Owning A Business Is Like Having A Child (In Some Ways)
Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry I am sharing what it feels like to be 5 years into my journey as a business owner. I started grace + hudson in June of 2017 and it's unbelievable how much has happened in 5 years. It's also unbelievable how fast the time has flown by!
If you are a small business owner, you know how grueling the first few years can be. I would equate a new business to a newborn baby, in certain ways. It requires all of you. It requires long days and long nights. It requires you to sacrifice - your time, your money, your energy. Think about it... you are trying to create an entity - albeit a business entity - that has never existed before. A thing that you hope will be able to walk and talk on its own someday and grow into a healthy, thriving adult that you don't have to watch so closely all the time. And no one can care for it the way you - the owner who birthed it - can. It's hard to delegate some of the tasks and duties in the beginning - just like it's hard to let someone babysit your newborn for the first time. But then it grows and matures, and you learn to let go a little because - if it's growing and thriving - you can't possibly do everything that's required to maintain it all the time. You need a little help now and then.
And that brings me to the point of this journal entry. I am at this beautiful, gorgeous stage of my business where I can finally let go a little. I feel like my business is a living, breathing, walking, and talking 5-year-old that still needs my attention and love, but isn't quite has needy as it was in prior years. I say "finally" but truly, the past 5 years have gone so quickly and - in the grand scheme of things - 5 years is really such a little blip on the radar. It's such a limited amount of time to work really hard to receive, in exchange, what I hope is a lifetime of being able to do what I want to do for work. Honestly, any career requires an investment of about 5 years upfront in the beginning before you really feel settled, right? I mean, if I had changed careers and went from lawyer to - I don't know - nurse or yoga teacher or realtor, I would have had to get the required education, get an entry level job, and work a couple of years before I felt settled and started earning better pay. Starting your own business is no different. You don't just create a successful business straight out the gate, and your take home pay isn't going to immediately be what you earned in your prior, established career. You have to have a little patience. Yes, you are starting a new business, but in more simple terms, you are starting over in a new career and you have to "pay your dues" up front. There's no getting around it. I think more people need to look at business ownership in this way because it would give them more realistic expectations of what to expect financially. It would have been incredibly foolish of me to expect that I would take home the same pay in year 1 of my business that I did in year 11 of my career as an attorney. That's just silly. But you know what isn't silly? And I'm starting to really see this now - there is no ceiling. Your pay potential is as high as the sky. As much as your business grows, is as much as your paycheck can grow. Sure, lawyers can make a lot of money, but there's always going to be a ceiling when your paycheck comes from someone else. There is no ceiling when you own your own business. And that's pretty cool to see, especially as a woman. I think back to all those people who asked me in the beginning, "You really think you're going to make more money selling jewelry than being a lawyer?" Oh, they were so negative. And it's also really sad that all they thought about was money. They spoke as if happiness has nothing to do with long-term career satisfaction.
Anyways, just like a proud parent looks at their child learning to walk, it gives you - the business owner - so much pride to see this idea you birthed come into being. In some ways, the business feels like an extension of your identity just like a child feels like an extension of you. And, just like a child eventually becomes separate from his or her parents, I'm also starting to separate my day-to-day "identity" from my business. Working so hard on this business of mine has taken up so much of me and my identity the past 5 years. I'm really consciously starting to separate from it, because it's no longer necessary for me to lose my identity in it. It's no longer necessary for me to be 100% wrapped up in it. It's something like having a child who's now in 1st grade and you can go to that 10 am yoga class you used to love. It's definitely a process - the letting go - but I'm finally embracing it. And I'm actually enjoying delegating things to employees now. In the beginning it was tough! No one can do it like I can do it. You know what I mean? I'm sure if you have a child you've said that quite a lot. But I have to delegate the small stuff so that I can focus more on the big, important stuff and also have time to take care of myself. I am getting better and better at that, and it's only a matter of time before I'm really able to step away from the business more and more and enjoy life more and more. It's only a matter of time before I have that complete and total freedom I've always craved in my work. I'm the boss and I can do whatever, whenever I like. It's a pretty great feeling, and well-worth all the work it has taken to get here. If you are familiar with the legal profession, lawyers have to bill their time to their clients and I was required to "bill time" in increments of 6 minutes at the law firms I was employed by. Which means that I had to keep track of every 6 minutes of my life for 11 years. To say that it's beautiful to have freedom in my career now is putting it mildly! I can't believe I used to live like that, tracking every 6 minutes of my life. It's no way to live.
Finally, I think it's important to note that starting a successful new business requires a lot. A lot of time. A lot of thought. A lot of dedication. A lot of late nights. It truly requires every bit of commitment that a newborn child would require. If you plan on working 9 to 5, think again. Business ownership might not be the right path for you if you are unable to make this sort of time commitment for several years. My hope is always to be honest and upfront with you about small business ownership so that you make the right decision for YOU and not every one is in the position to devote that kind of time. For instance, maybe you just had your first child. I see a lot of new mothers wanting to start new businesses - perhaps because they see it as flexible hours and work-from-home - and I would highly encourage you to wait. You simply do not have the time to give it all the attention it deserves. To be honest, I've seen quite a few businesses fail when the owner had a child. It's really hard! And to think you can do both WELL at the same time is not realistic. And, in my opinion, your REAL child deserves all the attention. Wait a few years, it'll be ok if you give it some time.
If you're an aspiring or existing small business owner, I hope this journal entry inspires you to keep going... or to wait if the time is not right. I hope you're able to learn something valuable from my own experience. If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe.
P.S. Are you on Pinterest? I have a Weekly Journal board on Pinterest so you can easily navigate my journal entries. You can view and follow the board by clicking here. I've written so much about quitting my lawyer job to start g+h over the past few years and I want to make it easier for you to access and read the entries that resonate most!
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