I was watching an interview with Elon Musk, the man who brought us Tesla and Space X, and he said that starting a business is painful, like eating glass and staring into the abyss.
I would say that about sums it up.
Why do it then? It’s certainly not even remotely easy. You risk everything — financially, personally and even professionally. The potential for failure is immense and odds are against you even making it one year, let alone five, 15, 20 or 30.
I recently came home from a tough day at work and sent a text to one of my mentors asking if he could talk. He built one of the largest, most successful landscape companies in the region where I live. I talk to him frequently for advice and sometimes just to vent. He sold his company and is now on its board of directors, otherwise he is retired. I told him I was having a rough day and he said, “It never gets easier; things change, you have ups and downs, but business never gets easier.” A bitter pill to swallow, but the truth nonetheless.
So if the founder of one of the most technologically advanced companies in the world and my mentor who ran one of the largest landscape companies in my region both say it’s so hard, why would anyone ever want to start a business? Full disclosure here: I actually did not start my landscape business; my dad did. But I loved running the business, and he liked being the technician, so it just worked for us. Anyway, my dad started the business because his job at United Airlines was being eliminated in the Cleveland office and moved to Chicago. He didn’t want to move to Chicago, so at the age of 46 he started a landscape company. I was 26 at the time and decided it would be a good idea to help him out and we were off to the races, eating glass every day.
My business was essentially started because my dad didn’t want to uproot his family, move to another city and leave all of his friends and family. It’s funny how it all works out; I probably would never have been in this business if it wasn’t for him. I was a full-time musician at the time and that’s what I figured I would be doing forever. I never had a desire to work for someone else or have a 9-to-5 job. I’ve always been drawn to business; even with my music I would handle a lot of the business aspects of dealing with booking agents, club owners and record stores for my band at the time. I was also in charge of the band’s finances and am still doing that now with my business.
Back to the initial question: Why would you want to do it then? I think it’s something that is hardwired into certain people. That’s it. Period. It’s no different than the guy who jumps the Grand Canyon with his motorcycle or those dudes who put on fly suits and jump off mountains. It’s risky as hell, scarier than a horror movie and as stressful as being chased by a mountain lion, but we all do it anyway. Call it hardwired, call it DNA, call it whatever you want … maybe we just like the taste of glass.