A schedule that’s yours to create. The freedom of paying yourself first. The desire to be an entrepreneur. Today more than ever, it’s sexy to want to own a business. Whether you’ve created the business yourself or have taken control of the reins, being in control demonstrates power, something that all of us want more of.
Or, at least something we want people to believe we’re chasing.
With retiring baby boomers creating more opportunities than ever to buy a business, the process seems like it should be easy for anyone who wants to live that independent lifestyle.
But, as the current business landscape shows, there’s a whole new breed of people emerging: the “Wantrepreneur.”
These people “want” to own their own business, have the means to do so (or the capability to hustle to get those means), but end up never pulling the trigger. The reason for this hesitation has a lot to do with psychology – the mental prowess needed to be a real entrepreneur.
Talk around the water cooler often leads to complaint sessions where people air their grievances and share their plans to escape the rat race by becoming an entrepreneur. The idea of being in charge is tempting and appealing, especially for people who are tired of being told what to do, when to do it, and exactly how much money they’ll be making on their next paycheck.
This dream of being your own boss, although alive and well in society, isn’t enough to get people to actually make the move and buy a real business.
There’s something getting in the way, something that prevents many people from not just talking the talk, but actually walking their way out of that corporate office door.
With entrepreneurship comes responsibility – and a lot of uncertainty. A steady job allows you to get comfortable, knowing exactly when you’ll get paid and what your day-to-day looks like. Jobs allow you to plan your days and your weekends, knowing that when you leave the office, you’re basically done.
Owning a business is, of course, different.
There is no reporting to work. There is no one there to give you the day off. And while, yes, you can take as many days off as you want, the second you get lazy your business will fail.
In a job, there are lots of people you can point your finger at, which is why complaining exists. If you’re unhappy, there’s a paycheck or a boss to blame. But, when you become a business owner, the only direction you can point your finger is at yourself.
The fear of failure is real. And, even more so, is the fear that failure will be a direct reflection of your actions.
So, why don’t you buy a business?
Because, deep down, you’re afraid of the risk and reality that comes with being in control. Deep down, you don’t really want that much power after all.
What to do now? You pretend.
You can talk and talk about buying a business, all the while knowing deep down that you will never actually pull the trigger. For many people, pretending is good enough because it’s a comfortable way to feign control. By pretending that you could be an entrepreneur, you convince yourself that you have the tools and tenacity you need to succeed, without ever being tested.
Although we idolize successful entrepreneurs like the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs, and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, we don’t understand the journey they had to endure to earn their stellar success – although we pretend to.
We like to pretend we work hard and know what it feels like to be stressed, but until you are an entrepreneurial business owner, you really have no idea of the intensity of hard work and stress needed to propel a business to succeed.
According to an the most successful entrepreneurs “struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.” Jobs are safety nets. And, even if you could technically lose that job at any moment, you always have the comfort of being able to blame someone else.
Pretending to want to buy a business is nothing more than a coping mechanism; it’s a safe way to look at the ocean, without ever jumping in.
Face it, most people are ultimately unhappy at their jobs, which is why they dream about owning their own business. And yet, most of these people are too afraid and too comfortable to do anything about it, so they stay in limbo, tiptoeing the line while being cautious to never accidentally fall in.
There’s a saying lots of entrepreneurs know in their hearts they must live by: burn the ships.
This idea, which supposedly derived from orders given by Cortes to his men upon reaching the shore of Veracruz, shows just how important it is to get uncomfortable – it’s the only way to break the spell of pretending.
Until the ships are burned, “wantrepreneurs” will always be just that.
Back up plans give you a safety net, one that allows you to lose focus and bail out too easily. Successful entrepreneurs don’t give themselves this option; they’ve burnt the ships, which means the only way to carry on is to go forward.
Thinking about buying a business is a logical first step, but if you’re serious about actually doing it, you need to go all in. This doesn’t mean that you have to quit your job (although you should if you’re miserable), but it does mean that you need to ensure you don’t give yourself an easy way out.
Ask yourself why you really want to own a business.
If you have a good enough “why,” you’ll have the courage and discipline you need to move through your fear and finally reach the other side of pretending.
Thanks for reading.
Chris Spenner, M.B.A
Current and Past Business Owner