"A business never gets so old that
it will take care of itself."
– Henry Huff
I finally figured out why people sometimes tell me they envy me or wish they were business owners, too.
Some think that because I worked at home for a number of years (and would greet them at the front door wearing my sweats), that meant I didn’t work…or at least didn’t work hard. Others marveled that I could make it to my daughters’ after school softball games or take a day off for salmon fishing on Lake Michigan with a buddy now and then. They assumed I worked when I wanted to. They never saw me at my desk at 9:30 on a Friday night paying the price for that time out of the office.
Let’s face it, people who have never been in business for themselves have no idea what we do or how we think. What they think they know about us is mostly a joke, the biggest joke of which is the easy-money myth.
For example, I know people who say they dream of slipping out of the nine-to-five corporate noose and becoming independent business owners…and who actually think that owning a business is the ticket to Good Life City via Easy Street.
One fellow I met last year bought a well-functioning, turnkey printing business. It had established customers, dedicated employees, and a ten-year track record of operating deep in the black. In short, the company had everything going for it, and this fellow loved being in business for the first time. For the first month, he oversaw all operations, greeted customers, and learned from his employees. Then he somehow got it into his head that he could take time off and let the business run itself. He began coming in later, leaving earlier, eventually showing up three days a week.
Within six months, his customers had been wooed away by competitors, his employees had bolted, his bottom line disappeared in a bucket of red ink, and he closed the doors, cursing about how he had been a victim of bad luck and unscrupulous employees. His make-believe venture into entrepreneurship was short-lived, and he is now safely back earning a weekly paycheck at a desk owned by someone else.
Then there was a woman I knew down in the Caribbean whose first and only venture into the retail business took off like a rocket. She and her partner did everything right to launch the business. However, once the doors were open, she thought the hard work was done. She figured she could just sit behind the cash register, restock shelves every morning, and rake in big bucks, or spend her afternoons sunning herself at the beach. She never understood that every day was a challenge to find ways to drive down expenses a notch or two or kick up sales a few bucks here and a few bucks there. Nine months and she was out of business. The miracle was how she lasted that long.
What these and other wanna-be entrepreneurs have in common is a mistaken notion about what being in business is all about. They think easy money and freedom, while picturing long vacations and short days with their feet on the desk, their hands behind their heads. Meanwhile the rest of us think hard work and money worries, wishing for an extra day to get things done and praying for a chance to tell our story to just one more potential customer.
As you know –- or had better know — whether you are a startup or a decades-old veteran of business, you must devote yourself relentlessly to your company. Sure, owning your own business can be a ticket to prosperity and the good life, but it can take years – even decades – to get there, and there are no guarantees. Especially in the early years, you can’t afford to count hours (unless it’s to marvel how you can get everything done in just 60 a week) or dwell on luxurious perks (unless it’s a working vacation, complete with cell phone and laptop).
The bottom line: A business only takes care of you if you take darn good care of it. There is no such thing as a company that runs itself. So work hard. Make money. And have fun. — JRIngrisano (The Freestyle Entrepreneur)
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