Okay, you’ve got your own business. You started it, like most entrepreneurs, so you could have more control over your own destiny, more freedom to do what you’re passionate about, and to “be your own boss.”
Find out anything surprising about being your own boss? Or about being a boss out there on your own, period?
1.) I thought I’d “magically” be more productive on my own
One of the first things that hit me in the face like a blast of cold air was that I had no one to answer to. “Terrific!” I thought. “Fan-dango-tastic! I can do exactly what I want to do.”
Problem was, I didn’t always know the right thing to do. And even when I did, I didn’t always do it.
First off, as a new entrepreneur, I found it impossible to work at home. Having always been in a very structured environment, I was at a complete loss with my little corner of the family room. I had everything I needed, workwise, but the distractions were so loud! The laundry that had always been so innocent and quiet kept yelling at me, “Aw, come on, just put a load in! What can it hurt?” Suddenly the stray spoon in the sink was calling my name, the trash wanted to be emptied, and the living room was begging to be vacuumed. It was amazing to me that I never had heard these chores speak so loudly before, nor had I ever had such a strong urge to go to the post office, do my grocery shopping, and pick up the dry cleaning.
That noise all stopped when I rented a small office in an old converted school building, thank goodness. This may be something you need to consider as well, if you’re just starting and working out of your home. And if actually renting a separate space doesn’t work for you, think about taking over an entire room of your house and setting it up specifically as an office. With a door so you can’t hear the laundry.
2.) I thought I’d have this great wisdom to know how to direct and assess myself
I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty self-directed person, and many have called me ambitious and driven. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, even as a kid, and inside my various jobs while working for someone else. But I soon found it’s really easy to get off track without someone to report to, someone to give you an honest assessment of your progress.
The best ways I’ve found to wrangle with this particular challenge are these: an advisory board and mastermind groups.
Putting together an advisory board was one of the best things I did for myself in the early years. Every quarter, I’d invite my accountant, my financial planner, my insurance advisor, my attorney, and a marketing consultant to lunch, at the same time, pay them $50 each, and make a presentation to them about the state of my company, including financials, sales projections, and current projects. Then, I’d ask them for their advice. Boy, were they tough on me, and they expected progress from one quarter to the next, in many different areas. I prepared like mad for these meetings, and loved it.
After about 10 years, I discontinued the advisory board and substituted it with really strong mastermind groups and paid advisors. I make commitments for my business and share them with my mastermind friends, which still gives me that all-important accountability. A good business coach would be a great idea as well.
3.) I thought I’d be a naturally great leader and boss
I knew what needed to be done in my business and how to do it, so certainly I could tell others what to do. They’d blossom and grow under my wisdom and tutelage, taking care of the stuff I didn’t want to do. With others focused on the details, I could concentrate on the really important, wonderful aspects of my business — like making money.
Hmmmm. . . easier said than done. People are interesting. They’re all different. And none of them are exactly like me! I learned early on that I had to figure out a way to manage my staff well or spend the bulk of my time obsessing over their work and correcting it, and then resenting them for having to do it all myself.
I went through most of the Boss Myth management styles:
The La La Boss — hire ‘em and avoid ‘em
You know this style. “I don’t really want to manage people or ‘bother’ them — they’ll figure it out. . . I hope.”
The Helicopter Boss — hire ‘em and hover
This was one of my favorite styles. Since no one ever did anything exactly like I did, I felt I had to be looking over their shoulders at all times, telling them every minute detail of how to do it. I’d even examine their work after hours, leaving notes for them to find in the morning. (Imagine how they loved that!) Wasn’t getting much of my own work done that way, though.
The Expert Hirer — hire experts and let ‘em do it their way
This didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to butt heads with my team members. And anyway, I wanted it done my way, not theirs. Many business owners try this approach and learn later that they really don’t like the “expert’s” way, and then become a hybrid Expert Hirer/Helicopter Boss. This is doubly exhausting, as experts fight back.
Mr. Nice Guy — “I can save her!”
A recurring theme for me, as I kept ineffective employees way longer than I should have, thinking I could “fix” them.
The Boss Myth can waste years of your business’ life if you’re not aware of the stories we all buy into and how to work around them. Being the boss doesn’t have to be the pain it often turns out to be, and you don’t have to fall back on the old bossy ways you experienced in your employed life, either. There are better, more conscious choices you can make and systems you can put in place to banish the Boss Myth and make being a boss one of the most rewarding experiences of running a business.