This month I’m talking about the freedom being an entrepreneur brings.
This is part five in a series where I share my personal entrepreneurial journey in building the start-up business www.iflyflat.com.au.
Many of us choose to start our own businesses because we get sick of working hard with no specific purpose or even for something we might not believe in. We want to realise our dreams, achieve financial independence and do something meaningful.
When all is said and done, we seek the freedom to set our own hours and eventually to choose whether we want to continue working.
Most people recognise that tangible gains can only derive from working hard, but there also needs to be a sense that we are heading in the right direction.
What prompted my personal transition from corporate employee to entrepreneur was a realisation that I had key skill sets that would otherwise never be called on.
One late night many years ago I was leading my team, which was trying to settle on a methodology that would “equitably” allocate at the last minute an extra $5 million in budgeted expenses across 27 different cost centres. The issue was not whether the money would be spent, but who was going to bear it. Of course, no department head was keen to absorb it without a fight and political manoeuvring.
My mind clicked: this was not my USP (Unique Selling Point). I knew there were probably hundreds of other people who might actually be really happy with the task. So it was time to start playing to my own strengths.
I’m reminded of a poem by Saxon White Kessinger, “Indispensable Man”, part of which reads:
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you will be missed.
Quite simply, I had worked out that I needed to do something that was uniquely me. Or, as Oscar Wilde would put it:
Here I quote from a contributor to question-and-answer website Quora, which perfectly summarises my thoughts:
A business is an asset that in most cases has to be managed to ensure that the business gets off the ground and stays in the air.
Working and being preoccupied around the clock is not fun.
"Can you PLEASE put the phone down tonight?" your family/friend/wife shouts. “Okay okay... but NO, it doesn't happen.”
You don't have a four-hour work week.
Instead you have an every hour work week, running around putting out fires because you know one small blaze that's ignored could burn the whole thing down.
Unfortunately, when it comes to entrepreneurism, there is no fire brigade, and I may yet need that bucket of water Kessinger refers to. But what you certainly do have is an “every hour” week.
In my previous life in the corporate realm, after hours I would actively encourage myself not to think about work, let alone do any. People would actually frown on you if you did.
“You’ve got work to do? Oh, that sucks.”
Three-and-a-half years in, I’m under no delusion that making it as an entrepreneur is a 24/7 proposition. But of course, at the beginning I had a very different mindset. Old thinking still prevailed: “Once I make X dollars, that will be more than enough. I’ll never have to work again. Job done!”
My business experience at the time was limited. I didn’t know much about the positive impact making money could have beyond the acquisition of material possessions – house, holiday, car and financial security for the family.
As an entrepreneur, I know now that in order to make those X dollars, the journey has to be transformative. I am now more curious, keen to learn from others, to share my knowledge, and hungry to find and unlock new opportunities.
Truly successful entrepreneurs – those that have made millions and impacted the lives of millions – do not sit back on a beach sipping pina coladas. It’s true when they say they’re not doing it for the money. They continue to seek new challenges, new ventures and to mentor others in the pursuit of greater things.
The focus has moved beyond what you have to what you can impact. Consider Elon Musk. Many might wonder why – after making his fortune from PayPal – he is still working so hard. But really, with Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City, his impact has only just begun.
Key differences between entrepreneurs and 9-to-5
You may be physically anywhere, but mentally you are always thinking about your business.
Corporate 9-to-5: You may be physically at the office desk, but mentally you may also be thinking about something else.
That said, there is one key perk about being an entrepreneur – you can work from anywhere you choose, as long as there is an internet connection and mobile phone reception.
Finally, In reference to last month’s column – why entrepreneurs hate the question "How are you going?" – I should add that my mind is always active, always considering, solving, critiquing, accepting, failing… and then bouncing back.
There is one major perk in being an entrepreneur – the freedom to work from anywhere.