Edâ€™s note: This post was written by guest editor Tess Robinson of Smack Bang Designs.
My first thought â€“ juicy!
No, Iâ€™m not talking about that horrid clothing label circa early 2000s when for some ungodly reason the people of LA couldnâ€™t get enough diamantes, candy pink and fake-gold bling to satiate their cravings.
Iâ€™m talking about a juicy question, filled with juicy pondering and some juicy confrontation to my mind:
â€œWhy did you start your business â€“ to take over the world or for a lifestyle choice?â€
The question launched itself at me from my laptop screen as I was filling out press questions for a well-known magazine. The interviewer popped in a big fat Q that stopped me in my manic tap-tapping keyboard tracks.
Now Iâ€™m not one for sitting on fences, but this question spoke to both young, impressionable Tess 1.0 and older, wiser, smarter, stronger Tess 2.0, immediately lighting both personas up like an out-of-control firecracker.
As with most things, there are ebbs and flows, periods of slaving and periods of slaying.
One part of me (the part that says she loves yoga, meditation, and long walks on deserted beaches) voted â€œLifestyle, dah!â€ without a second thought. The other part of me (the part that feels the need to build four businesses simultaneously, run at 100m/hr and smash glass ceilings with a rocket launcher) screamed â€œTake over the world!!!â€ louder than even she would like to admit.
And so, with this one juicy AF question, my everyday inner argument was brought to light in a beautiful, confronting way. It served as a great reminder of what Iâ€™m actually doing here.
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So hear me out on this: just because you â€˜own a businessâ€™, does that make you a â€˜business ownerâ€™? And with owning a business, do you immediately access rights to the lifestyle youâ€™d always wanted and dreamt of? I often meet people who are self-employed, but have simply created work for the sake of working, rather than an autonomous business that provides the life of freedom and frivolity for themselves, purchasing island after island, sinking mojitos with Richard Branson. You know what I mean.
My mechanic is a great example of this. He loves cars, he loves fixing cars, and thereâ€™s probably few places heâ€™d rather be than underneath the belly of my Tiguan covered in grease and rolling on his back on one of those fun skateboarding-type contraptions. He works Monday to Friday, from 7am to 4pm on the dot, and has done for the past 30-odd years. After work, he heads home, probably has a beer and a nice chat to his wife. He has created a job for himself and he is (as far as Iâ€™m aware) blissfully happy.
Thereâ€™s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I think itâ€™s important to realise thereâ€™s a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed feels like freedom until you realise that if you take time off, your business stops making money. To be a fully fledged business owner, make it so that you could leave for a year, and when you came back, your business would be doing better than when you left.
So, where do I sit amongst these two definitions? It depends what day of the week it is! Most days I feel like a business owner. The days when I get to decide what my agenda looks like, the days when I get to clock off early, or heaven forbid go on a holiday without my laptop. Iâ€™ve built my business with blood, sweat and tears, and have invested so much energy, time and hard-bloody-work into building a team that can not only keep the ship afloat whilst Iâ€™m gone, but can actually continue propelling it forward with new ideas and new implementations.
To be a fully fledged business owner, make it so that you could leave for a year, and when you came back, your business would be doing better than when you left.
Thatâ€™s not to say that being a business owner doesnâ€™t come with the heavy-ass responsibilities and stresses. Even when Iâ€™m on holidays, I know that everything still falls on my shoulders. As with most things, there are ebbs and flows, periods of slaving and periods of slaying. Whilst I feel like Iâ€™m in fairly good stead right now for living like a business owner, Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™ll be times again in my life where I pass the baton back to my self-employed self and go back to feeling like Iâ€™m clocking the hours for the sake of work.
Back in the day, setting up my business I was most certainly self-employed with not a lot of freedom or room for movement. I was chained to my to-do list and, for the most part, the tasks I worked on werenâ€™t necessarily chosen by me (hello BAS lodgements!) and most often were determined by someone other than myself (clients and the necessary evils of building a business). For a few years, being self-employed actually felt harder than being employed by someone else â€“Â I can distinctly remember one day telling my boyfriend that I felt like I had been put in a potato sack and swung against a tree a few times each day. It was hard yakka.
Letâ€™s agree on one thing straight off the bat â€“ “nailing your biz-niz” is not a final destination.
Itâ€™s not a one-off act, or the final stop on the train trip to enlightenment where we retire to a perfect state of inner peace, sipping on margies in the Maldives 24/7. It took me a while, but fast forward now to six years down the track, Iâ€™ve managed to sit up, smooth my ruffled brows, brush off the sweaty mess of late nights at the studio and begin to sing Celine at Christmas.
Going from “self-employed” to a “business owner” is akin to wading through treacle and donâ€™t get me wrong, I am still well and truly a student learning the ropes, and have in no way â€œmade itâ€ to a state of ease and freedom. And let me tell you, I sure as hell donâ€™t have it nailed just yet. But one thing Iâ€™ve learned in this crazy whirlwind trip is that we all need to find our groove and figure out what works best for us. For me, Iâ€™ll forever fight my internal battle of world domination versus the eternal search for blissed out zen-Tess.
Building a business is like creating your own mini utopia â€“ itâ€™s your business, your life, your rules. You can focus on building your empire, taking over the world and conquering world-record entrepreneurialism, or, you can focus on building a business that gives you the flexibility and freedom to live a rich life full of health, happiness and balance. Either way, if youâ€™re doing it your way, youâ€™re a success.
One thing that Iâ€™m focusing on right now is making peace with my present regardless of what it looks like, because the next thing you know, Iâ€™ll be 80 years old, and still trying to get it just right.
So how did I proceed with the interview question? Naturally I answered â€œBoth. Lifestyle and world dominationâ€, I want my cake and to eat it too. After all, thatâ€™s why I started a business, because Iâ€™m hellbent on having my life, my way.