Question: “How do I know if an entrepreneurial path is right for me or not?”

Over the past few years, an increasing number of our clients seem to have been bitten by the “entrepreneurial bug ” and to be contemplating the possibility of self-employment.  Whether this is due to the pending retirement of the Baby Boom generation, or the perception that job security is now more likely found in self-employment than in traditional workplace alternatives, I’m not certain.  What I do know, however, is that there are still many significant myths and misconceptions floating around with regard to the entrepreneurial path — and that anybody considering this option needs to do some serious homework and soul-searching before abandoning their quest for a traditional salaried position.

On the plus side, I can attest from personal experience that being in business for yourself is one of the most freewheeling, tremendously creative efforts you’ll ever undertake.  Each day brings a new slate of challenges (which is both the good news and the bad news) and if you hate being bored, trust me, you’ll never find yourself sitting around like the Maytag repairman watching the clock!  Additionally, one of the most rewarding entrepreneurial benefits I’ve discovered is the way in which your business essentially becomes an exoskeleton of your own personal values, allowing you to make the world a better place in your own small but significant way.  Do you believe in taking great care of your customers?  Saving the planet by buying recycled materials?  Treating your employees in an ethical, fair manner?  If so, you can express all of these values to your heart’s content, all day long, just as long as your business model is sustainable and you’re able to keep the lights on.

Now on to the more sobering news…

What many would-be entrepreneurs FAIL to take into consideration is just how much of a culture shock it can be to give up traditional W2 creature comforts such as free time, paid vacation, or a paycheck that shows up like clockwork at the end of each month.  Granted, there are certain entrepreneurial avenues that don’t necessarily require these sacrifices, but in general, most of the business owners and sole proprietors I run across seem to wear a conflicted expression on their face that can be described as a mix between exhaustion and blissful self-actualization.  We’re having the time of our lives, in other words, but it just might be killing us!  If you want a more detailed explanation of the factors behind this, I’d encourage you to read the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.  It’s an eye-opener and will give you a very useful, no-holds-barred account of what it’s really like to be your own boss.

And yet, despite the tradeoffs, there’s no question that many people ARE cut from entrepreneurial cloth and meant to go into business for themselves.  You can sense it immediately in their attitude and by the level of pragmatism — as opposed to idealism — that they bring to the conversation.  One former client of mine, for example, announced that he was finally ready to hang up his own shingle in the architectural profession, but needed my encouragement to stay true to his vision and to metaphorically “burn the ships behind him” in terms of helping resist the temptation to go back to the corporate world.  He was realistic enough to know that the gnawing temptation would always be there, and I believe this was one of the most important elements that has contributed to his ongoing success.

In closing, it was probably unfair to suggest that I could answer the eternal “should I work for myself?” question in the space of a short newsletter article, but hopefully, I’ve provided a few fresh insights and convinced you of how seriously you need to take this question, if nothing else.  If you’re interested in receiving additional assistance on this topic, I’d encourage you to check out the “Partners” tab of my website, where I’ve included links to a number of top-notch local experts who can help you explore all kinds of entrepreneurial paths ranging from franchising to buying a business to getting your own consulting practice set up in a smart, profitable way. And despite some of the initial hurdles, at the end of the day, it’s certainly nice to do the things you love in life — and have them be tax deductible!