“I ran the wrong kind of business, but I did it with integrity”—Sydney Biddle Barrows, the Mayflower Madam
I know from my e-mail that many readers work in corporate environments harboring dreams of someday being their own boss. While some may actually be planning for this eventuality, others may find that, like greatness, being an entrepreneur can be thrust upon you. In my own situation, I long had a dream of owning my own photographic studio and had started making plans for that day, only to get laid off long before my scheduled departure. So I said “the hell with it,” and started my business the next day. I was unprepared for how similar my little operation was to my Fortune 500 job but the big differences lie in all of the advantages of flying solo.
Along the way, you may have to make a few sacrifices in lifestyle or quality of life, but true entrepreneurs do it because they see a future payoff. It took me many years to make the same kind of money I had received from corporate America and it took me many years after that to have health insurance as good as when I was a wage slave.
Most new entrepreneurs don’t do it for the money; they do it for the freedom. As “the boss” you have the freedom of making decisions that affect the direction of the company. This includes flexibility in making quick U-turns to adopt new policies, strategies, and technology without having to run it through a middle-management filter. (“Oh Rob, Snafu Industries could never do that!”) If you do it and it works, you’re a hero. If it flops, you gain valuable “school of hard knocks” experience.
Some people are attracted to entrepreneurial life because they want to take time off to play golf. If you received a golden parachute from your former employer that may be possible but few of us are that lucky. While you may work more hours than before, you will have flexibility in your calendar to take your kids to a ball game during the week or attend a recital at their school during the day without “your boss” taking the gas pipe. If you can’t be flexible regarding spending time with your family within your work schedule allocation, then you’re a workaholic and should consider getting a “real job.”
In addition to having the freedom to make decisions that affect your studio’s growth and work schedule, you also have the freedom to run an operation that has more dignity and ethical concern than the company you left. You have the freedom to treat your clients with the kind of respect you think they deserve, not what some suit in the home office long removed from what it’s like in the real world tells you to do. For many entrepreneurs this is one of the major reasons they left what, for some, were long careers. Knowing that you “did it with integrity” will help you sleep at night and live longer and prosper.
Joe Farace has been an independent photographer for more than 30 years and can’t image any other kind of lifestyle that’s better.