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The inescapable burden of entrepreneurship.

I was driving recently and found myself deep in thought about my business.  Now, this is not an unfamiliar place for my mind to visit.  My thoughts drifted to how much I don’t think about my business (detangle that!).  I find my thoughts about my business are almost always there, and if not, just below the meniscus of other thoughts that are present.  Like the iPhone you never turn off and are a 1/2 second away from accessing anything on it.

If you want to explore your emotional depths, I suggest owning and operating a small business.  You will run the full gauntlet of them.  Excitement and anticipation?  Check.  Anxiety and sheer terror?  Check.  Nervousness and shame?  Check.  Elation and doubt?  Check.

I love owning my business. Somehow I was afforded the proper amount of certain qualities to do so with some degree of success.  I can’t really speak to where that came from, but the day to day challenges that I am in front of, excite me.  There are so many moving parts to running a business and you have be excellent at a few of them, and good enough for the rest of them.

A business owner needs to have skills to be able to be the face of their business, and needs to be approachable.  We need to have the ability to communicate with all types of people effectively.  We need to have an acumen for sales and marketing.  I have found that most good business owners have a pretty aggressive competitive side and will do almost anything to make it work. Being able to manage time is crucial, and if not done well, can fracture important relationships.  Humility is an important characteristic that also serves us well.  Having the ability to admit you are wrong, and right the wrongs, will help humanize you.

One thing that wasn’t explained to me on the front end was that owning a business is something that never goes away.  There are no breaks.  I am not saying you can’t go on vacation or take a day off or anything like that.  Your business is like a child that needs constant care and attention.  Even when it is behaving well and doing its chores and not pouting, the potential for your need is always there.

In 13 years, there has been one time I have had the ability to step away for a two week period and be away without any real worry.  I was 8 years in, and my wife and I went on a two week vacation out of the country and we completely switched off.  The only way this was able to happen, was to have the proper staff in place that could handle everything that came their way.  Having the proper team in place is the only way that was going to happen, and that, in an of itself, is a steep hill to climb.

There is a burden that needs to be accepted when you own a business. It is always there.  You are the last line of defense.  You need to be the final problem solver for things that your team cannot, or will not handle. If a computer goes down and they are unable to fix it, you have to.  When your phones or internet go down, and your business is dead in the water, same thing.  When an angry client comes in and is threatening to your team because of a mistake, you step in and solve it.  If your office is broken into on a Saturday morning, you show up with the police.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of situations that can rear their ugly heads at any given moment.   Especially in this day and age of hyper-connectivity.  It is best that all of this is understood BEFORE you open your doors, but there is no way of really knowing what it feels like until you are put in these situations.  Again, it is like being a parent.  You can read all the parenting books and talk to all of your friends about what it is like.  It doesn’t truly prepare you for the journey you take when you bring the bundle of joy home from the hospital.

I am always switched on when it comes to my business.  Always thinking of ways to be more efficient, ways to control costs, ways to be ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing, ways to keep my team motivated and keep my clients happy.  95% of the time, I am energized by that.  There are times that I just want to get away and take a break from it all.  In reality, there is no break.  The potential for your attention and expertise is always on call and that is inescapable.

It’s not a job.  It becomes part of your life and it is an important aspect to come to terms with.  There are days I find it exhausting, but for the most part I enjoy it.  Businesses are similar to my favorite sport, golf.  No one can master the game of golf.  There are always things to improve on. One can always make little tweaks to their swing to make better contact.  Then there is the mental side of the game making sure you are fully prepared for the next swing.  You can work on your irons, or your putting or your short game as they all come with a different skill set.  The same goes for your business.  There is no perfectly run business, and there can always be way to improve or become more efficient.

A business owner has to constantly be aware of changes.  Changes to the market, changes to the way people buy, changes to the way they market to these people.  My business is very different than it was 13 years ago.  The company I contract with has made 100’s of changes over the years in which I had no say or control over.  I needed to learn them and adapt.

Owning a business is even more involved that I thought when I started.  Once I realized that everything that happens in it, is my responsibility, there was an important understanding that occurred. It was both comfortable and frightening.  I had confidence knowing that it was something I wanted to do very well and was willing to put the work in learn how.  At the same time, there were so many unknowns.  I didn’t even know what types of things I would have to respond to so preparing for them was impossible.  Over time though, the things I needed to respond to became more regular. I can now respond with great confidence to 95% of things that come my way.  There will always be questions I haven’t gotten. I have learned with a little patience and a few phone calls, they can be handled with grace.

Business owners need to have an understanding that their business becomes part of who they are and it something that they cannot get rid of.  Once that feeling becomes real, they can really take charge and make it whatever they want.

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