Why Would You Want To Be Your Own Boss?

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No one likes unsolicited advice, so about a year ago I decided to tap the breaks on trying to persuade everyone I meet to become an entrepreneur. Well, not everyone… just the innocent bystanders who happened to bump into me at a social gathering, or the department of motor vehicles, or standing in line at a fast food restaurant. 

It was bordering on obnoxious. In my defense, when you’re passionate about what you do, you want to share it with the world. 

However, entrepreneuring isn’t for everyone. You have to want it. And I mean really, really want it in order to become a successful entrepreneur. So, now I save my enthusiastic pep talks for the people who come to me looking for advice about what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. 

The other day, I heard an unlikely message from an unlikely source. It was a radio commercial from a local plumbing company. The script went something like this: “Why would you want to be your own boss? Come work for us and work 9 – 5!” And the spokesperson read a few of the perceived “negatives” about running your own company.

I was floored. Did he just say that?

The spot caught my attention because I haven’t encountered anyone espousing a message diametrically opposed to mine: Why would you want to be your own boss when you can be my employee? 

The spot had two objectives: 1) recruit talented plumbers; and 2) get rid of some competition. I wonder how many plumbers have taken him up on his offer?

Most (if not all) of the entrepreneurs I know have no interest in working for someone else… regardless of their entrepreneurial success. In the few instances where entrepreneurs I’ve known had to take a job, it didn’t last long. They all found their way back to entrepreneuring. 

That taste of entrepreneurial freedom is a special thing. You won’t know it until you taste it, but when you do you won’t want to lose it.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging, demanding and taxing. You make sacrifices and take risks. You put yourself out there. And sometimes you fail. That’s the price of freedom.

While that level of freedom scares some people, others can’t live without it.

As I said earlier, entrepreneuring isn’t for everyone. When I meet with prospective first-time entrepreneurs I ask them why they want to start a business because that “why” will fuel their tenacity when the going gets tough.

So, in response to that plumbing company recruiting employees… why would you want to be your own boss? Here are the top three “whys” I’ve heard over the years:

Control. You want to be in control of our own destiny and your work. When you work for someone else you are not in control. Your employer determines when you will be hired or fired, promoted and given a raise or a bonus. They are in control of your work life.

They also control your work. Your employer determines what you will do and how you will do it. Depending on the size of your employer, you may have to go through a bureaucratic system of gatekeepers to get anything done. Those gatekeepers also have control over your work. 

Entrepreneurs are independent, creative and competent. We want to do things the right way, which is often our way. We simply want control over our work and our destiny. We want to determine the who, what, where, when and how of our work. That is our why. 

There is nothing wrong with taking control of your career.

Purpose. You want to do meaningful work. At the end of my corporate career, I couldn’t help asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Too often, the work I was asked to do seemed to have no purpose. It certainly didn’t have any meaning to me. 

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” If you find no meaning in your work, it can’t be your calling. Work without purpose is drudgery. No one wants that. On the other hand, when your work has meaning… it gives your life purpose.

We spend so much of our lives working, why not spend that time doing something that has meaning to you. 

Freedom. This is the most popular reason why people become entrepreneurs. It is related to control, but it has more to do with your life rather than your work. As an entrepreneur you have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want and where you want from a work perspective, but you also have the freedom to cater your work to support your lifestyle. 

If you want to leave work early, do it. Want to surprise your significant other for lunch? There’s nothing stopping you. If you want to work from the beach, it’s your call. That’s freedom. On the other hand, you also have the freedom to work late, or on weekends, or on vacation. It’s your choice. The tradeoffs are yours. You are the boss. 

Some of my entrepreneur friends work no more than twenty hours a week, while others work non-stop (because they love what they do). Once you taste freedom, it’s hard to go back. 

Those are the top three reasons why people become entrepreneurs. There are many other “whys,” but these are the three big ones.

If any of these sound appealing to you… you are probably an entrepreneur at heart.

I would be curious to know how many plumbers took that advertiser up on his offer. How many entrepreneurs gave up their personal why to work for someone else? 

My guess? Not many.


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