|By JAY GOLTZ|
I have been talking to other business owners about whether their sons and daughters will be taking over the family business when they retire, and I have been thinking about my own succession plans. I have three sons, and I don't know if any of them will eventually want to run the business. The fact is, some people do not want to run a business, and some just don't want to run the family business. But it has got me thinking. Shakespeare wrote, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," and as usual he was on to something.
Here's my question: Is wearing an entrepreneurial crown too uneasy for "normal" people? Entrepreneurs are definitely not normal, and entrepreneurship is definitely not for everyone. For the sake of all of the sons and daughters who are potential heirs apparent — or even just for anyone who happens to be considering starting or taking over a business, I thought I would take a shot at making the list. You know, the list with the pros on one side and the cons on the other. Even though I've been living it everyday for almost 35 years, this is the first time that I have even thought about it. When I made my career choice, I didn't need to make lists — starting a business was the only thing I wanted to do.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that this is my list. Other entrepreneurs would surely create different lists — although I have to believe they would be similar. We will test that theory as soon as the commenters weigh in.
The Pros (or what I would call the Joys of Entrepreneurship):
1. The satisfaction of getting something to work. Not necessarily a new idea, a new product, or a new service. Maybe it is just doing something better or faster, or doing something that provides a better value. Whether you do the world's best custom picture framing, make the best cupcakes, develop new software that makes balancing your checkbook easier, there is a great sense of satisfaction for a job well done.
2. For headstrong people who like to do things their way, entrepreneurship is just the ticket — assuming, of course, that they prove to be right. If they prove to be wrong, this item will belong in the cons section.
3. Happy customers. Again, this might just be me, but there is great satisfaction to be had from making customer lives better. To do this, you do not have to own a business, but by owning a business, you can have your hand in helping many more people than you can by yourself.
4. Providing opportunity, security, confidence, guidance, development, and a livelihood to the people lucky enough to work for you. That is, of course, if you are a good boss. If you are not a good boss, none of this applies. As a matter of fact, I am sure that there are some entrepreneurs who would have no idea what I am talking about. And that is a shame. Developing and growing people to share your mission is a rewarding and beautiful thing.
5. Money, money, money. The root of all evil, and the root of many other nice things, too. For many years, it may be hard to make as much money as you used to make doing something else. But if a company becomes successful, you can not only make more money, you can eventually make money even when you are not working! What a concept. But don't get too excited. Read the cons list first.
The Cons (or what I would call the Pains of Entrepreneurship):
1. Problems. Fires, floods, suppliers not performing, employee screw-ups, your own screw-ups, machine failures, leaking roofs, car accidents, recessions, greatrecessions, bad checks, bad receivables, bad people, market shifts, workers compensation claims, more of your own screw-ups, health insurance increases, new competition, theft, more screw-ups. (I'm getting depressed just thinking about it.)
2. Losses. This could be from business that drops off for some reason, or from new products or services that just don't sell, or from increased costs, law suits, or any number of things. (Now I am depressed)
3. Firing. This is a necessary evil, although it isn't really evil at all. But it is necessary — unless you have figured out how to hire only great people and how to never have a slowdown. Or, of course, you can choose to keep people who are dragging down the company, which will cause grief in other ways. One way or another, there will be grief. But until you have sat across from someone, looked them in the eye, and told them that they no longer have a job, you can't possibly understand. It isn't always terrible. Sometime they agree, sometimes they don't agree but don't really care, sometimes they do care but they understand, sometimes they yell, sometimes they completely melt down, sometimes they thank you (once). If you can't handle firing, you probably don't have any business being a boss — because eventually, you probably won't have a business.
4. Money. Sometimes it is not a problem at all. Obviously, if business is shrinking, it can become a problem. But it can also be a problem when business is growing — if, for example, you get unexpected expenses. The entrepreneur's relationship with money is not like that of an old married couple. It is more like a hot and heavy romance filled with passion and intensity and occasional volatility.
5. Exposure. Or, as the insurance companies call it, risk management. The fact is, insurance can mitigate some of the problems, but not all of the grief. Whether it is because of customers, employees, the government, or a neighbor who falls on your property, you have far more exposure to lawsuits and problems than the average Joe. But that is why you are making the big bucks. Or at least trying to.
So here is the million-dollar question: Is it worth it? Maybe if you have to make a list of pros and cons, that should serve as the first indication that entrepreneurship is not for you
To my fellow entrepreneurs, what do you think?
|Copyright:||Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company|
|Source:||New York Times Digital|