Before I accepted the opportunity where I work, I was self employed for the longest stretch of my professional career. Working for startups and a large company had left me a bit jaded about having a, “day job,” and growing up, my family was mostly self employed. Mom, dad, step-mom, step-dad…everybody. One of my aunts and her family was also self employed. So the natural desire growing up was to imitate them. Kids end up wanting to follow in their parents footsteps, right?
However, what my immediate family did not have was a team. For the most part, the businesses I learned about were smaller, “mom & pop,” style operations without levels of management, company culture, processes, etc. They were the simple sort of small business in many ways. As a result, I never got any insight or understanding of the difference. What I’ve learned since is that a business which does not have a team is the easiest to run. With no team, no staff to manage or train, it’s easy to maximize the value of your own output. This model also has zero chance of scaling and growing into a larger business.
Why you should think like an owner in every job or career you have
Several years ago, one of my businesses started to grow. As a result, we hired. Then we hired more. At one point, I had a dozen people on staff between full time and part time employees, business partners and another thirty volunteers who regularly contributed above and beyond. Several of the volunteers eventually became paid staff in one way or another because they cared enough about the business that they really, really wanted it to work. While money always features into the equation, it’s never the whole answer. What I observed in each of them was their thinking of the business, the opportunity and the larger team first before anything else.
These days, I’m a lot more low key about what I do, who I work with or how awesome they all are. Thinking like an owner, despite being a small cog in a large machine, helps to crystallize my thinking and funnel my share outs in such a way that I hope they’ll have the most impact. A friend recently quizzed me, “What’s keeping you here?” The answer was simple. I love what I do. Not everybody can muster the emotional courage, stamina or desire to truly embrace their work. I’ve had great managers and bad ones; at the end of the day, we all have a boss.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself 😉
From memory, that was Ice Cube in the early 90’s; I was probably in middle and or high school. The same friend who asked me the question, “What’s keeping you here?” Well, it’s passion. I know, sounds cheesy. However, I don’t do well in work, or in life, without some emotional connection. I care about what I do. Every day, I’m worried about my dad. My cousin. My ex-step mom. All customers of where I work. I worry about myself, a former customer…long story; will explain more in a blog post later. Outside of work…life is about love, family, friends. Emotional connections. Only recently did I realize that I needed the same emotional connection in work as outside of work.
While I will always hate the term small business…I will always love small businesses. When I’m cheering for them, I’m cheering for my dad, for my cousin, for my family. I’m cheering for me. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I would love it if everybody who worked could say, confidently: I’m cheering for my team. I can’t be on their team personally, but if I can be on their extended team, or part of what makes them successful…then I’ll have helped my dad…my cousins, my uncle and even my ex step-mom.