Are You Ready to be Your Own Boss?
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
The best advice I have ever received was also, paradoxically, the worst advice I have ever received. Following another difficult week at a grueling job, my wife sat me down, held my hand and told me that I needed to make a change. My unhappiness at work was beginning to affect my behavior and some of my close personal relationships were also being impacted. Despite the fact that I was earning a very good salary, I was terribly unhappy. As someone who had always wanted to run his own business, my wife encouraged me to examine that option more closely. “Follow your dreams”, she urged. So I did.
The following morning, I walked into my office and handed in my resignation. I was going to leave the corporate world and start up my own (non-competing) business to try my hand at being an entrepreneur. And it was both the best and worst decision I have ever made. Here’s why.
Fortunately, I have very smart friends who all urged me to be cautious. Without exception, they all told me to put together a robust business plan and to speak to small business owners for advice on how to build out a successful enterprise. While I took this advice seriously, I also was on the clock to begin earning money. So, I built out my business plan while simultaneously trying to launch said business. And let me tell you, this is not the right way to do things. As soon as you are out on your own, the pressure to earn money is intense and any time spent working on projects that do not have a direct revenue source can appear to be a waste of time and effort. So, my business plan stalled as I was too caught up in trying to launch an actual business. I hope you can see the irony here.
Simply put, if you do not know where your money is going to come from, do not quit your day job. I jumped into my business venture with a very loose understanding of where my revenues were to be generated, which turned into a constant source of anxiety. Sure, you may have a great product and a killer marketing plan, but if you cannot project your costs and revenues, business growth will stall. While your projections may not be great, having an idea of what to expect in your first year of operation will go a long way to determine whether you should take the plunge.
It can seem counter-intuitive for a small business owner to outsource labour but, in the long run, this can be a savior for you. I once met a gentleman who was looking to open a gym. At the time I met him, his grand opening had already been delayed 6 months. When I asked him why he was so behind schedule, he explained that he was still building a lot of the exercise equipment (which is all the more ridiculous when you consider that he had no experience building such equipment). Rather than purchase standard equipment from a reputable wholesaler, he chose to build it all himself as a means of saving money. In doing so, he delayed the launch of his business and pushed him into major debt before he had even signed up a single customer. Many small business owners fall into the trap of trying to do it all themselves, which, more often than not, has a negative impact on the overall business. I urge all new business owners to focus their energy on the tasks for which they are best suited and to try and outsource the other items as best they can.
Once of the great comforts of being an employee within a large enterprise is the predictability and security of a regular pay cheque. As soon as you are out on your own, this ceases to be something you can count on. While you may have a steady stream of clients, no two months are ever alike. Some clients may be slow to pay, others may choose not to pay you at all. You may experience unanticipated expenses that impact your bottom line or you may discover that your product pricing is all wrong. Basically, you should always expect the unexpected. If this sounds stressful to you, then I can assure you it is exponentially more stressful when your mortgage payments rely on your business generating revenues.
As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around for a while, you could miss it“. For me, this became a very salient mantra following a very eye-opening first year of operation. Once you assume the reins of a small business, you will feel as if time is perpetually accelerating. You will become so busy that you will no longer have time for many things that you once considered sacred. I will admit to spending large chunks of my honeymoon glued to my laptop as I managed by business back home. Once I realized how much my work was interfering with my personal life, I made some changes to allow for a more appropriate balance. Yes, starting a business will require a tremendous amount of time and energy but do your best to ensure that you are not overdoing it. Burning out has a very serious repercussion.
While I may have painted a fairly unappealing impression of running a business, I can assure you that I have never experienced such a great sense of professional fulfillment in my life. Being an entrepreneur can certainly be stressful and unforgiving, but it is also immeasurably empowering and satisfying. Ultimately, I would encourage anyone who has the desire to be their own boss to give it serious consideration. I would simply urge you all to do it in a measured and organize way. It may work for you and bring you great satisfaction, but if it does not, do not be afraid to go back to the corporate world.