I have always been fascinated by entrepreneurs. And it’s not just the high-profile internet darlings that capture my attention. I am equally enamored with the small local business owner. It’s the act of creating something out of nothing. Seeing a future that others don’t. Taking an idea and turning it into a self-sufficient business that makes money. The entrepreneur has peaked my interest for as long as I can remember.
Over the years, I have encountered my share of entrepreneurs. When I was handling healthcare acquisitions, I spent all my time meeting with business owners, evaluating their companies, and trying to buy them. I have worked for closely-held companies started by the company owner. Also, I have family members who have owned their own businesses.
And after spending so much time in their presence, I really don’t think there is a “typical” entrepreneur. Some were hands-on, others remote. Some had started the company in an industry they knew well, others were in completely new territory.
The only commonality among the entrepreneurs was that they owned their business and that was how they made a living.
How Many Entrepreneurs Do You Know?
The other day, I started making a list of the people I know and what they do for a living. The initial question I was trying to answer that motivated me to start the list was,
How many entrepreneurs do I know who have started successful companies?
For purposes of this exercise, I defined a successful company simply as one that provides enough money for the owner to live off without working a “regular” job.
I limited my pool of people to those I actually knew. That excluded many LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, and fellow bloggers. Essentially, the list included family members, people I know on a personal level, and people who I know professionally. There are a few that cross multiple categories, but not many. That is probably because during most of my tenure living here, I have primarily worked with out-of-state companies and individuals. So my business world and personal world haven’t overlapped much.
As I put the list together, I started to see patterns and organized everyone into one of three categories:
(1) Those who work for a company that they didn’t start or own,
(2) Those who work for their own business providing a professional service of some sort (doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, consultants, insurance agents, etc.), and
(3) Those who work for their own company which is not in a professional service.
Why Do People Choose to be Employees Rather Than Entrepreneurs?
Not surprisingly, most of the people I know professionally work for a company or business they didn’t start themselves. Most of them work for a large corporation. There were a few here and there who had started businesses, but mostly these were not much more than extended consulting stints in between corporate jobs. This wasn’t surprising in that I have worked for over 20 years in the corporate world, so it would make sense that most of my professional contacts are also in that space.
While most of the people I know professionally work for big companies, most of the people I know on a more personal level (especially those that live nearby) do not. There are a few teachers in the group, and more than a few people working for the government or a government contractor, but the majority own a business providing professional services. Again, these are doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, etc.
And very few of the people I know started the company they work for. This may say more about the local economy than anything else, but it is interesting.
One Year Anniversary
So why am I asking this question?
Besides my natural curiosity about entrepreneurs and how they decide to start new companies, I’ve started thinking about what I want to do.
I’m coming up on one year removed from the corporate world. And while I have enjoyed the flexibility and independence, as I’ve said before there are some aspects of the working world that I miss. I have missed a consistent income stream, but I have also been able to replace that with private finance consulting. As an independent contractor, I can make more per hour than I could as an employee. It’s just a question about how many hours I can work.
But separate from money, the other thing I miss about the corporate world is the interaction with a team. As a consultant, you will typically engage with other team members, but it’s usually short-term. It doesn’t have the same feel as working with a group to grow a business.
In my last role, I oversaw 150 or more employees. I had daily conference calls with my team and my peers. I regularly met with clients, vendors, and partners. Everyday, I faced a new challenge. And I must say, that at times, I do miss that heightened level of activity.
So as I said, I’ve started to consider options.
Grow my consulting business. The first option is to grow my consulting business. There is a potential opportunity to partner with another company thereby providing access to additional resources. As I’ve indicated in prior posts, I enjoy consulting. But the challenge with consulting is that it’s a local business. Selling new business and providing consulting services often requires significant face-to-face interaction. As such, to grow the consulting business will require travel. I am no stranger to business travel, but I need to decide if I’m willing to again spend significant time away from my family to grow and manage the business.
Invest in another business. In addition to consulting, I have a few other business ventures up and running. I could invest additional time and capital into growing one of these businesses. Alternatively, there are other businesses that I could start or buy into. Similar to the challenges consulting in the local market, to be successful a business will need to draw clients from outside the area. The good news is that unlike a consulting business, the other ventures can take advantage of the leverage provided by the internet and sell into multiple markets.
Find another corporate job. My last option would be to find another job and reenter the corporate world. Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has experienced many challenges. Some of the challenges are driven by external factors and government intervention. Others are self-induced. But as the cost of healthcare continues to rise, I expect there to be a need for people experienced in dealing with these issues. The obvious disadvantage of finding another job is giving up the freedom and independence that I now enjoy.
Readers, I would be interested to hear your thoughts regarding the above options or even something I haven’t considered.