I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was young. I started my own business when I was 15, and although I’ve had more than a few years of working for someone else, my goal has always been to work for myself. Over the years, that feeling got stronger and stronger. I was tired of being asked for my opinion about something, taking the time to give a well-reasoned answer and having my advice be completely ignored. I was tired of working on things that never shipped. I was tired of working on things that had no reason other than “because I said so”. I’ve always done my best work when I can see the reason behind the work that I’m doing. Around February of 2013, the startup that I was working for ran out of money and after panicing for a few months, I realized that I’d built up enough of my own business over the years that I didn’t have to find another job. I figured out that if I just focused on growing the apps that I was already working on, I’d be fine.
It’s been a great ride so far. My business has grown and is continuing to grow. By December of last year, I was making as much revenue in 5 days as I did in the entire month of April.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about why I prefer running my own business. I’ve come to the conclusion that I feel that running your own business is like driving your own car, while working for someone else is like taking the bus.
When you ride in the bus: You can make suggestions to the bus driver, but they don’t have to take them (and they probably won’t). If the bus gets in a wreck, you (and everyone else in the bus) might see it coming, but the only one who can decide to avoid the accident is the person behind the wheel. The bus driver can also decide to kick you off of the bus at any time, for any reason. Conversely, if the bus is consistently the best bus on the road and never gets in any wrecks, it might get upgraded over time, or traded out for a new bus. Everyone in the bus benefits from things like heated seats, free meals, video screens, free wifi, etc (health insurance, stock options, bonuses). You can focus on just the job that you’re getting paid to do. As long as you’re getting that job done within the organization, you’ll probably get paid.
If you drive your own car: You have to be alert all of the time, because your business depends on you being able to see issues coming, and avoiding them. You’re responsible for all of the decisions, so your failure or success depends on you. However, you can take your foot off of the gas at any time. You can take a shortcut, or a more scenic route. You can buy a sports car if you want (which may accelerate your success or failure, depending on how you drive), you can drive a reliable, dependable car, and you can even drive a minivan if you want (doesn’t go as fast as the rest, but it holds your whole family!), depending on what’s most important to you. Your mistakes and successes are your own.
In my experience, it feels pretty good to be the one driving the car, instead of riding the bus with everyone else. It’s great not to be tied to the same destiny as everyone else, with no real control over how things end up. It’s not the best choice for everyone (some people prefer the illusion of security that employment brings), but it’s definitely the best choice for me.
Maybe you shouldn’t be riding in the bus either.