What do you want to be when you grow up? Who do you want to be? Most healthy kids want to be an astronaut, fireman, or athlete. As kids get exposed to more things they might want to be an artist or an athelete. Some kids might be exposed to certain things at the right time and decide they want to be a computer programmer or an entrepreneur.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist. At least that’s what I thought. Later in life I realized I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I can only trace it back to fourth grade, but I think there might have been signs of it even earlier.
But some days, I wonder if I made the right choice in 1999 when I told my wife I’d like to quit my job as a web designer at MyComputer.com and start my own web design firm.
Here are some of the experiences that make me wonder:
1. An employee leaves, taking a large client with them.
2. An employee leaves, causing a major project to fail.
3. You use a printer/mailing house you’ve never used before for a direct mail campaign, and things get all messed up and you lose a $100K per year account.
4. You find out a hosting client of yours has been sucking up 40 mbps of bandwidth, 24/7, and you have a $13K hosting bill.
5. You realize your hosting contract doesn’t mention anything about the client paying for bandwidth overages, and although the client says he’ll help out, he doesn’t pay a dime.
6. Your competitor who started his firm three years after you with less capital is making more money than you and getting bigger jobs with big-name clients.
7. You pull an all-nighter to get work done on deadline, only to have the client not like the work you did and ask you to redo it.
8. You feel like you’ve unintentionally offended a bunch of people, but you’re not sure. All you know is they won’t return your emails and you feel paranoid that they think you’re a loser.
9. Your college friends are making six figures, which is nothing compared to what you make, except that most of what you make goes towards paying off business debts.
10. Not for the first time, a client who owes you $8K files for bankruptcy and doesn’t pay you a dime for the work you did.
Yes, some days I think that if I were putting this much effort in at any other company for someone else I’d be making a lot more money than I am doing this. Or maybe if I just changed my business model and started selling a product instead of a service, maybe that would change things.
Then there are other days (frequently the same days as the days described above) where things are different. Here are some things that keep me going:
1. You land a large, highly profitable deal and pay off a large chunk of debt.
2. You get seven good leads in one day.
3. You find a new employee who gets things done quickly and correctly.
4. A client tells you how pleased they are with the work you’re doing for them.
5. You finish a project, check it off, and get a check.
6. Someone asks you for business advice.
7. Your friend who makes six figures says he hates his job and would give it up in a heartbeat to trade places with you.
8. Your employees successfully complete a project that you weren’t involved with and didn’t know much about. It just got done somehow without you having to do anything yourself.
9. You find out that your paranoia about someone hating you is completely unfounded, and they actually like you and hold no grudges against you.
10. You realize that you love the punishment of being an entpreneur and wouldn’t have it any other way.
What I’ve learned over the past six years is that I’m passionate about many things, including design, marketing, advertising, web development, technology, seo, etc., but what I really love is being an entrepreneur. I love starting something and trying to make it work. I love organizing people and watching them accomplish a task as a team. I love sitting in my office and thinking “Wow, if I were working for someone else this business which provides employment for all these people and is getting all this work done wouldn’t exist.”
I’m not rich. I’ve never been on a cruise or any sort of fancy vacation. I own two pairs of slacks. I struggle to balance all my interests. But running a business for me isn’t just a job. It’s not something that starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. I’m always on call, like a brain surgeon. It’s a lifestyle choice. Some people who choose this lifestyle make lots of money, others only gain knowledge and experience. But if you’re like me, the money doesn’t matter so much, because you see more value in the knowledge and experience anyway. If the money comes, it comes, and it’s nice, but if it doesn’t come, the true entrepreneur still loves what he’s doing. So who do you want to be?