Like most millennials, I spend a ridiculous amount of time on social media. Luckily, there are many gems on social media that can help you discover a new idea, future hobby, or truth. Last week, I saw a tweet that had gone somewhat viral and really stuck with me. It read, “Social media has everyone thinking that entrepreneurship is easy.” I initially chuckled, but I’ve thought of it often over the past few days because it is so true.
I have a few friends who are dead set on owning their own business, which is admirable and extremely ambitious. I applaud my friends and anyone else who wants to own their own business; live your best life. But, I give major side eye every single time an aspiring entrepreneur says, “I don’t want to work for somebody else.” That statement is the bane of my existence when talking about entrepreneurship because it is the exact opposite of what you are doing as a business owner. Unless you’re going to print your own currency to pay yourself, you will always work for someone.
My very first job after grad school was working for a leadership development consultancy in Washington, DC; it was a very abstract concept, even to me and I worked there. Anyway, it was a small business with less than 10 full-time employees, a few dozen contractors, and an owner that wore many hats. The company had clients all over and I got a crash course in business while working there. Here are some of the things that I learned that force me to say that you’ll always be working for someone:
I cannot stress the importance of clients enough. As a business owner, you are constantly looking to meet and serve new clients as well as retain existing ones. They are literally paying your bills. They are looking to spend their money the way they want to and it’s up to you to make sure they’re spending money with you. Customer service is so important and clients can have some outrageous demands. You have to meet those needs in order to secure the bag. In essence, you work for them.
Everybody has an opinion
Undoubtedly, there will always be someone who wants to tell you how to do your job, (case in point—this article). If that person is your client, you’ll have to bend and try things their way, even if you know better because no one wants to feel like they’re being told how to spend their money; clients want to have input. Also, competition is so real. Staying ahead of the curve or with the times requires occasionally adopting new thinking, and it’s no guarantee that it’ll be original thinking. In addition to staying with the competition in terms of attracting clients, it is necessary to do so in order to attract and retain top talent. That can mean adopting methods or practices recommended by authorities in your business sector, and being open to suggestions from your team.
It’s bigger than your coins
In business, revenue is always going to be the bottom line. You are there to make money. But then what? You can work 25 years to build a company into an empire and that’s great, but what happens next? Building a business is also building a legacy. A legacy has to endure and be continued. There will be uncomfortable adjustments that have to be made so that you can eventually pass the business on to someone and to keep the business relevant.
Furthermore, it is increasingly important for companies to exercise social responsibility. Customers want to spend money with organizations that support good causes. Every good cause has a de facto set of values that show true alignment and will influence your behavior within the business. For example, you can’t claim you care about the environment but print every single document needed for the business or have employees contribute to air pollution by commuting to work daily.
I say all of this to say that people and businesses do not exist in a vacuum. We are all influenced by something or someone and it’s important to realize that one person does not know everything. Good leaders know when to lead, when to follow, and when to ask for help.
Entrepreneurs aren’t dictators and will eventually take directions from someone besides themselves. It’s important to realize that you will work for someone else because if you’re not working for someone, you’re not making any money.