“Delivery for B. Liu?”
“Yep, that’s me. You can bring it up.”
Five minutes later, two guys were shuffling down the office’s hallway carrying an enormous package: my brand-new, high-tech, full-body massage chair, which I planned to keep in the office until I moved to a bigger house in a few months.
As they crammed this beast through the door and into my office, one of the delivery guys said to me, “You must be the boss here.”
“Nope. Not the boss. I’d rather not be the boss. Ever.” I replied with a grin. They didn’t believe me and laughed. But I actually meant it with my whole heart.
After running my own digital agency, BeansBox, for 14 years, I moved from Hong Kong to Vancouver four years ago and took on a salaried job. Let me just say, it’s INCREDIBLE how many things I don’t worry about anymore. Just to name a few:
- Managing cash flow
- Meeting payroll
- Making sure there is enough work, but not *too much* work
- Steering the company in the right direction
- Recruiting and firing people
Myth #1 — Be Your Own Boss
I think the axiom, “be your own boss,” is a myth. Any business owner will tell you they still answer to others; their clients, their staff, their bank, their investors … the list goes on. The key difference between being an employee and an owner is that, as an owner, you have way more people to answer to and more often than not you don’t have a choice to do what you really want. Let’s not even talk about those unpopular choices I had to make and that I knew made me look like a jerk.
Myth #2 — You Make More Money
Let’s be real. Most new businesses fail, and a vast majority of them don’t make it past the first two years. When I started BeansBox, I already had a pool of clients from a few years of freelancing work so I was able to break even from the first month. We gradually increased our rate and improved our profit margin over the years, but I never took home anything significant after paying every one, including myself, a fair market rate salary.
I imagine a product business would be even riskier, because the initial investment of building the product will take months, if not years, to get a return on. Of course, if your business does take off you will make more money than being employed — but that’s more the exception than the rule.
I always joked with my fellow agency owners at that time — we would be way better off working for a big company, let’s make sure our LinkedIn doesn’t look too outdated!
Myth #3 — It’s Less Work
Being the business owner means you are ultimately accountable for everything and everyone. This can be very draining. Even if you could afford to hire people to run the operation, you still have to keep an eye on it all and essentially be available on demand.
It can be a lonely job too, especially if you go solo like I did without a business partner. No matter how tired, stressed or sad I sometimes felt, I needed to keep those emotions to myself to project positivity, strength and a sense of calm, because a CEO cannot have a bad day.
So if anyone were to ask me now, “Don’t you want to be a boss again?” My answer would be a confident, “No.”
I work at an outstanding company now, where I worry 20 times less than I used to and have the capacity to focus on honing my craft. I recognize it’s not easy to find a company whose culture and values align with your own, and I don’t take it for granted. After all, I know how hard it is to run a company.
(This article was originally published on LinkedIn on October 7, 2020)