Time for a little honesty. Being a business owner can be great. Being an entrepreneur can be great. Building and growing a business from an idea to an income producing entity is one of the truly amazing things that capitalism has created, and it is hard work.
What exactly does being an owner mean? Long days, sleepless nights, weekends filled with work, realizing that you aren’t as smart as you thought, and trying to find a lot of answers in a world that sometimes guards them jealously.
And it can be the most frustrating thing in the world.
As an owner working in a business, you are ultimately in charge of every aspect of that business and how your clients perceive it. Good, bad, or otherwise, you – literally – “own” the results. How you show up in that space, or don’t, will be how you succeed or fail in business. So how should you show up or how should you expect partners to show up?
First of all, remember you are an owner, not an employee. Your own a business, and while you may still have to handle jobs that in a larger company would be handled by employees, your performance – or the performance of your partners – should be the best. Now, anybody who has read “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber or has been in business knows that many businesses fail because the owner cannot take on the role of the owner – they continue to have an employee mindset.
Any individual with an ownership stake should find easy alignment with the other principals in the company. Lavish vacations and unreturned emails have a nasty way of becoming real problems, especially if one partner is a workaholic and the other partner loves nothing more than disappearing for the weekend. Alignment is critical, but carbon copies rarely help you to grow. If your partner is exactly like you, shares similar skillsets, and fills the same role, you merely have two owners and no employees. Make sure that each partner brings the skills necessary for the growth of the company.
Next would have to be a clear understanding of the growth trajectory of the business. If the initial partnership was for founding capital and you expect the next round of venture capital in two years and a sell out in 5, all the stakeholders have to be aligned. A holdout at the wrong time can destroy your IPO plans very quickly or force buyouts that drain cash reserves and impact your business’ market value – always at the wrong time.
Watching your startup become a viable entity is one of the most fulfilling things that a business owner can ever experience. Almost as fun as a child and even more expensive, it is an amazing legacy that you helped to create. Make sure that any owner you bring onboard is worthy of the title and enjoy the ride!