Setting up shop. Training employees. Getting your website up. Marketing your brand.
These are all expected parts of owning a business. But there is a lot more that goes into the experience that most people don’t tell you about.
Below are a few things Allie and I have noticed that most people don’t talk about.
You’re Going to Have to Do More Than You Think
Running your own business takes time and energy that you didn’t know you had. Have you ever been boating or skiing or helping someone move heavy furniture and you’re suddenly sore in muscles you didn’t know you had? Owning a business is like that.
Are you good at bookkeeping? Do you like picking out paint colors for walls? Have you thought about what to do if an intern doesn’t show up for 3 days in a row? You will. None of these are the reasons that you’re starting a business, but they’ll all be part of it. We aren’t even kidding when we say that while writing this post, we heard a loud sound coming near our front door. We walked out to find this:
Every week I sit and look at another business owner and we both shrug and say, “Everything takes so much longer than you think.” Speaking of that, be right back. Adam has to clean up that soaking wet ceiling tile that just collapsed…
You’re Gaining The World, But Let’s Be Honest About What You’re Losing
You’ve gained freedom and unlimited income and the ability to do your best without a boss telling you “no.” But what have you traded that in for?
But let’s not confuse time for flexibility. Owning a business can leave you extremely flexible (Allie and I recently traveled and worked for a month straight in a sort of glorious vacation/work hybrid trip).
When holidays roll around, I have to explain to my family that – unlike their jobs – I don’t get paid when I don’t work. There’s been a few years where – like a little kid – I’m the first one awake on Christmas morning. But instead of sitting by the presents, I’m sitting by my laptop working before everyone else wakes up.
“Work” Means Something Different For A Business Owner
I freaking love the stuff I get to do every day. Freaking love it. If I was going to create my own job at another company, my job description would just be me doing the things I’m doing right now.
When your work is play, other people won’t understand. Friends don’t resonate when you’re excited to get back to your computer or when a meeting runs 90 minutes over schedule because you and the client dipped into a bottle of bourbon and had an awesome connection.
I imagine that outdoor athletes feel this way when describing their day to family:
“I was climbing and the holds were more difficult than normal and it took every ounce of concentration and trust and strenght and intuition that I could muster, all at once. It was awesome.”
Sometimes you just have to be there.
Picture A Super Tiny Bullseye That You Get Better At Hitting
At its core, business is about helping other people. The more you help people, the more money you make.
Owning your own business is about finding the intersection between where the thing you love doing and helping other people…meet.
When you start, that target can seem to be difficult to hit. You find yourself hitting it infrequently. Usually, you’re just trying to hit one or the other, but rarely both.
As you grow, you find yourself daily hitting the bullseye. Helping people by doing what you love.
Owning Your Own Business Is A Fast-Track to Corporate Success
One of the biggest lies that I’ve seen others throw around is that you’re going to sacrifice climbing the corporate ladder if you’re starting your own company. It’s a common myth that keeps a lot of people from jumping into their own gig.
I’ve seen dozens of business owners who have turned their experience of owning a business – even if just for 6 months – into a better position at another company. Owning a business is a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t mean you have to trade your climb up a career ladder.
In fact, the opposite can be true. In just 3 short years, both Allie and I have been offered multiple jobs at respected companies.
Anything To Add?
What are the unexpected lessons you’ve learned from owning a business? What do most people forget to talk about?
Mark Henson says
Great thoughts. Here are two more that took me a long time to learn:
Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Being busy does not equate to being productive or profitable. Being focused does.
Adam Lehman says
“Being busy does not equate to being productive or profitable. Being focused does.”
Love this! Still learning…
Awesome. Reminds of the quote by Chateaubriand: “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”
Adam Lehman says
I couldn’t love that quote more! So good!
Ami Iannone says
A hard lesson for us was how to turn down opportunities that we couldn’t realistically fulfill. When you’re trying so hard to book the calendar with new business, it feels crazy to turn anything down. But we noticed a pattern: when something felt way too crazy or difficult to pull off, it wasn’t going to be a successful project. Dropping some of those nightmare projects opened us up for opportunities that were a better, smoother fit.
Also dropping clients who want to haggle your price way down. Know your worth!
Adam Lehman says
That’s a smart pattern to recognize and one that we have seen as well. Turning down work creates space for more, better work. 🙂