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Small Business & Delusions of Grandeur

August 15, 2011

It’s not a new thing that people have been looking for more fulfilling careers, trying to fill their passions and escape the corporate rat race. The New York Times has a fairly interesting article on these people who have left their careers to chase a dream. Over at Notorious PhD, Notorious rightly calls out what kind of ignorance and bull headed stupidity is required to go into thinking starting your own business is going to be some sort of fantastic wonderland. Reminds of the engineering axiom: you want your part cheap, on time and well designed- you can pick two, you can’t have all three.

I think academics know especially how well that whole "dream career" works out. I know several people who’ve left the corporate world for higher level degrees or to teach high school or teach community college. There are always tradeoffs. Sometimes you don’t regret it. But often you never get all that free time you thought you were. My inlaws were at one point about to pull the trigger on what would have been a retail type franchise. They did end up losing money for as deep into it as they got, but luckily never lost as much money as they could have. They had themselves convinced that starting the business would mean more time off and more vacations. But if you’re running your own business, time off means at the very least you need to have hired help. And that hired help needs to be trusted enough you’d leave them behind, and probably more than one employee if you’re going to be out of town. All of this cuts into your profit margin thereby reducing money you might be able to spend on a vacation.

Starting a business scares me a lot. I don’t mind working 60 hour weeks (which would probably be 80 when you start your own business). I don’t think I’d get a huge kick out of being my own boss though, somebody is still the boss in the end and usually it’s the customer. What scares me most is having to drum up your own demand and customers. There’s no real guarantee what you’re trying to sell is anything anyone wants. Or that even if it’s better or cheaper than someone else’s product will mean they start getting it from you. Consulting on the side or trying to start a business while still working is probably the safest financial move one can make but I don’t see the appeal of adding another 50 hours a week of work to something that may never pan out. I know I’m Nancy Negative around here anyways, but most peoples dreams to start their own business seem like they have their head stuck in the clouds. (photo by Chu)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2011 11:33 am

    My dad was self-employed for many years. There are a lot of down sides to it…like some people may decide not to pay you, or partners can be hard to work with. Some of those other things are in addition to 80+ hours/wk that you have to put in.

    I think the problem is that so few people run their own businesses anymore that it’s hard for the rest of us to understand what’s involved…which leads to a lot of delusional ideation.

  2. August 15, 2011 6:31 pm

    I wouldn’t call you Nancy Negative you are more like Rhonda Realistic. One of my brothers has been talking about owning his own business for years – so he can pocket “ALL” of the money he makes for his company rather than letting them have it.

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