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A First Lesson In Business

Dish Washing: Nobody likes doing it
Dish Washing: Nobody likes doing it

You will have to do LOTS of things you DON'T want to do.

I had just graduated and was awaiting call up for National Service. I was always getting in my mothers hair, being at home, so she thought of a way to get me out of the house. So when I told her I wanted to go to Computer School, she was positively exhilarated.

The computer school was run by a young man, just a few years older than I was. He had a well run operation such that to me, it seemed he only came around to give us High Fives. One day, just a few days before the end of my training, he came around to give us a pep talk.

After his usual jokes and flattery ( this guy was great with getting a crowd on our side), he started asking us graduates what we wanted to be doing with our degrees. There were couple of doctors, a few salesmen, one or two teachers, everybody else wanted to be a banker. That is, except me. I told him I wanted to “own a business like him”. The word “Entrepreneur” was not yet in popular vocabulary then.

His face lit up like a bulb. He wanted to know what service I was into, whether I had a business plan and why I thought this was the right step for me. When, in replying, I said I wanted to be a business owner “so I will not be answerable to anyone”, I could see he was very disappointed.

I’m sorry, you are getting it all wrong. Being the owner of a business does not mean you don’t have a boss. Indeed, it is the opposite. Everybody is your boss. In my case, I have suppliers that dictates terms to me. This premises, I have a Landlord that I signed an agreement with, I have to abide by his terms. I have shareholders and directors that hold me accountable. The government makes laws that cover how I operate my business and treat my staff. Beyond the legal requirements, I have to motivate my staff to stay (because they can decide to get alternative employment) and to do a good job that will retain customers. Don’t even get me started on how I am answerable to each and every customer. It is not that I don’t have a boss; a business owner has many bosses.”

That, more or less, was his response. Of course I’m paraphrasing him. It’s been years, I can’t recall that word for word.

If you want to get what you want, you will have to do lots of things you don’t want to do. Generally, the more emotionally distasteful the act, the more you are paid. If you think manual labour is hard, wait till you have to let go of a hard working, reliable widowed mother of five kids for no other reason that business is bad and you need to make cuts. Or at a later time, decide to keep an amoral, disruptive sales staff because he also he is the sales rainmaker. Sweeping the office by yourself early in the morning because you terminated the cleaning contractor is much, more tolerable, frankly. You will have to do lots of things you don’t want to do.


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