The flexibility and freedom you have when you run your own company is awesome. Now that I’ve experienced it for a few years, it’s something I don’t ever want to give up. But there’s a flip side. If you are critical to your company’s operations (and let’s be real, if you’re bootstrapping a small business, there’s no way that you aren’t), there’s always that potential that something could go wrong. It could be anything, and it could be caused by any one of an infinite number of variables, most of which you have no control over.
So you end up being on call 24 x 7 x 365.
This used to stress me out. I think it stresses a lot of people who are used to working a corporate job. It’s rare at large companies that problems exist that no one else can solve. But that happens all the time in a small business. It’s impractical to have everyone trained on everything that goes on in the company. One way or another, you’ll probably have some unique knowledge that others don’t.
Today was supposed to be an off-day from the warehouse for me, but at 9 AM I got a call from Greg telling me that FedEx updated their Ship Manager software and something was preventing us from being able to process our orders. We import a batch file from our system, print all the shipping labels for the day, and then export back out the tracking numbers to the system. Nothing was working.
So I dropped what I was doing, hopped in the car, and a few hours later was able to get everything up and running. All of our orders were able to ship out for the day. No customers were affected. It could have been much worse.
It was frustrating, it wasn’t something I had anticipated or hoped would happen today, but once it did it didn’t really bother me. It’s part of the deal. If you want to run a business and have all of the freedom and benefits when things go great, you’ve got to accept the fact that there are going to be a bunch of mini-crisis that occur on a semi-regular basis. When the problems are critical to your business – like printing shipping labels or your server mysteriously displaying an error on New Years Eve – you have to drop what you’re doing and solve the problem. No matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Because, if you don’t, no one else will.