Four leaf clover

I love being a small business owner.

I love the flexibility it gives you. The freedom. The ability it gives you to focus and build on something you are truly passionate about. You control what you put into your business, and ultimately the rewards you reap.

There are a lot of benefits that come with owning your own business and for us starting our own business was one of the best decisions we have ever made both personally and professionally.

But unless you have taken the plunge and started your own business, as much as you would like to think you do, you really have no idea what it is like to be a business owner. Not many people really talk about the difficulties and challenges that all business owners face at some point within their business, so if you are thinking about starting your own business, or you think being an employee is tough and stressful, then I would like to share a few thoughts and experiences with you.

Until you become a business owner you cannot appreciate how much time and effort these individuals invest into their businesses and the compromises they make within their families and to their partners. The stress of having to sell investments and properties or borrow money from family members when the bank will not lend it to you so that you can pay your staff the following week. The fear of not knowing if you will win that next job, or if that client will select you to undertake work or if and when they are going to pay you for your services. Trying to attract and engage the right staff to work with you, who align to your vision and what you are trying to achieve.

In the first couple of years of our business, we worked so hard. There was no ‘luck’ involved. It was a culmination of not only a lot of hard work, compromise, good ideas and research, but a lot of educated/strategic decision making and perseverance. We made numerous mistakes and could have approached so many things differently. I guess you could say I was ‘lucky’ in one way, that Kym and I had each other to share the highs, but also the lows and stress of how we continue to move our business forward. As an individual this would be much harder, as becoming a business owner and starting out by yourself can be very isolating as there are so many things you just don’t know and can’t anticipate until you have experienced them.

As time goes by and you start to achieve success, I don’t think these challenges disappear. The scale just changes. I had a curve ball thrown at me again this week over something we had sought professional advice for years ago. Once again I think my heart skipped a beat or two at the consequences if the advice was wrong and my entire week has been thrown into disarray as I try and resolve the issue in the best interests of our business.

When I was an employee, I thought my role was stressful at times. I had teams to manage, projects to deliver, budgets to meet etc. But at the end of the day I hadn’t put everything I had into that business. At the time I thought I did. Maybe it was because I was younger and naïve but ultimately I was working with someone else’s money.

As much as you try and educate your team to ‘think like business owners’ – the reality is that they can’t. People generally just don’t get it. Until they go out on a limb, quit their day job and risk every dollar they have and put it into a business and spend every waking hour thinking about or working towards building their business, then they are just not going to get it – which is understandable.

Even people who you thought were your friends. Some of the comments or remarks, whether they mean anything by them or not, make you question whether you have done the right thing. Many of them have no idea the difficulties you have faced to get to the success you have achieved.

Everyone has their own story to tell and challenges, both personally and professionally to face, but as a business owner you need to be able to share your experiences and challenges with other business owners.  They understand and have often lived through something similar. They know how valuable genuine advice and honesty can be, and how appreciative that business owner is to receive it, just to have someone listen, understand and support them.

To highlight these challenges, it appears lately a number of businesses have been forced into insolvency and employees have been made redundant. Whilst I would like to convey my compassion to those employees, I think that sometimes we forget to recognise that many of these businesses were built by business owners just like us, who have put everything on the line. They just made a few more wrong decisions, or had a series of unfortunate events and couldn’t manage their business or have enough time to turn it around. I can certainly say that they would not have intentionally gone out to drive their business into the ground only to make their employees redundant.

Being a small business owner does have a lot of perks, but it does take a certain type of person to be able to invest everything and build a thriving business.  They need to be bold, take risks, be passionate about what they do combined with a healthy dose of persistence to work through challenging times.  Whether you are ‘lucky’ or not, has absolutely nothing to do with it.