How often have you thought about starting your own business? How many of you have worked for people and said if I owned this business I would do things a lot different. If you have those kind of thoughts please read this article and let me know what you think.
These days, it sometimes seems that almost everyone is thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. Whether they are pursuing fame and glory, self-satisfaction, an escape from a bad boss or just money, they tend to get a lot of encouragement — from friends, from parents, from the media. That was hardly the case when I chose this path more than 30 years ago.
There were no incubators, accelerators or co-working spaces, and there was certainly no fanfare. I couldn’t even find a mentor. That lack of support may have made it harder, but the truth is, entrepreneurship has never been for everyone. There are good reasons to give it a shot — and there are also warning signs that this might not be the life for you. Here are 10 of both.
You know you can do something better. I’m not that smart. I didn’t invent Google, Facebook, or even an app. But in 1978, I did believe that I could do a better job than other shops custom-framing pictures and that I could do it in a week. It turned out I was right, and the business grew quickly. Over the last 36 years I have started about 10 more businesses with the same theory of superiority. Some worked. Warning: Some didn’t. There is a thin line between visionary and delusional. I have crossed it many times.
You enjoy making customers happy. I like it. I really like it. It probably started when I worked in my father’s dime store when I was 5 or 6. This was before customer service was seen as a business strategy, when it was just being appreciative and responsible. Over the years, I learned that a happy customer is the best job security. Warning: Sometimes customers can be difficult. If you can’t deal with them with a smile, maybe you should be a rocket scientist.
You embrace self-determination. I like being responsible for my own success or failure. If I do a good job and the customer is happy, they pay me, and all is well. If I don’t do a good job, I fix it. So far so good. Warning: Sometimes it would be nice to have someone there to bail me out, to blame mistakes on or to tell me what to do. But the buck does stop here, unless, as occasionally happens, there are no bucks at all.
You like an adventure. Entrepreneurship certainly comes with excitement, danger and, as in sports, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Warning: Entrepreneurship is not a sport. It involves money, promises, responsibility and time commitment. It is not for the faint of heart, and when the day is over you can’t just leave it on the field. Your field just might be foreclosed on.
You like figuring things out. Business is a series of puzzles: advertising, buying, hiring, production, financing, a business plan! It is a great feeling when you figure out the details and the pieces come together. Warning: Sometimes you can’t figure it out because it just won’t work. This can be a very expensive lesson.
You can make your own world: There will always be things in the world at large that will leave you disgusted and angry, but in your world, you can treat people right, provide inspiring products and services, and have a positive impact. Warning: Sometimes your utopia will be interrupted by reality. Things can’t always be perfect.
You really can create jobs. When I started in business, the last thing I thought about was any kind of reward from hiring people. As a matter of fact, as I grew and struggled with one problem after another because of my inexperience in hiring and managing, I wished that I didn’t have to hire anyone. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate that giving someone a job and watching them flourish can be a beautiful thing. Warning: Some people hate having employees. Maybe they have the wrong ones. Or maybe they turn good employees bad.
You may be able to coast a little once the business works. Once things are settled and you have a great staff, you may be able to take a break and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Warning: Just as nature has hurricanes, business has recessions and lots of other nasty and unavoidable problems. Sometimes the coasting comes to an abrupt stop.
You will never hit a glass ceiling. If you are successful in business, there is no telling how far you can go. It can be intoxicating. Warning: Just as with other intoxicants, this one can be very bad for your health, your family and your financial stability. I have learned that there is such a thing as being successful enough.
You can leave a legacy. It might be cool to leave behind a business that provides an excellent product and service to customers, stable jobs for employees and an income for one’s family. Warning: First of all, if people are enjoying your legacy, you are dead. No fun in that. And I have seen many, many business owners leave behind a legacy of ugly, destructive conflicts in the family. I would prefer to leave a legacy of children who are well adjusted and employees who cry their eyes out at my funeral because I am gone — and not because I left a dysfunctional family member in charge.
I don’t presume to speak for all entrepreneurs. No doubt, we all have our own reasons. Did I miss yours?