Tuesday, February 7, 2012

9 Reasons Why I Love Being an Entrepreneur.

I wanted to write an article about why I love being an entrepreneur in the passionate hope it might inspire others to become entrepreneurs too. Now when I began to write I feared it would become horrendously introspective, and would have the total capacity to ruin any chance I have of being employed by anyone ever again. I still wrote it though, because as you'll read below I believe one of the traits of being an entrepreneur is that you must be fearless, so here goes, 9 reasons why I love being an entrepreneur.

1) I like to do things, not talk about doing things.

I find one of the most insanely annoying aspects of working for someone else, even when I was in a fairly senior or middle management position is that an incredible amount of time is wasted talking, meeting, and planning about what is going to be done rather than actually doing it. I have sat with as many as 30 people in meetings multiple times for hours, expending perhaps a total of 200 man/hours discussing a project that could have been done in less than 200 hours. Jason Fried of 37signals was spot on when he said in his book ReWork "Meetings are toxic".  I'll add that 90% of the time they are designed to make it look like managers are trying to manage, or trying to generate ideas they should be thinking of themselves.

2) When your an employee it seem ideas flow down, never up.

In most of the larger companies I have worked for senior management is not really interested in the ideas of subordinates. They make the assumption that because they are senior to you, they are smarter than you. If you have an idea they only want you to share it with your subordinates, of course assuming it's a "rank" appropriate idea. In other words don't be discussing with subordinates what's wrong with senior management decisions, or the things that they should have thought of. If they do sense you have a genuinely really great idea, they'll assign it to someone more senior than you.

3) I hate being judged on what I'm not.

Let's face it, large company recruiters look at educational pedigree. You won't get into a management position at Microsoft without a minimum of a Masters Degree. Most companies won't look twice at someone without a Bachelors degree. I don't have one of those yet, sorry. I hold a dual Associates Degree. I'm a great teacher, but a really lousy academic student, always have been. But I have above average IQ, began programming when I was 13 by writing assembly language on a Dragon 32 with its 8-bit 6809 chip, and I have been studying and staying current with technology ever since, otherwise I'd still be hand loading programs into a PDP-8 via front panel switches. But since recruiters look at academic pedigree I find it easier to hire myself than run that gauntlet.  Instead I'll aspire to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs neither of whom had degrees either!

4) I'm almost fearless.

This of course is not totally true, there are things I'm afraid of, like standing atop tall buildings (which is odd because I really love flying), so this must be some sub-genre of vertigo. I also don't like very large spiders. When I lived in the UK we had incy-wincy spiders, here in the summer in Cincinnati we have spiders I swear could make off with one of our cats. Those I don't like. What I mean is I'm not afraid of failure. All of life's best lessons come from making mistakes, so if you're afraid to make mistakes, you'll miss out on all the really good lessons.

5) I don't believe I can achieve my goals working for someone else.

Now of course there is a caveat to this. If I were a senior executive at some Fortune 500 company I likely would be making enough money to achieve many of my goals, but since #3 above probably precludes that happening then let's stay with the original hypothesis. I don't want to plug money away into a 401(k) for 40 years only to be able to retire and maintain the lifestyle I spent living for the previous 40 years. I love flying, so goal #1, I want to own a plane (actually preferably more than one). I spent many years in my 20's travelling for my first employer. You can check my Pinterest page for a small sample of the places I have been.  So goal #2 I want to take my wife (and son) to all those places, and then go to places none of us have been. Finally, I love teaching, so I want to combine that talent with my ability to fly, to teach others to fly by opening my own flying school (somewhere warm). As I see it the only way I can accomplish these goals is through my own ingenuity.

6) I love hiring smart people (especially people smarter than me).

The prevailing political rhetoric that claims that business people don't like hiring employees because they are just an inconvenient cost of doing business is in my mind total baloney. I love hiring people, I love giving people the opportunity to grow, provide a better life for their families, participate in something exciting. On the flip side I am always devastated when a venture fails and I have to let them go, especially if they had become, or were my friends. I have learned as much if not more from the people who have worked for me, as from the people who have employed me.

7) I hate having my ideas constrained (I have too many).

The reality is when you work for someone else you must constrain your imagination during work hours to what is applicable to their line of business, and depending upon your level within the company often even to what is applicable to your job function (see #2 above). I can't do that, it hurts my brain to be so constrained, it leads to frustration, dissatisfaction and ultimately is not beneficial to either party in the relationship. As an entrepreneur you suffer no such constraints.

8) I like to be involved in everything.

I still code.  I still enjoy participating in a sale.  I still like to write marketing materials.  I love to evangelize and speak about what I'm doing.  The reality is as an entrepreneur you get to decide what you do and what you get involved in.  Even in his last years at Microsoft Bill Gates would still review the microscopic technical details of initiatives, because that's what he loved to do, at heart he was still a coder.

9) I have a great support system.

I have been involved in five different ventures to date. I wouldn't categorize all, or necessarily any of them as failures because I made a living and learned something new with each one. But you cannot survive the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur without a support system that believes in you. I am blessed at various times to have had the confidence of business partners, investors and employees, but throughout and most of all, I have had the endless support of my wife and son.

What I'm currently doing.

I am currently the CTO at ProspectStream, an Enterprise SaaS Company that aims to revolutionize the CRM market by creating a tool that actually helps salespeople sell, and in keeping with #7 above I am also the CTO at SaaS Capital, but more on what that's all about in the near future.

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