Owning a business can offer the most rewarding and most stressful experiences of your life - sometimes all in the same day!
There are days where you ask yourself, why did I wait so long to do this?! And others, where you wonder, what in the world was I thinking?!
The beauty of business ownership is that it is a constant learning experience, and you have the power to make the experience what you want. You have the ability to positively influence others, to make a difference for your customers, and ultimately, make your dream job a reality.
While I am all about being positive and looking on the bright side, I also value being frank and realistic. I thought it may be helpful for other entrepreneurs or aspiring business owners to hear a peer’s perspective on the good, the bad, and the ugly of owning a business.
Hopefully, we can lift one another up and remember that the hard days aren’t so bad, and the good days are worth working for!
Why I decided to start a business:
A fact I don’t often like to admit is that I was 24-years-old when I started my business. Impressive in one sense, it also makes me feel under-qualified. And in some ways, I wasn’t qualified! I only had two jobs out of college and had worked for a total of two years and nine months for different companies.
In many respects, I had no business starting a business. And yet, those two jobs and the positions I had throughout college taught me a few key things.
What my first two jobs out of college taught me:
Communication is king, and many companies are failing at it. Countless small businesses do not have a marketing or communication department. As a result, most of these companies are not strategically building relationships with their customers through value-based communication.
Today’s businesses have primarily been taught how to talk about themselves - focusing on telling their customers about their products and services and their differentiators. While those things are important, companies miss the mark by not focusing on the solutions their customers are desperately looking for. They have not yet learned the importance of providing valuable content FOR FREE.
Marketing and communication are often perceived as a burden and a low priority task. The inherent value of marketing and the positive impact it can have on the bottom line is not easily apparent to all business owners and their staff. Education is vital in terms of supporting the ROI on strategic communication and well thought out marketing efforts.
If you want a powerful and effective team, celebrate the victories, thank them for their hard work, and always provide helpful/constructive feedback.
I learned through these jobs that in order to make real change, I had to be willing to put myself out there and take some risk. I realized that personally, I need to work in an environment in which people are supported and encouraged, and people are empowered to ask questions and to challenge the status quo.
I realized that I could help more businesses if I went out on my own instead of working for one business at a time. I also came to terms with the fact that there is no point putting off the dream you have today for the hope of better timing tomorrow. Sometimes, the best time to do something is right now (even if it isn’t super convenient).
So while I did not feel qualified or ready to start my own business, I did it because I knew there was a problem I could solve and value I could provide. I knew that if I didn’t do it that day, I would do it someday, but that maybe I would miss out on something by waiting. I knew I had to try.
Two years later, things are going well, I’ve had many victories and also some failures… So let’s get into it. Here’s the truth (as I know it) about owning a business.
Owning a Business: The Good
If it weren't for the saying "The good, the bad, the ugly," this section would be titled "Owning a Business: The Fantastic / The Glorious / The-BEST-THING-I-EVER-DID!" But that just doesn't sound as good, now does it? "Good" just doesn't seem to do all of the benefits of owning a business justice. While this list isn't exhaustive and is in no particular order, these are the things that came to my mind first.
I am building something for myself and my family. What I put in, I get out!
I get to make a direct, positive, and meaningful impact on my customers.
Every day I get to do the work I love - I can challenge businesses to think critically about the way they are communicating and help them improve their current content. I get to write, edit, and brainstorm all the time! (To you that may sound awful, but to me it is a dream!)
The variety of the work I get to do is exciting and keeps me interested, informed, and challenged.
I have the privilege of working with a wide variety of clients! I get to be inspired each day by what they are doing. This means I can never be bored because the content is constantly different.
I also have the authority to choose who I work with! (Say goodbye to bad clients! ;))
I have a lot more flexibility with my schedule - I can take more vacation, support my family when I need to, and ultimately, work to live, instead of live to work!
I have been able to increase my earning potential significantly.
I have the opportunity to have my own team, to positively influence my interns, and to guide them and position them for success. Teaching and empowering others is so rewarding!
Owning a Business: The Bad
When I think about "the bad" parts of owning a business, I think more of the little pressures and frustrations of the day-to-day. I think about the things that make me a little nervous or make some of my days frustrating.
As with any job, not every day is going to be sunshine and butterflies. Unless you get to travel the world and have guaranteed income, there will always be some sort of pressure and frustration with a job.
Sometimes I want to pretend like everything is FANTASTIC, and I'm always doing AWESOME, but sometimes, owning a business is hard. Here's what I have found to be the "bad" parts of owning a business.
There is a risk every day - if I don’t get up and put my game face on and push it, I may not have a profitable day. If I don’t deliver, I don’t make money.
My name and reputation are on the line. I can’t hide behind somebody else’s business anymore. This is all on me.
Sometimes I screw up. Most of the things I am doing regarding running a business I am doing for the first time. While it’s great to continually learn, sometimes it’s exhausting and frustrating to feel like “I have no clue what I am doing!”
No one is checking in on me - I’ve got to be a self-starter and manage my time every single day.
I have to make big decisions all the time. As the boss, you better get used to it. And trust me, some of the decisions are not easy!
Sometimes it is lonely! There are definitely days when I miss having an office full of people around me and people to bounce ideas off of.
Not only do I need to do the work for my clients, but I also need to run and build a business. Getting lost in the endless to-do lists can be challenging! To-do lists, clear priorities, and set deadlines are vital to staying on track!
Owning a Business: The Ugly
When it comes to the ugly things in life, most of the time we just want to sweep them under the rug and pretend like they don’t exist.
But as business owners, if we don’t recognize the ugly parts of our experiences and talk about them, it can feel like we are completely alone.
By talking about them, we break down barriers and realize that others have been there too and that things aren’t so bad. Here are a few from my experience.
Self-doubt creeps in and whispers in my ear that I am not good enough, I don’t know what I am doing, and I am bound to fail. Even when everything else in my life points to success, self-doubt can take hold and make me question all that I have built. Self-doubt can make me feel like a fake.
The ugly kind of comparison makes me see other businesses as if they are perfect and my own business as one that will never measure up. It sees other people’s success as a failure on my part to succeed. Comparison points out my weaknesses and does not celebrate my value.
Burnout zaps all of my energy and negates the momentum I have built. There have been times in the last year where we had so much business I didn’t think I could take on another client. It was a whirlwind of exhaustion but also very rewarding. When everything calmed down, I slumped into a zone of burnout. When you’re burnt out, you’re unmotivated, tired, and emptied of ideas. This is a dangerous spot to be in and should be pushed through as quickly as possible. Take care of yourself and ease yourself back into healthy habits.
So there you have it - my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly of owning a business. I’m sure I missed some things so please share your experience with me!
I’d love to spend more time brainstorming and encouraging one another so we all can succeed. The beauty of business is that things will continually change, I will continually learn, and my perspective will change.
I’m curious about the perspective of those who have been in business shorter and longer than me! Share your comments below or set up a time with me to have coffee and chat!