Neil Matthews is an interesting bloke. I say that because he’s from the UK. I “met” him several years ago when I had a technical issue with a WordPress installation and hired him to fix it… which he did from across the ocean. That experience was the epitome of “solopreneuring” and “globalization.” Neil recently explained his passion for solopreneuring. While our businesses are very different our issues are very similar. His post started my wheels turning when he asked readers to share their reasons for not building a team (of employees). What follows is an expanded and edited version of my reply.
My last official “job” ended nearly 30 years ago when I realized that no organization was going to share my commitments and passions. Tom Peters was making a ton of money and fame from his book “In Search of Excellence” and somehow I came to the conclusion that it might be easier to stop searching for excellence and start creating it.
I also came to realize that independence was/is an important value for me but that independence is also about security and less about bosses and freedom. Shortly after I started, a young fellow bought me lunch because he wanted an informational interview. He spent most of the time whining about his bad boss and the company that employed him. I started whining along with him about my similar situation. We really got into a sympathetic groove and it was quite a while before he looked at me and said, “Hey, wait a minute! You work for yourself.” I assured him that was less true than he thought. You don’t go “out on your own” for the freedom–at least not in the short-term. It’s real easy to swap one bad boss for a lousy situation where all of your customers become your boss.
He was one of many people who’ve said over the years that they envy me but they can’t live without the security of a paycheck. I sorta have to chuckle. For employees security is a bit of an illusion. A solopreneur may actually have more security.
(By the way, notice that I’ve not said “self-employed” — a familar term but it still about being an employee.)
Bill Gates has been quoted as saying that he constantly reminds himself that Microsoft is never more than two years away from failure. We can certainly debate whether or not practice reflects his thinking, but he’s at least aware that a major screw up or cataclysmic event could wipe out Microsoft in two years. I’m not sure how the Microsoft Payroll system works, but assuming it’s weekly, most of his employees are one week away from “losing it all.”
As an old retailer, I remember well the truism, “Volume covers a multitude of sins.” When you’re on the way up and customers are beating down your doors you can afford to screw up. Growth and success creates another illusion of security. More customers, more employees, more divisions, more products… go, go, go!
A solopreneur has to question that logic because the very nature of solopreneuring is… well, solo! A solopreneur understands that his “more” options are limited and that’s a good thing. There are other ways to build security (and the independence that goes with it). The good news is that the opportunities for solopreneuring are better than ever. The better news is that solopreneuring prevents “collective dumbness” whereby a group of reasonably intelligent people come together, engage in group think, and make really bad decisions.
Let’s remember, a solopreneur is not truly working for herself. But a solopreneur better know exactly what she is working for and better have a plan for getting it.
Have you got what it takes to engage in some solopreneuring? (You may not have to – or want to – quit your “day j0b.” We’ll explore this in the workshop sponsored by P.V.A.E.C. on Tuesday, March 6th at SeDoMoCha in Dover Foxcroft. You can register online or call 564-6525. The cost is only $10… and it will be fast-paced and fun!