I recently met a fellow hairstylist at a party, and of course we began to talk shop. He's been a hairstylist and barber for 40 years, I've just celebrated my 31st year in my profession, so we have plenty of years 'behind the chair'. He has just closed his own salon in favor of working in someone else's salon after 20 years of business ownership. I'm celebrating 15 years as a salon owner. I asked him what pushed him over the edge and led him to this decision. "I wanted my life back", he said. He wanted to sleep at night without worrying about the business. He wanted to travel and turn off his phone and not think about what was happening back at the salon. He wanted to reclaim the innocence of an employee, and renounce the obsessive thoughts of the boss.
We understood each other perfectly. However, I think he was missing some of the positive aspects of business ownership, but more about that later.
What a business owner gives up is the ability to stop worrying about issues other than work. That switch is on 24/7. Here's an example: I was in a yoga workshop last weekend, trying to focus on my Pranayama, which is the focused breathing practice that is important to yoga. Every few breaths, my mind was dragged away by the thoughts of the month and year end reports that I needed to create. So I dragged my mind back to the breathing for a few in-and-outs, till that familiar pull of another idea or errand yanked me away from my Pranayama.
By the time the class had reached the closing meditation, I was exhausted from the mental weight lifting I had been doing the whole time--pulling my thoughts back to the class from the mental gymnastics of business owner ideas and issues.
Whether it was an employee situation, or an expense consideration, or a marketing plan for the following month or an event that is on the calendar, there's always something to think about. And maybe it's unique to me, but I seem to have an unending stream of new ideas that require immediate jotting down or they run the risk of being steamrolled by the next one. They don't leave much room for relaxation and meditation.
After fifteen years as a business owner, it's hard to remember what it was like not to be one. I seem to remember getting my paycheck and going home. I barely thought about work until I was on my way back to the salon for the next workday. At the gym my thoughts usually were on dating, friends, or shopping. Since there were no Internet or cell phones yet, I went to movies or spent time with family. As I grew into my career, I started to take some of my free time to attend industry-specific education; I took weeklong haircutting and hair color courses either locally or in other states. I started to fill my time with career-boosting activities, like charity fashion show hairstyling, doing makeup for hospital disaster drills, and the line gradually blurred between my personal time and my career time. Looking back, I realize that this was the tipping point--when I started to fill my mind with thoughts of my career. Which eventually became my business. And now, here I am, playing mental ping-pong during what should be a relaxing yoga class.
So what's the difference between the guy who gave up his salon business to become an employee and me? I added another component to my business--I share my knowledge. It's my legacy, and it brings me a lot of satisfaction and joy. Freely sharing my 31 years of skills and experience with new generations of hair 'artists' is a wonderful counterpart of the stresses of being the business owner. If I'm dealing with a stressful situation, like a plumbing problem or a software glitch, all I have to do is look at one of our hair artists work on a smiling customer. I remember why I do what I do. Her confident hands and her well-trained eyes tell me the whole story. As business owners, there is a lot of little stuff that can distract us from the bigger picture. But what brings us back into focus is the core of our purpose--to make the best impact on our world that we can. Starting with our own business. That is where satisfaction lies.
I won't give up trying to clear my mind when I need to, but I also sleep pretty well knowing I'm making a difference by being a business owner. And the yoga? I'm still working on it.