Owning Your Own Business
A View From The Top
Michael T. Robinson
When I look at many of the successful executives I have worked with over the years and I compare them to my self-employed friends who own their own businesses, one thing becomes increasingly clear. After 20 plus years of hard work, the self employed people are much better than those who were employees.
The friends and associates who were "employees" are not doing so good.
I have come to the conclusion, that if you can, you will be better off in the long run if you own your own business.
Let me give you some examples. When I was in my late 20's - early 30's I became the youngest Director and then youngest Vice President at the high tech international company I worked for. During that time I had the pleasure of meeting two very different entrepreneurs.
One entrepreneur is now so successful that he takes cruises about every other month. These are not low budget cruises with a room down near the engine. He always books a suite with a balcony. He always takes family with him. Frequently he has four generations of family with him, and he pays for it all. When I was working as a Vice President, earning the big paycheck, this was guy could barely afford to go camping. Look at him now. He probably puts in a few hours a day, if that.
I met the other entrepreneur at a party the night before a 10K race. When it came time to take up a collection for a run to the liquor store, all the employees in the group pulled out their wallets, but not this guy. He pulled out a wad of cash like you only see on TV. He owned a legitimate retail business. Years later I was to learn this was quite normal for him.
Now, after owning his own business for 30 years, he just travels around the country in his RV. He may put in one to two hours a day to check on the business, read sales reports etc. But otherwise he can afford to live the life of luxury.
But How Did the Employees Do?
30 years later, as I look around, many of the people whom I worked with during the time these two entrepreneurs were getting their businesses off the ground are either unemployed or having to work long hard days. Imagine being 60 years old and still having to put in 50 to 70 hours a week, working for someone else.
Now you might say those people were not all that good. Well, most were considered very good at what they did. Most had big pay checks, bonuses and stock options. Most had incomes that put them in the top ~ 5% of the US population. Most owned million dollar plus homes. They certainly had solid reputations and a high level of respect of their peers.
But over the last few years I've seen many of them downsized, transferred, sold off, or otherwise terminated. This wasn't just in the US. I've seen it in the UK and Asia Pac as well.
On the other hand, the entrepreneurs that I have known are doing amazingly well. Their businesses have done well, they only have to work a few hours a week. They have time for multiple vacations, starting new businesses, family etc.
The bottom line, the lesson to be learned is this: When you are an employee, even if you put your heart and soul into your work, at the end of the day you have nothing but your paycheck. You own nothing. Everything you had can disappear. The regular paycheck. The bonuses. The healthcare.
When you own your own business, everything you do today adds to what you did yesterday. It keeps on adding just like interest on a bank account.
Sure you will have competition, challenges, obstacles etc. But at the end of the day, if you do it right, your business will start working for you. If you are really good, you can cut back on your hours and the business will just keep running and the paycheck will keep flowing.
Not so if you are an employee. If you are an employee, everything comes to a stop when you do. If you don't show up for work everyday, your paycheck stops.
At any time, all of your good work can be erased.
All it takes is a change in management, a merger or acquisition, even a change in strategic direction.
Now this may sound like I'm whinning, but I'm not. I'm just sharing this observation from my position close to the top.
I can point to successful Vice President level people in the UK, the USA, and Asia Pac that due to no fault of their own found themselves having to find another job.
Changing jobs is not all that bad when you are in your 30's and even early 40's, but it sucks when you are 50 or 60.
So what do I recommend? I strongly suggest people look for ways to become self employed.
Since it takes at least a few years to get a new business to be profitable, I suggest you start your own business as soon as you can. Don't put it off.
If you don't yet know what you want to do, start saving 25% of your money now, so that when it's time to start your own business, you have the resources to fund it.
The last thing you want to do is use someone else's money. Because once you have investors, you have someone who can fire you and you are back where you started.