George and I often remark to each other that we wouldn’t trade our lifestyle for any amount of money. It happens pretty often because we’re often reminded of how lucky we are to do what we do everyday.
I think that’s often lost in the decision of whether or not to become an entrepreneur, particularly for young entrepreneurs. Yes – you should want to change the world. Yes – you should want to make a ton of money. But starting a business should also be about creating a great lifestyle for yourself. Luckily, since businesses are a reflection of their owners and there are infinite shapes a business can be molded into, you have an opportunity to grow and develop your company around the life that you want to live. Like to work from your bedroom? Like to have every Tuesday and Thursday off? Like to communicate only via email? Those things can be arranged if you start the business and establish a culture that allows for those things. As long as the money is coming in and everyone’s happy (employees, owners, & customers) you can pretty much do whatever you want.
My corporate experience was just the opposite. They were molding me into what they wanted me to be. It didn’t feel right. Corporate culture is often overlooked when choosing a company, but it damn may be the most important thing for prospective employees to inquire about. If you constantly feel like you don’t fit in, the most exciting work in the world isn’t going to keep you happy.
Some people are great workers but crave structure and guidance. That’s fine. Starting a business probably isn’t for them. It’s not for everyone…hell, it’s not for most people. BUT if you have a desire to live a lifestyle that most jobs don’t offer, it’s worth at least considering starting a biz. Even if it’s just a 1 person business that supports just the owner. It provides you the opportunity to live a lifestyle that you otherwise couldn’t. That alone is worth starting a company in my opinion.
Entrepreneurs are lucky because we don’t need to worry about any of that. My partners and I have established a culture that allows for us to have maximum freedom while still meeting the requirements of the business. We each work about 18 hours/week in the warehouse. The rest of the time we’re free to do whatever we want. Everyone has their own way of getting shit done, but I prefer to spend about half of that time working from home and the other half at a coffee shop. I tend to turn off all distractions and zone in on my work so that I have plenty of free time to recharge. I pretty much am still hitting all of the goals outlined in my productive output post.
I feel like I have the same amount of “freedom” that I had when I was in college. I hated having that taken away from me at my engineering job. It’s like between the hours of 8 and 5 I was jailed and forced to remain in one spot regardless of how much work I had to get done or what was going on with the rest of my life. I like being able to run errands on a Tuesday morning and then go do work at night. As long as I’m getting my work done, it doesn’t matter when I do it, much like writing a paper or studying in college. I like being able to go to the gym early in the morning some days, and mid afternoon other days. I like being able to take breaks to eat every 2-3 hours without having people ask me if I missed lunch. This is huge to me. There’s no way I could give it back. In fact, I think it’s one of the hardest adjustments students have to make when going into the corporate world. All of a sudden you’re not able to decide what you do and when you do it. It’s like you regress back to being in high school.
We also have our company pay for nights out at least once a month – we consider those opportunities to celebrate our accomplishments very important to the future success of our company. We work hard to minimize phone calls because we have deemed the majority of them to be time-wasters, but we still put a huge emphasis on customer service. We spend time and money giving back to our community because we think it’s important for small businesses to do that. We recently switched to biodegradable packing materials and recycled paper in an effort to push towards being a “green e-commerce” company. We are buying our lawyer, accountant, FedEx driver, and best customers presents for the holidays because we want to thank them for helping us have a great year.
That’s what works for us. Four other twenty-somethings running an e-commerce company would undoubtedly do it different. The beauty of starting a company is that you can define what works for you.