Everyone seems to be a founder and CEO. Everyone seems to have some off the wall "Chief-something-or-another" on their business card these days. They're a networking mastermind, an entrepreneur a social media expert or whatever the hell else is the trending topic of the day. I don't understand the obsessions with the titles. It's as if we need a business card or an Instagram bio to validate our significance in the world. It's crazy.
Let me be clear with you: in the last 4 years I believe I've called myself all of those things. In fact, I believe my Entrepreneur Contributor badge still says I'm CEO of 7twelve Media. For all intensive purposes, sure, that's true. I've since taken it off my social media profiles, not because I've demoted myself or I'm assuming less responsibility. I've taken it off because as much as I feel like I've accomplished I also feel as if I haven't done anything, yet.
Don't get me wrong, I definitely have to play the part and it's not an easy one. I'm not writing this for anyone that's actually made it, by the way. I'm writing it for everyone in the 'idea phase'. I'm writing for everyone in the 'get-this-off-the-ground' phase. I'm writing this for anyone who thinks that being a 'boss' means you'll have it easy.
In my opinion, being a boss means you get to work harder, teach more and eat more shit than anyone else in your company.
As a co-founder and operator I've worn all the hats so far.
I've done the cold calling, I've done the marketing, I've done the branding, the accounting and I even take the trash out and run coffee for my employees. By the way, I haven't just done the nitty gritty for myself, I've done it for our clients as well. I still do.
Over the past 4 years I've come to learn that there is so much more to running a business than building an Instagram following or having a YouTube channel. I've definitely learned that there's more to owing a business than just saying you own a business. You actually have to run the business. That means you have to drive sales, stay on the forefront of your industry, innovate, keep your clients happy and keep your employees happy. It means you have to make sure the WiFi works, your office isn't too cold (or too hot), and lead by example. Do you think your employees will be fired up to give you 100% if you're rolling in at 12PM and they're rolling in at 8A?
Start up life is a good life, but no one said it would be easy.
I understand that our businesses are probably a little different. I run a client service, digital marketing agency, a team of 7. You be starting product line, a SAAS or an app you're trying to get more users on. I won't even attempt to speak on what it's like to run business like that because the bottom line is I have no clue. What I do know is that there is one constant that will define you more than your LinkedIn profile: your work ethic.
Everyone wants to build an empire but don't understand what it really takes. I'll be the first to say I don't know what it takes to build an empire. I've never done it, so how would I?
What I do know is how to grow a team of 2 to 7 and push forward. What I do know is how to overcome insanely formidable challenges. I do know the importance of company culture and how it can dramatically increase or decrease the productivity of your team. I know how to generate revenue in my space and use it effectively to exploit the strengths of my team. I do know that to get 'this far' I had to work harder physically and emotionally than I ever have in my entire life.
I also know how to stay in the black. I heard that's pretty important in running a business.
Does that make me a CEO? I don't know, I guess it depends on who you ask. Does that mean I've run a successful business? I don't know, it depends. To me, it means I've grown a business over 4 years. Success is subjective and I'm no where near where I want to be and my company is no where near where I see it going. So as I said earlier, I know I've accomplished a lot but I equally feel like I haven't done anything at all. I'll tell you what though, I'm not going to use a title or an idea to validate my signficance. There's no one that can tell me what I put on my business card, but I'll tell you right now: I just don't think I've earned the title, not for my goals anyway.
Look, I'm not writing this to dismiss your ideas or what you've accomplished. I'm really not, I'm no better than the next guy. What I really hope you're able to take away from this is from one business owner to another, evaluate your motives and intentions. What are you truly working for? Why are you really doing what you do? If you know the answer to those two questions, a title means nothing. I've seen enough ups and downs from peers and colleagues and seen what a the real kick in the stomach from a downfall in their business can look like, and I don't want that for anyone.
So before you jump ship, before you update your bio, ask yourself a couple things: Are you ready for everything that comes with the title? Are you ready for the rollercoaster ride of owning a business? Are you ready to be more real with yourself than you ever have been? If the answer is yes, then I'm rooting for you. If the answer is yes, and you've gotten this far into the article I'll have our graphic designer put together a logo for you, for free. Seriously. Just tweet me