How Owning A Business Can Ruin Your Life

On July 6, 2013

How Owning A Business Can Ruin Your Life

Most articles I read on owning a company talk only about the upside.  Headlines usually read:

  • How Instagram sold for 1 Billion 
  • How _________ grew their company to 912 Million in 3 short years
  • New technology firm raised 76 Million in VC money this week

Reading success articles has become the norm.  I love to read how other businesses are growing & becoming successful but there is a point where it becomes unhealthy.  Here is why…

Just because they raised a bunch of venture capital doesn’t mean they are good family people.  Just because the company sold for a billion doesn’t mean the founders have true fulfillment.  Just because the company grew fast doesn’t mean the partners like each other & have a healthy working relationship.

In the last five years, I’ve experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows when it comes to owning a company.

I want to be authentic here… In 2010 & 2011 when we were going through some terrible times, I didn’t blog about them.  I didn’t blog about the fact that:

  • I went 80k in debt & had to lay off people
  • I was emotionally drained & disconnecting from my wife & family
  • I felt like a failure all the time but publicly I held it all together
  • I didn’t sleep for 8 weeks & worked around the clock
  • I had a failed business partnership

The stories of real business ownership often go untold.

The stories of business success have an underbelly that are rarely talked about.  With every success story, there is a backstory.  If you are reading this, I want you to know that owning a business doesn’t have to ruin your life.  You don’t have to think about it all the time.  You don’t have to live the same story I did.  I want to give you three things I wish I would have done different & maybe this will help you not go through the pain I experienced.

I wish I would have realized earlier:

1. I am not my business & the business is not me

When we were 80k in debt, I felt like my worth as an individual was negative $80,000.  When we made $80,000 profit in a month, I felt like my worth was positive $80,000.  The businesses balance sheet was my personal score card for success in life.

This is what leads to obsession with work & disconnection from family.

Here is what I know now… My daughter doesn’t care about my business balance sheet.  She just wants me, all of me.  When I am with her & truly present, that is what success is.  But when you believe you are the business & the business is you, you can’t let go.

Do you struggle with this?  If so, welcome to the club.  I still get caught up in this sometimes but everyday when I sit in my driveway before I walk in my house I literally say this to myself, “I am husband & dad full time now, nothing else matters.”

2. I choose my own stress level 

Looking back on the last five years, 90% of my stress was unnecessary.  I’m not saying we should live stress free as a business owner but we shouldn’t live stressed out.  Here is what was ruining my life, my outlook.

When we were 80k in debt, I thought stuff like:

  • “We will never get out of this hole”
  • “I suck”
  • “We will be lucky to make it through the year”

All of that was negative & miserable thinking.  It created stress that made me mourn the death of our company before that happened.  These days, I’m not perfect but I work hard to not live a negative consequence that isn’t real.  I’m not saying you should live in some positive bliss all the time but you shouldn’t live with a worried outlook.  It will ruin the rest of your life.  I choose my own stress level based on my outlook.

Are you living consequences that haven’t even happened yet?  Are you living redlined emotionally?

3.  I’m not that big of a deal

Honestly, I just wanted to be a big deal.  I really desired to meet with “famous” people & get to know the A-listers in my industry.  In striving to be a big deal, I wasn’t being the real deal.  My private life was falling apart but my public life was growing.  This created massive disappointment for me.  I cared more about what customers thought about me than my family & friends.

I see this happen all the time with owners, founders & partners.  We are so busy winning the world that we actually lose our world.  Over time, I’ve realized that being the real deal is a big deal.  After spending two years in counseling & working hard on relationships, I’ve learned that no business success will ever fulfill me.  My relationship with God, family & friends is all the really matters in the end.  The business should make those relationships better, not worse.

Are you more interested in being a big deal or a real deal? (Don’t lie to yourself)

P.S. My whole business changed when I hired a coach. You can go here and get 100 minutes of coaching that I paid $12,000 for.  It’s not going to always be available at $7 though. Grab it here now.

  • By caseygraham  17 Comments   

    17 Comments

    Posted by Derwin L. Gray on
    • Jul 6 2013
    Reply  
    Casey, This blog is a breath of fresh air. Often ours scars reveal more than our success. Derwin
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 6 2013
      Reply  
      Thank you Derwin. I have a lot of scars :)
    Posted by Carissa Figgins on
    • Jul 6 2013
    Reply  
    I met you in the height of your stressful time. Lot o'character there. Probably why I still follow you. Sound leadership.
    Posted by Ron Edmondson on
    • Jul 6 2013
    Reply  
    Yea, been there. Lived it. Didn't want the t-shirt. Thanks for your honesty.
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 6 2013
      Reply  
      Ron, thank you so much for commenting bro. That you would even read a post of mine is amazing. I love your blog!
    Posted by Wayne Northup on
    • Jul 6 2013
    Reply  
    This is great stuff Casey. Every entrepreneur in America needs to read this, including church planters of which I am one. By the way, I've had some of the same struggles.
    Posted by Darren on
    • Jul 7 2013
    Reply  
    Vasey, so appreciate your honesty and transparency. Not are you freely helping other entrepreneurial minded people, but keeping them focused on what really matters. Thank you!
    Posted by Darren on
    • Jul 7 2013
    Reply  
    Casey, so appreciate your honesty and transparency. Not are you freely helping other entrepreneurial minded people, but keeping them focused on what really matters. Thank you!
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 7 2013
      Reply  
      Thanks Darren, I'm just trying to do my best to help people avoid my stupid mistakes :)
    Posted by Todd Tolson on
    • Jul 7 2013
    Reply  
    Great post (per usual), and I'm testing your (new) comment system!
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 7 2013
      Reply  
      Todd, thanks for the encouragement & for testing this out!
    Posted by Tom Martin on
    • Jul 8 2013
    Reply  
    Takes a lot of courage to answer this question honestly and more courage to write this post! Sadly, for me, this lesson in ego was learned in life's school of hard knocks and in the safe environment of business school.
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 8 2013
      Reply  
      Thanks Tom. I am learning the hard way too. Kinda the way it works! :) Thanks for replying & I hope you are doing well!
    Posted by Mike Berry on
    • Jul 8 2013
    Reply  
    Great post! Great insight for young leaders, not just upcoming business owners. I love #1! I'm always counseling young leaders with this same principle. Thanks for putting your experience into words.
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 8 2013
      Reply  
      Mike, this means a lot! Thank you for the comment. I hate that I had to learn the hard way but I'm kinda hard headed :)
    Posted by Mark Brooks on
    • Jul 9 2013
    Reply  
    Casey, what a great post! I feel your pain as a small business owner. I was a Sr. Pastor for 20 years and never fully understood what the men and women in my church went through during tough economic times. My check came regularly twice a month. This post should be required reading by all pastors and church staff so that they might gain an insight into the real world that their members face day in and day out. Thanks for sharing and thanks for all you do for the Kingdom!
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Jul 9 2013
      Reply  
      I couldn't agree more Mark. You hit the nail on the head with this one because sometimes we live in our bubble & don't know what the "real world" is or feels like! Thanks for commenting bro.

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