5 Ugly truths about running your own business

Most business owners have on rose-tinted glasses when they first start out. There’s nothing wrong with that—it happens to all of us. We’ve been there.

You go into running your own business for lots of reasons. The flexibility. The freedom. The room to grow. Everything ahead is sparkly, new, and full of promise.

ugly-truths

But as time passes, that rosy hue begins to fade—and you start seeing the realities for what they are. This is the stuff no one really talks about when it comes to entrepreneurialism.

Today, we’re stripping back that shiny finish and talking about the five ugly truths of running your own business.

Falsehood #5: I can work at whatever hour I want.

Ugly Truth: You wish you could pick a few hours when you didn’t have to work.

When it comes to owning your own business, you can pick any hundred hours of the week you want—and then work them.

Why? Because running your own business takes a lot of time and energy. Rarely does it consist of a 40-hour work week. Sure, your schedule is flexible. But that means you might be working late into the night or waking up extra early to take care of all the things you didn’t get done the day before.

All of the responsibility falls on you as the business owner. You handle sales, marketing, and development—all while leading the business forward. It’s not easy or pretty, but it’s true.

Falsehood #4: I get to do something that’s all me. I make the decisions.

Ugly Truth: You rarely get to make any choices on your own.

Business owners have to handle lots of different working relationships, which means that their choices are influenced by the ebb and flow of the business itself. Everything from how their daily schedule is laid out to what material they’re going to work on each day is determined by clients and their respective needs.

You’ve got to keep lots of different plates spinning at the same time—all while continuing to live and enjoy your life. Finding that balance is a major obstacle for people running their own businesses.

Falsehood #3: This business will sell for a high price tag, and the profits will be my retirement fund.

Ugly Truth: Not every business is going to sell for a large sum.

Business owners who rely on the sale of their businesses in lieu of retirement planning are making a risky gamble. Think about it: Much of a business pivots around the owner…and they are essential to its success. So unless they can sell themselves, their businesses might not be worth much after all.

The unfortunate reality is that it’s smarter to plan for retirement just as you would at a “normal” job. If anything, it’s harder. There’s no employer investment match.

Falsehood #2: I get to be my own boss.

Ugly Truth: If you have lots of clients, you actually have lots of bosses.

When you work for yourself, you work for an insane person. Sometimes you over promise and you overbook your schedule. Juggling multiple clients and jobs, you get stressed out—and there’s no one there to notice how hard you’re working.

You never get a “Hey, great job.” Being your own boss doesn’t mean high-fiving with other entrepreneurs in a co-working space while you both revel in your freedom. It means you’re head down, working hard—all the time.

Falsehood #1: I’ll have more control.

Ugly Truth: There are still lots of variables to running your own business that make you very much control-less.

Control is an illusion. For example: One entrepreneur I know did a project for a company in London with a $100K price tag. But when she went to get paid, the client said, “Dear, I know we owe you a $100K, but I just have to tell you that our investor is Russian. Do you know what’s happened to the Ruble?” The international currency markets had made it impossible for her to get paid. What could she do? The situation was completely beyond her control.

Lots of business owners find themselves in similar situations. It’s better if you just take a deep breath and accept it.

Running your own business isn’t always pretty

So there you have it: The five ugly truths about running your own business. Behind every apparent advantage is that harsh reality, bringing you back down to Earth. Just like with anything else. Sorry to burst your bubble, friends.

What other ugly truths have you learned from owning your own business?




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Photo credit: kevin dooley

Brad Farris

As principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, Brad Farris has experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units for a family-owned conglomerate with sales of $2 million to $25 million.  When he's not working, Brad enjoys cycling, cooking and the NFL. He is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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