Q: Many of you are entrepreneurs or otherwise self-employed or largely self-directed. Do you work harder, or less, than when you were an employee? Or do you just work differently? Do you feel like you have more autonomy, or are the challenges greater than they used to be?
Most unsuccessful entrepreneurs are the ones who want to go into business for themselves so they can have more personal time -- as in, more time lounging by the pool you always see on the infomercial, with the laptop in one hand and a big umbrella drink in the other. (It must have been some really lazy guy who decided he should have a parasol floating in a sea of booze.)
I would call you successfully self-employed if you have been in business for more than seven years. And if that's you, you are either working very hard or did work very hard to get things going in your business.
It's different from working for someone else because every expense dollar is your dollar. That adds a bit more stress, but also creates much more freedom. When I was in corporate America and we had to replace all the computers, it was a big deal and a pain in the butt. At my own company, when everyone recently needed more stylish monitors to go with their record sales and profits, I'm like... "Well, OK, I don't want us to be mistaken for the proletarian masses, so go forth and unleash the company American Express card!"
My company's research on what the most successful self-employed people have in common shows that compulsive behavior, coupled with a lack of satisfaction in their accomplishments, is the driving force that keeps their businesses growing. That's why when you meet founders of big companies that started in the garage, you might notice that these people either are still working every day or are disturbingly annoying. In reality, they are often both, which is why they rarely get invited to board meetings.
Personally, I think I work harder sometimes, but my staff and contractors are very dedicated and extraordinarily talented. I don't have the kind of people I used to work with and manage in corporate America who made things look complicated to exaggerate their clearly limited value.
But when you hire for talent over skill, you have some issues as well (like paying people really good money who wake up one day and forget how to do what they have done for the past six months). With great talent comes great weakness; it's a different situation requiring a tolerant mindset that I don't exactly possess every day.
However, in the end, we are very successful and I am really fortunate to have had all this success since starting the company in 1996. So the bottom line is that it can be more work with much, much more reward and a greater sense of accomplishment. The best part is that every dollar is a Garrison dollar, and I'm not helping people I dislike or disagree with, put their children through an Ivy League school!
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