Anyone who has ever sat in a fruitless, hours-long work meeting that doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything has probably had the thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could launch my own business?” Many Americans today are working longer hours and seeing work encroach on their personal time without any noticeable financial improvements. Salaries are stagnant, workloads are increasing, and corporate bureaucracy is on the rise. Launching a business seems like a great alternative to pointless meetings, inept managers, annoying coworkers, and the morale-crushing aspects of corporate life.
Not so fast, many business experts warn. While it’s easy to fall in love with the idea of running your own business and calling yourself an “entrepreneur,” in reality, it can be a long, painful task — particularly in the beginning — that will eat up more of your personal life than almost any corporate job. Look around at all the functions in your current company, such as invoicing, accounts receivable and accounts payable, marketing, customer support, human resources, sales management, and administration. Now remember that when you launch your own business, all those tasks will fall on you.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener on the Business Owner’s Side
To determine whether striking out on your own is a viable option for you, first ask yourself why you want to run your own business or become an entrepreneur. Is it because you imagine being free of the corporate yoke and gaining more control over your life? Are you longing to have more time to spend with your family? Are you looking to make more money in the short term? While these are all laudable goals, they’re not good reasons for launching your own business. In reality, a new business often controls your life far more than a corporate job ever could. If a work-life balance, sick days, and a two-week summer vacation are important to you, consider that these things will likely become impossible for most self-employed individuals. Chances are that you will earn less money on your own and will need to take on more financial risk. If you have a family to support, this could lead to instability and financial insecurity.
The Right Reasons for Starting Your Own Business
Some people are born entrepreneurs. They may have an idea they can’t get out of their heads, and may spend many hours imagining how they could make life better for others. They may view the sacrifices of launching a business — which include forgoing a steady paycheck, sick time, and paid time off — as minor inconveniences compared to launching a business they will love and nurture.
A person destined to be an entrepreneur does it because the pros are weightier than the many cons. Unless the business means (almost) everything to you, the sacrifices involved will weigh more heavily with each passing day. It’s important to understand that, at least in the beginning, a work-life balance will be virtually impossible. If you’re the only one minding your business, there is no way to disengage without either losing business or losing your peace of mind. As your business grows, of course, you can hire employees or engage partners to help share the workload, but in the end, the responsibility will always rest on you.
Will You Run the Business, or Will the Business Run You?
Building your own business takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. If you succeed, you will be emotionally invested in that business. It’s important to remember, however, that the business will then control both your time and your money. Entrepreneurship works beautifully for some people, but generally only for people who are aware of the profound depth of the task they are taking on, and who are willing to give up personal time and freedom for the sake of getting the venture off the ground and running it successfully year after year. Consider your reasons for wanting to start a business carefully, and be sure you’re choosing to pursue entrepreneurship for the right reasons.
Before you take that leap, talk to people who have made the jump from corporate life to entrepreneur (both those who have been successful and those who were unsuccessful). You may also want to consider speaking with a career coach who can help you make a decision that is right for you.