparing our food.

For new up-comers such as myself, we are still in denial and are dreaming of greener pastures in entrepreneurial endeavor. Without passion, belief, vision, and maybe a dash of ignorance we would never get started.
 
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Small to Feds

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I endured the large corporation world for many years, learned much (good and bad) and then went on the move.

Bureaucracy, greed, politics and a corporate extension of the Pentagon wasting huge amounts of tax payer funds for the benefit of top executives had soured my soul.

A funny thing happened on the way to a different job - it was like a moving template - the places and the faces changed but the issues stayed the same in corporate venues of the Military Industrial Complex.

I found my place in small business and running my own enterprise consulting to them.

I learned we are most at peace when we are in sync with our personal value system and when we are permitted to pursue our values in our personal and professional endeavors. If we cannot achieve that harmony we will seek change.
 

SARubin

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Yes Edvin,

When I quit my last job (some 25 years ago) a big part of my mindset was that "I was all done working for someone else, and making them rich, while I did more work than they did."

So I went out on my own, and soon discovered that there was a whole lot more to it, than just doing the daily work. There's the administrative and paperwork, estimates and invoices, sales and marketing, etc. All of these can quickly turn into full time jobs by themselves (and I wasn't getting paid for any of it)

In fact, more than once I was convinced that I had merely quit working for one idiot... and now I was just working for a different idiot (hey, at least I kept my sense of humor)

But you're right... If I had been more pragmatic way back then, I probably would have just stayed an employee for the rest of my life (looking back on it now, I am so glad that I was ignorant to reality :D)

And thanks for the recommendation. I've heard of the E-Myth, but haven't read it yet. Your recommendation could be the "tipping point" (Malcolm Gladwell reference;)) that finally gets me to buy the book.

All the best,
SAR

SARubin,

This is a great post.

I am among first generation immigrant from a third world country.
Both my immediate and extended family have picked-up the entrepreneurial stick to provide for their families.

Though I have yet to be an entrepreneur, I've observed first hand the 5am to 12am (19 hours) seven days work week and the challenges/pressures that imposes on the families. I've even seen an entrepreneur succeed financially within the family circle to only have lost his family due to impact on family dynamics.

For many hard working people, having their own business is the only way to earn a decent living for their family.
Yet there are few, at-least from the outskirts, that appear to be running their business as a co-pilots because they have evolved their business to be self-sufficient entity.

As an outsider, I keep thinking about The E-Myth (I highly recommend it), which talks about turning the business in to self-regulating and operating machine by establishing processes. It uses fast-food stores (i.e. McDonnald) as an example where everyone knows their tasks because of established process; for instance, when was last time we worried about food being under/over cooked by a teenager preparing our food.

For new up-comers such as myself, we are still in denial and are dreaming of greener pastures in entrepreneurial endeavor. Without passion, belief, vision, and maybe a dash of ignorance we would never get started.
 
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For us (my wife & I) having a successful entrepreneurial start up is great for the following reasons:
  • Financial Freedom. We have other investments, such as stocks, real estate & my J.O.B, which all do well, however, none of them come close to profits of the business. This put us over the edge for early retirement, if we desired. This has taken the "sting" out of life, and made life much less stress free. Example, if I got fired or laid off from my J.O.B, it would not be a big deal and may welcome it. I would get a severance and be able to collect unemployment for a year.
  • Chapter in the book of life completed. While I work for the man in my J.O.B and compensated well, I did have a burning desire to start a business. (for years). Mind was constantly scheming for some type of business to start. I felt that if I died, without being an entrepreneur, life would have been incomplete. I would have felt life was not lived to the fullest. A task left unaccomplished. (horrible feeling).
  • My wife is my business partner. Not only is she wife, mother of children and soul mate, she has become my equal. This has strengthened our relationship and increased respect for her. She is the face of the business. I am behind the scenes running the finance, accounting, etc.,. If we go out in town, she is frequently recognized and respected business owner.
  • Passion. Our business was selected from activities we enjoy. Our business has an international aspect that allows us to travel and wheel n deal and meet interesting people. In essence, it is fun.
The are probably a lot of other reasons, but the main reasons are listed.

However, there was a huge risk that things would not have turned out this way for us. There were tons of minefields that could have destroyed us. If we had a true idea how risky an endeavor starting a business is, we probably would not have started it. May are the examples you noted. I would add the following risks:
  • Business Failure. 2/3 of all small business fail in the first 2 years. I believe this is understated, and is more like 80%. The odds are stacked against you. This could have wiped out our life savings and put us into bankruptcy, left us in financial bondage for the rest of our life. Competition is INTENSE. We positioned our company in a protected niche market. (following principles from Blue Ocean Strategy). There is no way that I have any interest going head to head to the general market place without a niche. (competing on price, business, etc - no thanks).
  • Burn Out from working 7 days a week. As stated by previous poster, we followed eMyth philosophy, formalized business processes and created an environment to bring other employees in to assist. This freed up my wife's time from long hours to reasonable hours. Note, that initially she was working 7 days a week for 2 years straight - no vacations, etc.,. until we did reach a certain level. And this was fast. Business achieved profitability in the first 6 months, which is not the norm. Some businesses never achieve profitability and will slowly bleed you of everything (life force, time, money).
  • Its difficult to run a business. I am a licensed CPA w/ solid B-School background. Setting up accounting system (quickbooks), payroll, taxes, regulations are no joke. It was challenging for me. I have no idea how other business owners without this background, and feel sorry for them. I tell my wife, that if something happens to me, it would be best for her to sell business. I could not imagine the stress it would be for her. It would not be worth it.
Sometimes I look back on this and have nightmares of what could have happened. But luck 'o the Irish and escaped death again feels exhilarating. Would I have done this again if I understood the risks? Yes - definitely.
 
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When it comes to your business, do you own your life? Or do you just own a job?

....

for the most part, I enjoy the process of being an entrepreneur. (most of the time)

These days, I see most business problems as challenges. And I'm often eager to prove I can conquer them. (like taming a wild beast, and turning it into a house pet.)

Of course, there's also the challenges that simply aren't worth the investment of time, energy, or cost it takes to overcome them. So we do need to pick our battles, and either outsource those issues or file them away, and move on.

Anyway, the last couple days I've been casually asking some other business owners if they enjoy what they're doing? And the life they're living?

I've gotten a range of answers, from "it's stressful" to "it's great," and everything in between.

And now I'm asking the same questions here...

Do you enjoy what you're doing, and the life you're living?

Do you like being a business owner, or entrepreneur (with all of its ups and downs)?

Do you feel like you're making a difference in the world? And in peoples lives? (are you living on purpose?)

Or, do you wake up in the morning, realizing that being your own boss simply means you've created a job for yourself? One with a ton of responsibility... and a boat load of stress... (and hopefully a decent paycheck) ?
To answer your first question, my life is a blessing. Everyday I'm discovering new opportunities. If that changes, then I'll find a new path as a business owner.

I do like being a business owner. I'm still new to the game, but it's the way to go.

As for your third question, I haven't put enough time to think about this. Thus, it's better that I don't answer just yet. I think questions about the legacy we're leaving behind, aren't on the forefront of your mind when starting out. But it's a great question. I'm going to come up with an answer to this soon enough.
 
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Entrepreneurship is something that takes a toll on every individual who is into it, be it a startup, small business or a well-developed business. At some point, it will take over your entire life and you always feel like to quit, but you take these as challenges & try to overcome the hurdle. The main thing I learnt is that, if money is your only motivating factor of entrepreneurship, it won't help after a certain point. You have to love what you do, this is what will keep you going stronger & better each time.
 
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