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Starting a Business

by W.W. Mayes

In the last two issues of The Guardian, I discussed the first two of my five reasons why people want to start a business.  Those were 1. the desire for more money, and 2.  freedom from having a boss.  This week I will cover the last three:  the desire for intellectual freedom, wanting to have more time to live life, and wanting to control your own future.

INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. This one is tricky. Most of us have a very difficult time being honest with ourselves. We try to convince ourselves that we are right even if we are not sure. The bottom line in business is that you must become profitable or you will go out of business. Twenty years ago, a good friend of mine had a wonderful concept for a product and he asked me to evaluate it. After he paid my retainer I went about the process of researching. I spoke with many experts in the industry he was wanting to be a part of and I looked at several products that were close to, but not the same as his. When I gave him my report, he was disappointed.  When I asked why, he told me that he didn’t care what was going on in the industry or how his product would compare with the competition.  What he wanted was for  me to affirm how wonderful his concept was.

He wanted what he wanted the way he wanted it no matter what. This never worked for my daughter when she was a child and it wasn’t going to work for him either. I very forcefully explained the facts as they were. Furthermore, since he also wanted me to help find him investors I told him that I would not do so unless he woke up and smelled reality. He pouted for a few weeks and then he called and asked to meet with me. (I made him buy me a very expensive lunch at one of my favorite restaurants.) Over lunch, he told me that he had read my report several times. He was honest about the fact that he did not like my honesty in the report.  After beating around the bush, he told me that he was willing to adopt the changes I had recommended and he asked me to become part of his project.  You see, he had to make a choice between having things his way and being in business to make money. That company had a good ten-year run and was then sold to a competitor for a very good price, allowing my friend to retire at the age of Fifty. 

Now to be honest with you I love having intellectual freedom. For me this has a lot to do with how I run my businesses. I believe that employees should be treated with respect and integrity. I believe that you should never lie or embellish your product or services to make a dollar. I always work to run my businesses with integrity even if it costs me more money or it takes me more time to achieve what I am striving for.

MORE TIME TO LIVE LIFE. Don’t we all want this? The one thing that they are not making any extra of is time. I know for me this was most difficult when my children were growing up. This is where you have to be very honest with yourself:  How much time will you need to  put into your business in order for it to become successful? The first few years it usually requires a great amount of time and effort to make a business grow. Now you could end up like some of my friends who have been able to retire early, which made all their sacrifices worthwhile, but you need to think about your family and how much time you and they can emotionally afford.  When my daughter was in grade school, she did her homework in my office. I would take time out from my day to be at school activities. I almost always ended up back at my office working late. I know that ten of the last thirty years, I averaged one-hundred hours of work per week. It takes time and attention to build a business so be honest with yourself and your loved ones; and be prepared. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself working much more than the 40 hour work week you had as an employee.

CONTROL OF THE FUTURE. Usually this comment comes from an individual who has an issue with their employer. Maybe you haven’t gotten a raise in a while. Perhaps you have to work a shift you don’t like. Whatever the reason for this fantasy, get over it. No one has control of the future. I know of a couple of industries that state governments are making mandates for that will put them out of business. I am sure that whoever invented the ten-key punch thought that they had the business market forever. Well we now have computers. Newspapers around the county have been closed down and are fighting for their lives because of the internet. Simply put, “things change.”  The only thing we have control of is today and what we do with it.   We have witnessed more technological changes in our lifetime than any other generation. It’s important to be able to adapt and adjust.

I have spent the majority of my adult life running my own business. It has been a wonderful ride for me. It is something that for those who have the cast iron stomach that you need for it, it is wonderful. The most important thing to do before you go into business is to stop and think. As I write this, I am preparing to launch a new company and so far, I have already put 18 months of planning and research into it. It takes a special individual to take on the responsibility of being a business owner.  I look forward to watching your success.