I manage a company that sells small business, so this is not a random question. This matters to me. I have been a small business owner since 1991, and to do something for 23 years is no joke. You must have a reason.
When I first joined Great Harvest, which was my sixth small business, I wrote in my biography on our web site that Great Harvest gave me the chance to set an example for my kids, who were then 9 and 11, by showing them that one could successfully run a profitable, grounded business with strong values. I still believe that, but for me it's more of an added benefit than a driving purpose behind my choosing this path.
What is it that drives me? At my base level, I own and run a small business because I get to challenge myself. I get to be different. I get to do things because they are the right thing to do; not because they are what I am supposed to do.
Entrepreneurs vs. Small Business Owners
It took me a while to figure it out, but I think I have. I was one of those kids in Business School that said, from day one, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” Shoot! Upon reflection, I am not sure I really knew what that meant. In fact, I know I didn’t because I am not one. And never have been. I am a small business owner and manager. Those are not the same thing.
Entrepreneurs start or invent things. I don’t do that. I run a small business that teaches people how to successfully develop and run their small business based on an existing business model. That, as I reflect back up on my career, is what I have always wanted to do and just didn’t know it when I was starting out.
It's 'Casual Friday' Every Day When You're The Boss
We all hear the old adage of "find a career you love and you will never work a day in your life." That is true for me in small business ownership. I do “work” some days, because nothing is perfect — but this sure beats the heck out of being a CPA and wearing a suit to work every day. I recently had a great discussion with my dearest friend, who is a lawyer and was wearing a tie and sport coat to a Sunday meeting. He said he felt certain no one else in the meeting would be wearing a tie but that “someone has to look like the lawyer.” I love him, but I don’t want to work where I have to look like anything.
That type of lifestyle decision is one of the ones I made when leaving a successful accounting practice to get into food franchising. The flexibility to dress like I want. To work when I want. To control what I want. Those are the things that led me to small business ownership.
Fewer Vacation Days, But More Day-to-Day Flexibility
Dressing like I want is probably superficial but it is a nice feature of owning a small business. The flexible work hours thing really matters. I am on the road an awful lot of the time so I need to be able to call my shots on flexible time to see my family and relax. My family is an integral part of my support group, so I have to support them back. I don’t think twice about taking time off during the traditional work week to travel to see the boys, or to go for a run or a ride. But, I work all the time. I take off only about 3 days a year in order to make up for that.
When I leave on holiday and tell the office I am out of pocket, they snicker. They know I will be on email by the second day. When I was in the hospital earlier this year for a little tune up, I think they had a betting pool going to see how quickly I would be checking in! I don’t think one typically does that as an employee. But to succeed as a small business owner, you have to. And, you know what? I don’t mind at all. I see it as one of the costs of an otherwise awesome life style.
Remember, Customers Are the Only Ones With Total Freedom
When you couple small business ownership values with the freedom franchise, you might logically think, "best of both worlds." You always get to make your own decisions and are free to do what you want. That is not really the case....
Ultimately, the only person in a business chain that is totally free is the customer. They get to decide to spend money or not. I can choose to close 4 days a week if I want. But customers then get to choose to not shop with me. Those are real trade-offs which means the freedom isn’t really free. But it does mean I get to experiment and learn from those experiments.
No Bureaucracy Or Barriers To Implementation = Agility
In small business, you can make a decision and go. You don’t have to have stagnation, or decision, by committee. If I want to add a product, or change a price, or shift labor, I do. And I get to see if the idea works or not. That constant ability to think, try, learn, and then repeat might be the single most satisfying part of owning a small business.
It's Challenging & Allows Work to Align With Personal Values
Which takes me back to my original point. All of the things I mention are great. Life style. Choose my hours. Not wear a tie. Think, try, learn and repeat. But, at my core, my original answer to why I am a small business owner is that it is the right thing for me to do. It gives me the two things that matter most to me in business: 1) I am challenged every day; and 2) I get to drive the value system upon which my career is based. The rest is gravy.
And, please note — nowhere in my reasons to own a small business did I mention money. That just doesn’t make my list. Sure, I like money. I like nice things. I like financial freedom. But I can achieve those things working for a big bank. While being bored to death. The things I can’t achieve working for someone else, the intangible non-monetary benefits, are why I am a small business owner.
learn more about small business ownership from great harvest franchisees: