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If business is so ...

If business is so rewarding then why isn't everyone running his or her own business?

I'm still a student and just wondering how to proceed with my life. Just be an employee or run my own business and become an employer?

Adam
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Because business can be gawdawfully frustrating to break into. Because you need to buy your own health insurance and benefits. Because you become responsible not just for your own problems but for everyone else's problems. Because if you don't pay your payroll taxes to Uncle Sam, the IRS will get medieval on you.

Because - it's REALLY not easy and it's different for everyone who tries.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Probably a lot of reasons that more people don't try to run their own business.  Most are psychological, I think.

High on the list is risk.  Trying to start your own business is very risky.  You don't know whether it's going to succeed.  Contrast that with a job as an employee where you get a steady paycheck.  Fear of layoff in a bad economy can lessen the difference between being an employee and being self-employed, to an extent.  But being self-employed is still more risky.  If you have people who are dependent on you for support (e.g., wife and kids) it makes it even riskier.  Likewise if you've been working for a while and have accrued a lifestyle where you have a steady stream of monthly payments you've got to make: big mortgage, car payments, student loans, etc.  These are situations where you basically need a steady stream of income that you're not going to have as you start a business, and that the business may never yield.

Related to risk is that even if you could be certain that you would eventually succeed, chances are you'd have very little if any income for some indeterminable period as you start out your business.

Running your own business is also generally more difficult than being an employee.  When you're responsible for everything you're basically always on the clock, always got to be thinking, always have things that have to be done, problems that have to be solved.  There are employees who work in situations where lots of hours are demanded and there's lots of pressure to produce.  But they still don't have anything like the responsibility you bear when when you're running your own business.  And the breadth and depth of their responsibility is not as great as that of someone who is responsible for an entire business.

Then there's the purely psychological factor of whether you're comfortable calling all the shots in your own business or whether you'd rather work as an employee as part of a team.  To many people it's just much more comfortable to be an employee.

I'm sure there's more.  But if you're a student just graduating from college, and especially if you don't have a good job lined up, it could be a great time to try to start your own business.  You won't have as much knowledge of "the business world" as someone who's more experienced, but other than that you're in pretty good shape.  It used to be that someone in their low to mid-20's wasn't really taken seriously in business.  But that's changed a lot, I think.  And to whatever extent your business is based on an internet presence you can present it as being as sophisticated as you want, limited only by your own ability (and money).

Herbert Sitz
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Running a business is not for everyone. Why don't you look into the mechanics of it? If you have something you like to do for a living, and can also handle the mechanics of it, go for it!...

grunt
Sunday, May 30, 2004

I love doing what I do (or would like to do) - i.e. developing software. But at the same time, I really wouldn't like to work as an employee and work a lot for someone else.

So, since I'm in early 20s and do not have any responsibilities to worry about. Do you people think that it would be wise for me to go for my own business? Probably selling software on the Internet?

Adam
Sunday, May 30, 2004

In fact, a bigger question. Would it be "possible" for me to run my own business with all my inexperience?

Adam
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Adam, your self doubt is troubling to me.  You must be strong, you must be wise, you must not be wishy washy.  The only advice people will give you by posting on a message board is that it is difficult, a lot of work and that you have to try it for yourself.  This advice is given everywhere.

Your questions hold no weight.  Go try it.  Don't come back here.  School has given you the feeling that you have to be educated on everything in order to try something.  Cast this attitude aside.

I started my own business and ended up with 11.5 million "in the bank". ;-)  Good Luck.

Anon
Sunday, May 30, 2004

I'm in a slightly similar position. I'm actually still a student but have done a lot of freelance work before.

Over the summer I'm thinking of working on a really professional fully featured application that effectively 'solves' all the kinds of problems I've faced as a freelancer. And then selling it to some existing clients (who have expressed an interest), and online to other developers and tech-savvy clients. Also using it mysql to drastically reduce the amount of time spent on any future freelance projects I get given.

I have no idea how much money this would make, most likely it would stay a sideline that would provide some additional cash while I get my masters, or while I do a 'proper' job somewhere else. We shall see.

But yes, I'd say go for it, just make sure you have something to fall back on if it fails.

Matt
Sunday, May 30, 2004

How on earth did I manage to type 'mysql' in the middle of that sentence? weird.

Incase anyone suspects me of wanting to do 'yet another content management system / web services framework' - that's not what I mean. Haha.

Matt
Sunday, May 30, 2004

"In fact, a bigger question. Would it be 'possible' for me to run my own business with all my inexperience? "

To a large extent I don't think many small-business owners know much of anything about how to run their own business until they jump in and it's sink or swim.  So really your inexperience isn't that big of a detriment.  Also, one good benefit (I'm serious) could be that you aren't experienced enough to know how much there is that you don't know.  Reflecting on everything that's required can get kind of scary.  If, on the other hand, you don't know to think about it until you have to deal with it, that can be a liberating thing.  Fear paralyzes. 

I wish I would have started some sort of business right out of college.  You have lots of energy. 

You will probably need to find some way to support yourself with minimal income while you're starting the business and it's not producing any.  Hopefully you can get something better than McDonad's, but take what you can get and there's something to be said for low paying jobs with zero responsibility.  Struggling actors and artists frequently work in restaurants or as temporary office works to support their real work.  Avoid getting a job in software that has decent pay but low prospects; it's too easy to get sucked into a job like that and forget what you really want to do.

Don't worry about failing.  Your startup business may fail.  If so you'll have learned that failure is okay.  Then start up another business with the experience you will have gained, if you want.  Or look for a job as an employee if you've decided that you don't want your own business, and use the experience you gained in your failed startup as a plus on your resume.

You should be aware that as a recent college grad you have more options and more freedom than you will at any later point in your life.  Take advantage of it!

Herbert Sitz
Sunday, May 30, 2004

"School has given you the feeling that you have to be educated on everything in order to try something.  Cast this attitude aside."

Anon, I would appreciate if you elaborate on it a bit. Thanks.

Adam
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Herbert Sitz, I agree with you.

I also think that now would be the best time to go for my own business. Because, once I realize the difficulties of life it would be tough to break off and be entirely "on my own".

Adam
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Running a small business is a lot of work.

Years ago I read an article. The president of Midas Muffler Shops (for non-USA readers, a big nationwide franchise chain of muffler shops (for non-car owners that is the device that prevents the exhaust from being ultra-loud - they also do some other types of work)) reached their retirement age for senior executives.

He was not ready to stop working, so he bought a franchise and opened his own muffler shop.

He said it was quite a shock. As a big shot at Midas headquarters, he was catered to, all his needs anticipated.

Running his own shop, well, if the toilet got stopped up, guess who had to get a mop.

Not everyone is tempermentally suited to running a business. In a corporate setting, the whole organization provides mutual support.

The IS department keeps the computers running, but somebody else pays the electric bill. And the payables people who pay that bill need IS to keep their computers running. Sales sells but someone else makes what they need to sell.

Start a business, unless it is VC funded, and there will be a time when the the founder pretty much has to do everything.

And many people are not tempermentally suited for that.

just an employee
Sunday, May 30, 2004

If the payouts at the slot machine are so good, then why isn't everyone doing it?

A risk stands between you and every reward.

Eric Sink
Sunday, May 30, 2004

"In a corporate setting, the whole organization provides mutual support."

This has been the toughest thing to manage in going from working at a 75-person company to running my own consulting practice.  Some days, there are so many things that need to be done just to *exist* as a business, I find myself wondering how I'm going to find time to actually BILL a few hours.  ;)

Like the man says, it is a lot of work.

NOrrick
Sunday, May 30, 2004

The reason I don't go into business already is that I would rather program than worry about g'damn tax law.  Really, the filthy politicians/lawyers have stacked the deck against those who actually produce things:

"Size and complexity are only parts of the problem. Instability is a problem by itself. The code keeps changing: The foundation estimates that on average, every section is amended once every 1.4 years.

The cost in time consumed, disputes, business plans delayed by uncertainty, and expenses incurred in hiring specialists can hardly be calculated. Estimates of annual compliance costs are in the billions."

http://www.staugustine.com/stories/011701/bus_0117010031.shtml

Technical people in this country have got to wrest control from idiot lawyers/businessmen/bureaucrats.  The least capable intellects are running the show and it's high time we evolve beyond these f'ing morons and their retarded 6000 page tax code, which ruins our nation just so tiny minds get job security.

anon
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Try catching the weekly PBS show Small Business School ( http://www.smallbusinessschool.org ).  Every week they profile a different small business, including how they got started.  The website gives local broadcast times in the OnTelevision link.

