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)