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Business Ownership, Let’s Not Sugar Coat It!

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Business Ownership, Let’s Not Sugar Coat It!

Running a business can be tough, and it’s something that people who work as employees, may never understand.

It can be a life of insecurity, of days when you feel a deep pit in your stomach wondering how you’re going to solve a particular issue, knowing that there is no one who will take responsibility for it other than you.

It can also be joyous and exciting, in a ‘dancing around the room like an idiot’ way, when one of your plans comes off in a big way, and you’re the one who made it happen.

So, let’s get on with it; the good, the bad and the ugly of starting and running a business:

The good.

There are many great things about running a business, provided you run it well and take care to do all the things you need to do to shepherd your ‘baby’ along. Being the ‘Boss is pretty cool. When you start a business, you’re also the cook and the bottle washer; but you are in control of your own destiny.

I remember the first day I sat down in my home office and made my first phone call as a business owner. I had one computer, the phone and some stationery on my one second-hand desk. It was exciting. As was the first day we received payment from our first client. I still have a photo of me holding the cheque.

I’ve changed the strategy of our business several times in the past 16 years. Going from a sole trader set up to a small number of staff, then buying a complementary product business from a mate, then starting a second business division, and then tearing up the playbook and outsourcing everything and going back to myself as sole ‘employee’ again.

Each time I was only able to do this because I was in control; I decided and made the changes with a little sage advice from my business partner to head me in the right direction.

The bad.

Being the ‘Boss’ can also be tough at times. When I’ve had to counsel a staff member who wasn’t doing the right thing. When I’ve had to exit a staff member who wasn’t performing. At times, I’ve felt sick in the stomach when our cash flow was really tight, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the bills or get staff paid on time.

I’ve had many sleepless nights, waking up with my mind spinning trying to find a solution for an issue with a staff member or a client or a supplier. I’ve found it tough at times to switch off and get away because clients are relying on me to get things done. And just turning out the light and heading overseas for a three-week holiday in Europe just doesn’t work when you run your own business.

The ugly.

The ugly side of running a business will happen too. I’ll share two examples of this in my sixteen years:

The biggest and worst was a client not paying a $20 000 bill, which absolutely devastated our cash flow for nearly a year. And it cost us another $10 000 in legal fees to chase it, and we still didn’t get paid. You can be sure we put in place policies about up-front payment on services after that.

Another terrible time was when we did go away for a 40th birthday in Bali. One day in the middle of the holidays I picked up an Aussie paper and on page three was a full-page advert about a massive recall of products. One of our two major clients was caught up in it, and I realised we’d basically lost 50% of our revenue overnight. The rest of the holiday wasn’t that much fun.

Ok, deep breath. I told you I wasn’t going to sugar coat it. And I can tell you from many discussions with friends and clients; they have all experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of business ownership. They’ve employed the wrong people, they have had products recalled and they have had tens of thousands of dollars in lost or damaged stock.

But you know what? Despite the downsides, I would never want to work for someone ever again. I love owning a business. I love working with business owners. They are some of the most driven, passionate and courageous people I know. Many of them do amazing philanthropic things with their profits.

So, all power to the business owner – it’s a pretty awesome thing to do.

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