I spoke with several business owners today in the course of my Day Job. The closer I get to opening my store, the more courage I gather to ask them what they think of owning a business.
I asked one gentleman today how much of his personality and “self” was in his business. While he runs a business that employs 14 people today, he started out with a truck and helper 20 years ago. My question caught him off guard. A look I can only describe as sadness or nostalgia passed through his features as he thought about his answer.
“Honestly, Barb,” he said, “My whole self is in this business, but the bigger it gets, the less personality is there. In the early days, I got jobs based on my ‘talk and walk’ as they say. Today it’s all about reputation and economic factors and so much other stuff.” He got wistful for a moment, looking out the window at his new 4-door truck and the boat attached to the back. “I miss the old days.” He turned to me and grinned. “But I sure like the solvency!”
He got me to thinking about what success might mean to me. I read frequently about SOHO (small office, home office…typically a virtual office or web worker) businesses deliberately choosing not to grow. Various reasons are cited, including not wanting to lose the immediacy and responsive report they have with clients and not wanting to evolve into something that would provide less control.
What would success mean for me? On a practical basis, it would pay the bills and allow me to work from home full time. This might, at some point, entail a very small staff to assist with packaging and shipping orders, stocking inventory, perhaps even the bookkeeping. But what if it went really big? Would I then become just another person tied to an office and a job, even if it’s my business that I love?
I think, for me, success means paying the bills, doing some good in the world, and having more time to research, write, and share. I can outsource some things (and already have; hubby is on board for customer support and shipping, and I have a webmaster/marketing genius working with me), but I imagine I will always stay active in customer service. Not only is it enjoyable, talking to people interested in what I sell, but I am always aware that it is their interest allows me to be a business owner.
Of course, I’d want to do as much of the writing as humanly possible. It’s what I do and my first love. My grand passion is writing. My love affair is with journals. Might be an odd set of similes, but there you go.
Ultimately, I’ve decided I’ll cross the bridge of growth when I come to it. As long as we are providing a good service, a good product, and good information, I think I will always be content.