I was wrapping up a small business workshop a few weeks ago, fueling the audience with dreams of how they could grow their small businesses into larger empires, when one of the participants approached me.
“I feel like I don’t belong here,” he said. “I am a small business owner, but I don’t want to build an empire. I just want to support myself and my family and work sufficiently to get what we need in life. I don’t want three dozen people working for me and all the headaches that go with turning a small business into a big one. I’m kind of ashamed to say that, but there it is.”
I was reminded in that conversation that for many people, having a small business is more a means of self-employment than an exercise in empire-building, and that their end goals are different from the entrepreneur who is driven to open business after business.
I quickly told this participant that I understood and that he was indeed welcome and his point of view respected, because the same characteristics you need to grow a business empire are the ones you need to stay prosperously self-employed.
You need to keep good business records, you have to sell your products and services, you have to secure new customers regularly and keep them happy, you have to keep your skills upgraded, and at the end of the day, you need to make a healthy profit.
Only the goals are different; the end game is the same
The person who wants the freedom of being self-employed is every bit as much of a business person as the CEO of 50 people in the sense that while what they hope to achieve is different, their end game of profitability is the same.
The self-employed person doesn’t need to feel that they are someone “less than” the empire-seeker. Sometimes the level your business has achieved is a good one, and taking it to the next level brings just more stress and strain than you need or want in your life.
But make no mistake. Business is business and you need to stay on top of all aspects of it whether you are a solopreneur or trying to take your small business into the realm of big business.
Some people think that if you only want to work for yourself in your small business, that you are really just seeking a job, but it is not the same at all as contracting your services to someone else in exchange for a salary.
The salaried worker does not have to sell themselves and their product or services constantly. They are not solely responsible for retaining the customer, and when they need a skills upgrade, some human resources person comes along and advises them and even pays for it to happen.
The solopreneur has no such benefits. Not only that, if they take a day off, they don’t make a penny. If they can’t secure the contracts they need to make ends meet, they will see themselves in the food bank line.
They do not have a job, they have a small business and they are the bravest of the workers in their country, because they get up every day and do what they do without a safety net.
Every small business needs doers and dreamers and managers
Across Canada and the United States, solopreneurs go to work where they are not only the producers, technicians and manufacturers of goods and services, but they are also the managers, strategists and accountants of their businesses. Sometimes to allow them time to do the work that must be done, they outsource some aspect of their business, but it is still part of their role to ensure that this work gets done and returned to them.
One of the most fascinating books I read about this subject is called Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big, by Bo Burlingham.
The author interviewed 14 entrepreneurs who opted to march to their own drum as opposed to growing as big as possible as fast as possible. The result is a wonderful book of inspiring stories about people who dared to stay focused on the purposeful work that made them happy and maintained a healthy profit without subscribing to the better must mean bigger theory.
Growing support for making small the new big
Now business gurus like Seth Godin are speaking out for the solopreneurs and really small but successful business that dot the continent. He points out that one of the biggest advantages is their agility to change their business model in a world that embraces and discards trends with a rapidity unseen in previous generations.
“Small means that you will outsource the boring, low-impact stuff like manufacturing and shipping and billing and packing to others, while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable,” he says.
He was so intrigued with the idea that he actually wrote the book called Small is the New Big.
And finally, if you are interested in reading another great book on this topic but from a different perspective again then be sure to check out “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
Rework illustrates a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. 🙂
Let your business support the lifestyle you want
What can we really take away from this discussion?
It is reasonable to suggest that one of the least discussed goals of running your own business is the sense of life satisfaction it can bring you.
When you establish your own goals and your own end game, you are able to do work and make profits to sustain the kind of lifestyle that you want.
It means that you still have to be smart and focused on running your business with an eye to your bottom line, but you have the freedom to do it differently. You outsource more, you hire less. You build a base of local clients and then you keep adding to them to ensure that all of your eggs are not in one basket.
You set the goals and targets that support what you want and need in life, and yet you are also conscious of the other non-business related goals of a full life.
Why should anyone, anywhere ever have to apologize for that and think for a minute that they don’t belong someplace or that what they do isn’t enough?
For millions of people unhappy with what they are currently doing, it is a dream come true.
Thank you for reading this post. Until next time take good care.
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