Starting your own business teaches you things you’ll never learn in a job. Here are three of them:
Where the money comes from
As an employee, you can expect your paycheque to arrive every week or two without fail, even if you’re sick or on vacation. At one level, you realize the money comes from customers or, if you work for government, taxpayers. But this is no concern of yours.
As an entrepreneur, you know that if there are no customers buying your goods or services, and paying their bills, there will be no money to pay you or your bills and any help you may have. Time is money. Quitting time comes when you’ve done everything you can to get, keep and service customers, not when the clock says 5 p.m.
You also know that it’s up to you to bring in clients and their dollars. You’re the rainmaker. Even when you’ve hired someone to close the sales or make the product, the buck stops with you if they fail to perform. And when every expense, treat and perk comes directly out of your own pocket, you’re very careful about expenses.
When I worked for a large organization, I often travelled across the continent. My rule was if I didn’t get a day to make the trip, I wouldn’t go – no overnight red-eye flights for me. Once I had my own business, trips already meant time away from the office. Overnight flights kept that time away to a minimum and were often cheaper. Red-eye it was!
Go into a small shop or restaurant and you can always tell who the owner is. She’s the one who smiles more broadly, moves a little faster and greets you with real enthusiasm. She knows that it’s business from people like you that creates her success.
So current customers, past customers and potential customers are always treated as the source of well-being that they are. If not, the business won’t be around very long.
Suppliers and anyone who works for or with the business as an employee or on contract are also vital to the prosperity and continuity of a business.
A successful entrepreneur learns fast that she’s the one who must be available, patient, pleasant and problem-solving with all these people.
If you’re easy to work with, all those around you will help contribute to your company. If not, there might not be a company.
You can do it
Choosing to start a business is like having a baby. Before you do it, you can see all the demands and problems that will be created and wonder why anyone would make that choice. Only afterwards do you experience all the advantages.
Medieval philosopher Maimonides said that giving someone work is the highest form of charity. As an entrepreneur, you can provide people with work and benefit from it.
In a job, your income can’t go to zero unless you’re laid off. But there’s also a limit to how high it can go. In your business, you get to decide how much time and effort to put in and how much you can take out.
Even more important than the money for many entrepreneurs is the feeling that you can do it. In fact, you have done it. You don’t need a job. You’re independent. You generate your income and perhaps income for others. You contribute to the prosperity of your community and country.
And if your business doesn’t make it (as is the case for many small businesses), you can do it again.
Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.
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