I had lunch yesterday with an old classmate. About eight years ago we trained together on a graduate programme we have in the UK called Teach First (same idea as Teach for America). It was great to see her, and we spent some time sharing stories about our lives since we’d last met.
She’d worked for McKinsey for four years and was now in another corporate job. She seemed happy enough, but she was considering running her own business and asked me how I was finding it. It wasn’t a question I wanted to answer lightly.
Since I gave up my job and started working on my own business, I’ve been more relaxed, healthier, mentally more robust and more cheerful than before. But I really wanted to think about why I was feeling those things. What was it about running my own business that was having these great effects?
For anyone thinking of starting their own business here are the three reasons I gave my friend for why she should take the plunge.
Reason 1 – Control
This is my number one reason. You’re in total control of your own destiny. If you want to take a day off to go kite surfing you can – it’s a simple equation of the benefit of the kite surfing versus the lost equity in the business.
You have no red tape and pointless paperwork, you can do exactly what you want with your time and you have no boss. The last point is the most important. Every time you’re made to do something you think is pointless, or that you hate, I believe it eats away at your independence and your sense of freedom.
Some people like the security of being told what to do. Other people (like me) find it abhorrent and the lack of control eats away at them. If you’re like me, control will be the number one benefit of starting your business.
Reason 2 – Skill Alignment
I spent two years in a large investment bank, and I was so bad at everything I’m surprised to this day I kept my job. I think my only saving grace was that – as a trainee – I wasn’t given anything important enough to cause them any real problems.
Talking to people and building relationships is what I enjoy and what I naturally do well. So I run a business where that is of paramount importance. You can do the same. You are your business’s number one asset, so work out what you’re better than everyone else at and build a business around that skill.
A word of warning though: whatever your business is, it’s likely you’ll need to do some selling – be it of the idea or your product or service.
Reason 3 – Emotion
Emotional ups and downs (within reason) are great. Feeling excited, nervous, on edge, thrilled and even disappointed all mean we’re alive. When you run your own business you’ll feel these emotions by the bucket load.
It’s a real roller coaster ride, but I guarantee one thing: you’ll feel alive. Isn’t that the whole point?
The worst state – as far as I’m concerned – is to be emotionally flat-lining, feeling nothing. I need to be out there trying and hustling and feeling real emotions. There are few things as exhilarating as a start-up business. Be warned: it’s long on disappointment and short on excitement. But, if you can handle the swings, there’s nothing better.
Alex is a director at The London School of Attraction. You can read more about his company at www.lsattraction.com
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