Becoming an entrepreneur after being an employee my whole career was a case of aging five years in five minutes. I’m the guy walking around the street with big bags under his eyes and more grey hair than when you last saw him. But I’ve also learnt more in the last year than the last five combined and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done.
It’s now been a year since I jumped ship and started running my own business and I’ve experienced some great highs and also the lows that come with the entrepreneur’s territory. It’s hard, harder than I could have ever imagined. But with the grind comes immense satisfaction that I never felt working for a multinational.
For anyone thinking about leaving the comfort of their life as an employee and going into business for themselves, here are some of the things I’ve experienced in my first year.
1. You learn what sacrifice is
Recently I missed the annual boys’ trip down the coast, a mentor’s 50th birthday, a family trip with my six month old son to the Gold Coast, not to mention, countless bath times. My family understands but that doesn’t help much. While I’m working on finding a better blend between home and work, for the time being I’ve accepted that I must sacrifice some of my personal life for what I hope is the greater good of the business in the long run.
2. You need to learn to ride the ups and downs and deal with massive amounts of stress
You’ll have more ups and downs than The Cure’s greatest hits playlist. You’ll have a small win then five minutes later get blindsided by a completely unrelated issue. I’ve found the tough thing is that people who have not trod a similar path often don’t get it. But I guess I didn’t get it either until I experienced the realities of running my own business.
Also, the stress associated with doing your own thing versus working for someone else is different. When you’re running a business the level of stress is higher but it is more positive. It’s more about the external stresses as opposed to the internal. For example, when I was at a multinational the stress was largely internal and manufactured based on perception, professional reputation and corporate politics. I was worrying about how I was perceived, who was undermining me and if my work was good enough.
Now my focus is on the external, it is more real. I stress about results and about the people. The ones you have relationships with, who you promised to deliver to, or have to ensure get paid. My focus is on driving growth and delivering for my family, my business partners and my staff. I’m in control so can influence what happens (to a degree). No longer do I have time or inclination to worry about the internal stresses that come with being an employee.
3. Your ego takes a whack but you learn to let it go
Like many others working in large multinational companies, I had a bit of an ego. But going out on your own is one of the most humbling experiences you can go through, not only professionally but personally. Your ego takes a whack, however very quickly you learn to let it go.
As a business owner I get over things much more quickly, whereas, being an employee I stewed on my mistakes instead of learning from them – sometimes for weeks, or even months. It was all about my professional reputation, which in some instances led to an erosion of confidence. Now I identify my stuff ups quickly, learn from them and move on. Why? Because I don’t have a choice. There is no time to worry if I look bad because if I do it becomes an unwanted and expensive distraction.
But for all of this, being in control of your own destiny is amazingly liberating. The direction the business takes and how it gets there is up to me. I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s routine or template. I may be working more but I’m working smarter and choosing the hours that work best for me (or at least I’m trying to do that!).
Matt Rose is the managing director of ZOO Group Melbourne. ZOO Group is a growing creative network with the best multinational talent and an independent spirit. ZOO Group’s unique business model and working environment fosters strong partnerships between its creative people and client people, this ensures nothing gets between them and the work. ZOO Group has agencies in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Singapore and Auckland.