One thing I have noticed is that everyone I've seen profiled on the show had experience in (and passion about) the field in which they started their business.

One myth that has been dispelled many times is that entrepreneurs are young and often self taught.  The truth is that most businesses are started by people with experience who in many cases hold Masters or PhD's.

yet another anon
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Anon, you just changed your words?

Adam
Sunday, May 30, 2004

McDonalds and Kentucky Fried were both started by people well into middle age.

In fact, KFC's founder, was 65 when he started the business.

http://www.kfc.com/about/colonel.htm

anon married man
Sunday, May 30, 2004

If you want to write software all day, then the last thing you want to do is start your own business.  One of the first things I discovered was that as a businessman, you have a lot more on your plate than as a developer.  Instead of spending my whole work day writing software, I now probably spend about half my time developing.  The other half is spent in marketing, selling, accounting, advertising, talking with customers, or doing things that help me to be a better businessman (like reading Enterpreneur magazine or Stephen Covey books).

You need to decide what it is you really want to do.  If you "just" want to write software, then you are best off looking for a place like Fog Creek to work (or so I've heard).  If you like risk, stress, learning new things, and aren't afraid to make [costly] mistakes, then starting your own business just might be for you.

Jt
Sunday, May 30, 2004

It doesn't have to be an either/or situation. I tried running a business for about a year. I learned an incredible amount about running a business, and about myself. That said, it was a financial disaster, and I doubt I'll ever try it again.

I'm very glad I tried it though. Life is short: pack as many experiences into as you possibly can.

Edward
Sunday, May 30, 2004

""If business is so rewarding then why isn't everyone running his or her own business?""

Because you can't have 200 million 1-person businesses.

Seriously.

Chen-li Fan
Sunday, May 30, 2004

"Life is short: pack as many experiences into as you possibly can."

Well said.

And you're right, the two options needn't be mutually exclusive.  I know a lot of guys who have regular full-time development jobs and then write and sell Delphi components in their spare time.  It doesn't make them a full living, but it's also not a full-time commitment.  They get the best of both worlds, I guess.

There is something to be said, however, for the Cortez approach:  When he arrived in the New World in 1519, he burned his ships.  With no way of going back to Spain, his men were forced to survive in the New World, or die.  This is not the answer for everyone, but it is worth considering.

JT
Sunday, May 30, 2004

>>>One myth that has been dispelled many times is that entrepreneurs are young and often self taught.  The truth is that most businesses are started by people with experience who in many cases hold Masters or PhD's. <<<

People can and do start businesses at almost any age.  But as I think about the small businesses that I am familiar with, most were started by individuals who had several years of experience as an employee.  This let them acquire technical experience as well as business contacts to help them get started.  It also helps to have saved some money in the bank, because few businesses start out paying well, if anything at all.

mackinac
Monday, May 31, 2004

I think a tremendous part of running a business is attitude. I have the Investors Business Daily 10 Secrets to Success taped to my office wall which I always refer to whenever I feel the world the crashing in.

http://www.hoffman.com/inthenews/articles/ibd_feb2609.htm

Interaction Architect
Monday, May 31, 2004

""School has given you the feeling that you have to be educated on everything in order to try something.  Cast this attitude aside."

Anon, I would appreciate if you elaborate on it a bit. Thanks.


I'll address this.

In school, you're taught that you have to learn something before you ever even try it. In the real world (I started my own software company) you can often learn something AS you're doing it.

In fact, I think schools would work much better (for me at least) if they showed you the PROBLEM first, and then said "here is some book learnin to help us solve this problem."

But, of course, schools mostly teach solutions to non-problems.  Ideally, they'd at least teach you to PROBLEM SOLVE and how to LEARN, but they don't even do that. The best I ever got was an opportunity to learn in a pleasant environment.

My $.02 worth as someone who's been there, doin' that.

Mr. Analogy
Tuesday, June 01, 2004

"If business is so rewarding then why isn't everyone running his or her own business?"

Because it is only rewarding for the few who succeed.  The majority of small businesses fail quickly.

T. Norman
Tuesday, June 01, 2004

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