Entrepreneurs

'Being your own boss' is one of the biggest myths of entrepreneurship

Thomas Middleditch featured in Silicon Valley an HBO original
HBO
Thomas Middleditch featured in Silicon Valley an HBO original

Anytime you talk to a current entrepreneur or even someone thinking about starting their own business, usually one of the biggest motivations is wanting to be their own boss.

The idea of "working for the man" has lost its luster, and the pursuit of freedom to do what you want, when you want is extremely sexy and appealing.

However, getting to be your own boss is one of the biggest myths about entrepreneurship.

First, one of the most important assets of a company is its customers. If you have no customers — or more accurately, no paying customers — you have no business. It is impossible to have a business without any customers.

This gives your customers the ultimate power — basically, they own you. So, if you believe owning a business means that you get to be the boss, forget it; the customer is the number one boss, bar none.


"As an entrepreneur, you have traded one, two, or a handful of bosses for dozens, hundreds, thousands, or millions of bosses, each with their own agenda!"

You have undoubtedly heard the saying that the customer is always right. The reason for that saying is that the customer believes that he is always right (whether he is or isn't), and if you don't take care of that customer (right or not), he will soon become an ex-customer.

As a bonus, there's a good chance that if you don't treat your customer well, he will use social media or other forms of word of mouth to inform every person that he knows of that, including both other existing customers and potential new customers.

If you have a job and you don't like your boss, you can ask for a transfer or quit and find another job. If you don't like your customers, you cannot just quit. You can get rid of a rogue customer here or there, but you can't fire all of your customers. You are tied down and committed financially and, hopefully, emotionally as well.

So, as an entrepreneur, you have traded one, two, or a handful of bosses for dozens, hundreds, thousands, or millions of bosses, each with their own agenda!

This is another way of saying that when you have a job, a handful of people have control over what you get paid, your hours, who you work with and other professional decisions.

When you are a boss, guess what? You have increased the number of bosses that you have exponentially, because every single customer has that control.

Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods and Martin Starr featured in Silicon Valley an HBO original
John P. Johnson | HBO
Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, Thomas Middleditch, Zach Woods and Martin Starr featured in Silicon Valley an HBO original

But your customers aren't your only boss. If you have employees, they are your boss, too, because if you are in a cash flow crunch, you still need to pay them and you get paid later.

And if they decide not to show up to work one day, guess who will need to go and fill in for them? Your store won't open itself, so that likely means it's you.

Moreover, if you have lenders, investors, a landlord or a franchise parent company, well, they all have some aspects of control over you, too. You have now even more people to report to than ever before.

While starting a business can create many benefits for you and give you certain freedoms, the scope of freedom that you imagined comes with "being your own boss" is very much a myth.

Take that into consideration as part of the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship.

Carol Roth is a "recovering" investment banker, entrepreneur, investor, speaker, small-business advocate and author of The New York Times bestselling book "The Entrepreneur Equation."