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Stop trying to be your own boss

Startups are a funny thing and so are the entrepreneurs who start them.

Successful companies are started by people who want to make something — something new, something better — which the world will want. These are people who see things in the world and ask themselves, “Why does it have to be that way? Heck, it should be a hell of a lot better than that.” And then they push themselves and everyone around them to make it happen.

We recently ran a post here entitled Why are you starting something? where we stated:

If you’re starting something without a clear idea of what problem your startup will solve, your startup will fail.

We wanted to revisit that today, because there’s too many people starting things for the wrong reasons. The wrong reason we hear most often is some variation of “I want to be my own boss”.

There are gobs of so-called ‘entrepreneurs’ who start companies with nothing more than this as their rationale. They think big and dream even bigger about how one day they will be rich and famous with no one to thank but themselves. They write manifestoes, think up company names, write blogs and focus on how ‘cool’ it is to be ‘doing a startup’. They delude themselves and, in general, waste a lot of their own time and energy doing it.

Think about this for a moment, because it’s important–your company’s raison d’etre is that “you want to be your own boss”? If a company’s entire reason for existing is that the founder “wants to be their own boss”, why should the rest of the world give a damn? Does the company have a purpose other than celebrating your self-employment? Why will anyone want to be employed by a company which exists primarily to serve its founder’s megalomania?

What’s more, the romantic notion of being ‘your own boss’ is very different from the reality of it. When you start a company, the buck stops with you. All the bucks stop with you. Did marketing screw something up? No, you screwed it up, you fix it. Sales team isn’t hitting their targets? No, you’re not hitting the targets. Engineering team can’t figure out a good approach for code management? Your problem. In-fighting between departments? Your problem. Everything is your problem and everyone else is your boss–your investors, your employees, your partners and your customers; you are answerable to them all.

The very worst part is that most startups fail. And the so-called ‘startups’, created by ‘entrepreneurs’ who are enamoured of being their own bosses, they’re more likely to fail than startups focused on ideas for the things they want to create. If you’re not extremely passionate about what you’re doing, one day you will want to stop doing it. Are you really that passionate about being your own boss? Is anyone?

Steve Jobs said this part best:

“I get asked this a lot and I have a pretty standard answer which is, a lot of people come to me and say ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’. And I go ‘Oh that’s great, what’s your idea?’ And they say ‘I don’t have one yet’. And I say ‘I think you should go get a job as a busboy or something until you find something you’re really passionate about because it’s a lot of work. I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard. You put so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that I think most people give up. I don’t blame them. Its really tough and it consumes your life… Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.” ~ Steve Jobs

“I want to be my own boss” is not a good reason to start a company. In fact, it might well be the worst reason, so spare yourself and everyone else the agony. Start a company because you’re going to make something great, not because you’re going to make a great boss for yourself.