Business ownership can be one of the most rewarding things for any person to participate in.
I have worked with business owners for more than 42 years, and I have started a half-dozen businesses on my own or with partners, bought several, and became an owner in four or five others.
Many people who don’t have their own businesses think business owners are only interested in making money. While some business owners are, in fact, like that, most are not. There are many other motivators for them, and a variety of other aspects of business ownership that make them happy.
Here are some of the things that made me the happiest as a business owner:
- Being able to create good jobs. There is little that’s more gratifying than being able to offer a good job to someone who may not have that opportunity if not for you. More than once, we hired people who didn’t have the degree they were supposed to have to do a certain job, or people who had just gotten divorced and badly needed a job, or people who were mistreated at their prior job and were beaten down. When you own the business, you are ultimately in control of who works there. Knowing that you are helping people out by giving them a job that allows them to afford to support themselves and their families is very rewarding. Seeing all those people with unique skill sets come together to do something collaboratively just gets me excited!
- Seeing people who worked in my business become highly successful. I think back to one case years ago when we hired a young fellow who was just graduating from the MBA program at Boston College. He was Irish and grew up in a very modest household, got his engineering degree in his home country and then came over here and had to work as a painter and sleep in a construction trailer until he could get up enough cash for an apartment. He was driving a $200 car when we interviewed him. A short time after we hired him, he had a new BMW company car, and a few years after that, he was married to someone from a well-known family and owned a four-bedroom house in a prestigious area. Today, he owns his own business and is highly successful by any standard. He is obviously an exceptional individual, but witnessing his and many other’s rise to success are some of my proudest accomplishments.
- Being able to make it possible for other people to become business owners. There is little more gratifying than being able to offer the opportunity and rewards of business ownership to someone else who may not have that if not for you. Being able to make it affordable and finance all of that, and then see this highly motivated and conscientious individual reap the rewards of their sacrifices and live the “American dream” is really exciting.
- Being able to do something differently or better than what other businesses were doing. This was a huge motivator and reward for me in all of my businesses. In fact, that was a primary reason for starting them in the first place! In every case, we did what we did in new ways or to a higher standard than existing providers. I don’t think I’m unique in this regard – most business owners aspire to do this even if they don’t always succeed. And when you do (succeed), and get positive feedback from your clients and customers, little is more gratifying.
- Being able to fix something that went wrong for a client or customer because I controlled the resources necessary to do so. This is another aspect of being a business owner that I loved. Sometimes things go wrong. But we always did our best to rectify the situation immediately. I remember one case of a completely redone house we sold to some really nice people. A couple years later, I was driving by and saw paint peeling on some trim boards. I got my painter over there to fix it before the buyer ever said anything to us about it. They are still appreciative of that. I’m sure I could probably cite dozens of cases where we went overboard in one of my businesses to fix something that made a client or customer unhappy, and I always thought that if I had worked for a large company that was only concerned about short-term profits, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that.
- Being able to say “no” to a client who mistreated me or one of my people. Conventional wisdom says that no one who owns a business likes turning away a client or customer. But that isn’t true. Sometimes, when you have a potential client or customer who clearly has the wrong idea about how they can deal with you or one of your people, it is very rewarding to know you don’t need them and can say “no thanks” to their business. And when the mistreatment involves one of your people, and they (your employee) see you care more about them than the revenue you will lose, they are always more than grateful to you. That is a good feeling!
- Being recognized by people in the community as someone who is contributing to making the community a better place. Being in the AEC business, in particular, makes this easy. But any business owner who has a business that creates good jobs and does something to make the community more prosperous, more desirable, safer, or more beautiful can enjoy this important aspect of business ownership!
- Having enough control over my life that I could put my family first over my job when that was necessary. This has happened to me more than once. It was particularly important in the late ‘90s, when my first wife had a complete breakdown and was addicted to drugs and alcohol, that I could – even though we were crazy busy – put my kids first ahead of my business. Of course, I was lucky I was the primary shareholder of the company, and that I had really competent (and nice) people who could step up and run the place while I was either distracted or not there. I am very grateful for that. I am also grateful that my business ownership afforded me the opportunity to put my family first during that time.
Each of these things contributed to my happiness as a business owner. I think business ownership is one of the most rewarding things any person can participate in if they really want to. Of course it involves some sacrifices. But the rewards far outweighed the costs for me and for most other business owners I have known and worked with over the years!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.