Today’s guest blog post has been written by Casey Barach, director of the Northern Kentucky ezone. Casey is also an UpTech co-founder.
After working for years at a large corporation, you begin to feel that your work really doesn’t make a difference. When something goes wrong or doesn’t work, you must resolve the issue by navigating a gigantic bureaucracy. At my old job, it got so bad that I couldn’t access our company’s website because Internet Explorer on my office computer was outdated. When I called the bank’s IT operations, a tech said I had to fill out some forms and get two levels of manager approval before work could begin. Can you imagine the stress level? Nothing is worse than stress that comes from dealing with something (or someone) you can’t control.
As an entrepreneur, if it is broken, you fix it. For example, we implemented project management software that wasn’t as robust as we would have liked it to be. After one week, we had a new system in place. The ability to control issues or solve them quickly takes a load of stress off you. It also delivers a better client experience.
Stress levels are the same (but different) or less
Yes, as an entrepreneur, you will have the stress of making payroll, finding new business, and keeping clients happy. While the stress can be intense, it is simple, straightforward, and usually more controllable than in the corporate world. I don’t want to understate the intensity – it can be tough. However, it usually is based on finding new clients and keeping the current ones happy. Pretty straightforward stuff indeed.
My experience working in a large corporation is that the stress in that environment can also be intense, but it is a different type of stress, such as intense pressure to hit a profit plan, with little room for input or creativity. Yes, you’re given a staff and a budget, but you’re told by corporate executives in the “ivory tower” (or is it the Tower of Babel, where they speak with many tongues) of how many people you are allowed to have, the products that you must push, the clients you must go after, and the branding, marketing, and even the pricing of the products.
Often, a severe disconnect occurs between the tower and the actual marketplace. When you have a model that is fundamentally broken, working in a corporate environment where you can effectuate little change yet are expected to produce strong results, the stress level can be unbearable. To be asked to produce results when you don’t believe in the product or the process can produce disgust, as well as stress.
The politics of the large corporation can be equally disturbing. The 20,000-person corporation often becomes a breeding ground for dysfunction. If you are like me, not as polished and refined as some, yet hard working and results-oriented, corporate politics can be a primary source of tremendous stress. It literally can change you into a different person.
For example, when I had a loan request over specific dollar amount, I had to make a presentation to the bank’s CEO and about 10 top executives in a large conference room (where smoking was permitted). I had to be aware—out of the corner of my eye—when the executive vice president flipped the deal package over to stop my presentation immediately. Failure to do so would result in political harm. As another example of corporate politics, I watched as a talented banking executive moved his family from California to Ohio to take a specific management position at the bank, only get demoted to another position, despite strong leadership skills and a flawless track record of results. Instead, he was replaced by someone who came from “rich” side of Cincinnati whose competencies paled in comparison to the recent transplant.
I can work when it is convenient for me
I can create the work environment in which I have always wanted to work. I was told early on in corporate life that I was to arrive at 7am each day and leave no later than 6pm each night. This was the unwritten rule of work life. It didn’t matter if you had a light work week, if your kids had soccer practice, or if one of life’s other exigencies had arisen. This schedule often wreaked havoc on my personal life, especially when I had children. There were days that I would have to work far beyond 6pm and often on weekends because clients demanded it. On the days where the workload was light, I still was expected to hit the 11-hour schedule.
That meant that I couldn’t help my working wife take kids to daycare. If the kids were sick, I wasn’t able to come home and help. Even when I got permission to leave early, people still gave you those judgmental stares. You get the drift. This corporate environment made for a stressful life – both at work and home.
Now that I’m part of my own company where family is one of our core values, I actually work more hours, but the hours I choose are different. This way, I get to maximize my time with my family. I now take my kids to school, work around eight hours at the office, then go home and play with the kids, have dinner with the family, and put the kids to bed. I often work remotely in the evenings or get up early on Saturday or Sunday mornings to accomplish my work tasks. My family loves it because I’m around when it is important.
Thus, we have been able to create a “results-oriented” environment, where actual hours in the office don’t matter. It is all results-focused – getting the job done, no matter when or where you do it. As a matter of fact, we evaluate folks in a more positive light if they are able to produce results quickly. We let our employees work on their own schedules, trusting them and holding them accountable for results, not for hours sitting at a desk in the office. I never would be able to do that in the large corporation where I once worked.
It doesn’t feel like work when you’re passionate about your product and your clients
I couldn’t find another career that I enjoy more than what I’m doing now. Being able to eliminate the stress related to my old job and working in a field I love is a blessing. Each day since becoming an entrepreneur, I wake up early with a spring in my step. It really is a blast.
When I was about to have children, 90% of the people I spoke to about fatherhood warned me how stressful it would be to be a parent, but they would invariably end our conversation by saying “but is the best thing you’ll ever do.” The same analogy applies to entrepreneurship. It can be the toughest thing you’ll ever do, but it can also be rewarding and fulfilling. Like parenthood, the things you produce and grow will reflect the effort and energy you put into it. It very well may be “the best thing you’ll ever do.”