This past week was busier than usual. I took a vacation last weekend, and through Monday, so it was catch-up time on Tuesday, followed by the preparation of a huge announcement for my client taking place on Thursday. I knew the second half of the week would be intense and was grateful for the vacation, prior, to mentally prepare myself.
I was talking with a friend who said he loves his 9-5 job, because he can leave his work behind. He made a few passive aggressive remarks about working myself to death, but I’m used to that. For the record, I’m not one of those people who wear a badge of honor because I work long days. In fact, the reason I work so hard is in hopes of one day, working much less.
But it’s harder than it sounds, and that’s not an excuse. A lot of sh*t happens when you own a business, especially a small business where you are involved in the day-to-day more often than larger companies. Honestly, I don’t mind putting in long days, sometimes, because I have a sense of Purpose. It doesn’t always feel like ‘work.’ It feels like I’m doing what I do. I started to wonder if other people felt the same way. I talked to a few business owners who agreed with everything I’ve said here. So, I thought, perhaps, I need to set the record straight about what makes us tick (I do believe we are wired a different way) and how we think.
From my perspective as a small business owner, here are a few things that only business owners understand…
Owning a business is not how it’s portrayed in get-rich books. A magic formula for running a business does not exist if we truly want to run a business the way we envision it. Replicating formulas like The 4-Hour Workweek might work for some, but for the majority, that’s not how we start out; rather, it’s something we hope to attain. Do some of us work more than we need to? Sure, but it’s because we have a drive… We want things to be different. Why else would we have wanted to run our own show?
We work a lot, but it beats the alternative. If it’s not a four-hour work week, or even a 9-5, what is it? Well, it’s what we need to do to run a business. There are some long days, but there are also days when we schedule a personal appointment in the middle of the day or meet our spouse for lunch. I truly believe you get out what you put in. That doesn’t necessarily mean time, but for some – especially small business owners – it does. And that’s OK, because it trumps the alternative, which is working for the man.
We’re still not the real boss. We may not work for the man, but we do work for/with somebody – and, for most of us – multiple somebodies. These are the customers and clients who make our existence possible. My chief priority is serving the client, even the ones who are sometimes unreasonable or unreliable. Service is top priority for my team. Exceptional response times and follow-up are a must and it’s what my clients have come to expect. They are the true boss. We know we can pull the cord on habitual troublemakers, and sometimes we must. But, the team knows that we work for the client. As long as they get what they need (within reason), everything else can wait.
We know that money is relative. More money = more operating costs. Less money = less taxes. When we get a new client or sale, we’re happy, but we also think about the costs involved – labor, materials, time. When we lose a customer or sale, we’re not happy, but we also think… well, less taxes to kick up to Uncle Sam this quarter. Do we want the former? YES! But we also realize more money comes with more operating costs, which is an ongoing challenge for a small business. It is ebb and flow, but if you’ve done this while, it also seems like when it rains, it pours. Welcome to the business tide! Perspective is helpful for sanity.
We have no idea where the day goes. We get caught up in projects. We’re putting out fires. We’re pursuing a ‘quick’ idea. Whatever it is we are doing, we look at that clock and think, where the hell did the day go? If you’re like me, you have not accomplished all that you set out to. A good day is when you have tackled at least half of your list. But also keep in mind that I am super ambitious – more Type A than most – to a point of being unrealistic. Either way, we are absorbed in what we are doing and the work is never really done.
I asked my Facebook audience for their thoughts on what should be included in this list and there’s enough for a follow-up post! Fellow entrepreneurs, please chime in… what do only business owners understand?