Hump Day: Running your own business is not for everyone

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I helped a friend come out of the closet the other day. It was a proud moment when I saw the light bulb go off over her head when she realized that it was OK to be who she really was deep down inside.

No, we weren’t talking about her sexuality. We were talking about her not being an entrepreneur. After months of struggling at building a business, she finally had the courage to admit that she just wasn’t cut out for it. And by “not cut out” — I don’t mean she wasn’t capable of doing it — I mean she didn’t want to do it.

Unfortunately, many people had suggested to her previously after a job ended that being in business for herself was the only way to go. The roads would be paved with gold. Rainbows would follow her everywhere. She could just bark out orders and have a staff of 50 people jump. She’d be starting fires using $100 bills as kindling. You know — like it is for every entrepreneur. (I think I’m doing something wrong!) The fact is, it wasn’t in her. She hated it. She wanted to manage projects. She didn’t want to invoice clients. She didn’t want to negotiate prices. (She practically got hives just thinking about it). And she certainly didn’t want to work 60 to 80 hours per week with no guarantee of money-paying con­tracts at the end of it.

She wanted to be an employee. She wanted to go home at the end of the day and have an office somewhere other than her home. She wanted to have paid vacation. She didn’t want to chase contracts and constantly worry about where her next $100, $1,000 or even $10,000 was coming from. She wanted to go to an office supplies cabinet and have it filled with stuff she needed without having to make a special trip into town just to buy more staples.

Years ago, someone had told her they saw an “entrepreneur” in her. Since then, she felt obligated to pursue that path. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to have their own business? Well, to be honest, it isn’t – but for a long time she felt like she was a lesser person for wanting to be “just” an employee.

I’d seen her struggle with being an entrepreneur. A small contract here. A small contract there. The lack of a really ingrained local network didn’t help, but she was out there meeting people. She was trying. Yes, she certainly was – but it was kind of like someone trying to convince themselves that they were a tightrope walker when they were actually quite terrified of heights. And you know what? Their life could still be quite happy and fulfilled — emotionally, career-wise and financially — without having to do something they hated.

I’ve seen many people throughout my years thinking that they should be an entrepreneur because someone else told them they should. How can you ever be free without owning your own business? How could you ever be financially successful without owning your own business? Well, the fact is that many are doing just fine, thank you, by working for others. There’s something to be said for a pension plan, health benefits and paid vacation.

I sat across from my friend in the coffee shop. I finally figured out that she needed to come out. “You’re not an entrepreneur,” I told her. She thought about it for a minute and replied, “I’m not.” Then I did the sign of the cross to her like the pope does to the crowds at the Vatican when he’s blessing them. “I hereby declare you to be an employee and also decree that it’s perfectly OK.”

The weight of the world lifted from her shoulders. I think I was the first person to ever tell her it’s OK not to want to run your own business. There’s so much glamour and myth around running your own business that many think there must be something wrong with them for “just” wanting a job. In fact, those who “just” want a job are looked down upon by many entrepreneurs.

It’s not because you’re any less of a person. It’s probably because we just want you to share the problems and challenges of running your own business. There are great rewards, of course, but there are also challenges. And one of those challenges — especially when you’re heart isn’t in it — is likely going to mean not having much money. It’s hard to turn a lack of passion into cash. The world just doesn’t work that way. If you just don’t care and don’t enjoy something, the chances are slim that you’ll succeed.

There are lots and lots (and lots!) of people who are “just” employees who have big houses, nice cars and go on trips. The myth (mostly spread by entrepreneurs) that you can’t be happy working for some­one else is a bunch of hogwash. You can be happy, fulfilled and successful and have a nice bank account, too.

But if you’re miserable being an employee, you won’t likely have any of it. The key here is to love what you do. If you’re an entrepreneur and passionate about it – great! No one can guarantee that you’ll be a millionaire, but at least you’ll have fun trying.

And for all the entrepreneurs out there trying to spread the gospel that owning your own business is the only way to live, it’s time to stop. No, it’s not for everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re good or you’re bad if you want to be an employee. It means you’re you. Employees wouldn’t exist without entrepreneurs and vice versa. It’s time to give each other a break and embrace each other’s strengths. Entrepreneurs need to stop being so judgmental about those who don’t share their desires. We all play a valuable role.

One Response to Hump Day: Running your own business is not for everyone

  1. Yes, yes and yes. Many of us entrepreneurs were thrown in the fray after being battered in the workplace. After working for the government in middle management jobs for over ten years and being downsized, redeployed, having to reapply for my own job every few years (and I could go on), I had no choice but striking out on my own. For some of us (myself included), becoming an entrepreneur did work. But when I hear of government programs created to make Newfoundland fisherman into entrepreneurs, I want to scream. By the way, did I mention I’m the worst boss I ever had?