It’s Okay If You’re Not an Entrepreneur

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The hype train about entrepreneurship is at full speed these days.

You can’t swing a dead cat online without hitting a pile of articles about why now is the time to own your own business, why you need to quit your day job and follow your “passion”, why The Man is just in it to keep you down and how being an entrepreneur is the only path to wealth and redemption and legitimacy.

I call bullshit.

Are there companies that are falling behind the curve or too big for their own good or slow and plodding and outdated? Sure. They’ve been there in every era since industrialism began. They’re just more visible now thanks to the internet (as are the piles of commentary about them from every Tom, Dick and Harriette with an opinion)

But there are also incredibly exciting, established companies. Some tiny. Some huge. Some in between. And it’s okay to want to work within one of them, too.

I say this because I know it to be true. I owned my own business twice. And I hated it.

The first one — a marketing consultancy — was incredibly successful and I had a dozen happy clients, but ultimately I chose to let it go and transition my clients to other agencies in order to take a full-time job with Radian6 in their early years.

Then after we were acquired by Salesforce, I started another business with a partner. That one ultimately failed in spectacular fashion, and cost me an awful lot — nearly everything, in fact — in the process.

But it wasn’t the failure that made me realize I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur. It was the very simple fact that owning a business and doing the work that inspired me were often at odds.

I loved the client work. I hated the operational stuff. I loved the projects that challenged my brain. I hated constantly having to fret about keeping the business development pipeline full while also paying attention to the project work. I loved the flexibility. I hated the pressure.

What I’ve learned is that I’m an outstanding asset to a company with a vision who isn’t quite sure how to get there, or to companies who are moving fast and growing quickly and need to put more mature processes and thinking behind how they go to market with their products and services

And I like working for someone else.

Some — including me — would say I have some significant advantages in my current and past roles that I have worked hard to secure. I’ve worked for progressive companies who were willing to allow me to work remotely so I could maintain the flexibility I need as a single parent (though I travel about 50% of the time as the offset to that). I’ve also been part of organizations with strong products, in exciting technology spaces, with aggressive and visionary leaders.

As much as I’d like to say that it’s luck that got me there, it was a lot of hard work, a lot of investment in relationships, a lot of missteps and mistakes and false starts, and a great deal of willingness to dig in and do the work no one else wanted so I could eventually do the work that I excelled at and loved.

So I’m writing this for all of you who read all the stuff about owning your own business, and just don’t think it’s for you. Or who own their business, hate it, and think maybe they might want to go back and take a job after all.

It’s okay. It’s actually really and truly okay to not be an entrepreneur. And it’s totally possible to be successful, financially secure, inspired, and enjoy your work…all while working for someone else.

The real key is in knowing yourself, knowing what you’re good at, and knowing what you love.

It may take some experimentation. It’ll certainly take time and some risks and a few wrong turns before you know it for sure (unless you’re one of the blessed who knew what you were about from day one and have never, ever wavered). I spent the time to figure it out, and have the scars to show for it. But at 41, I am now more confident and secure in who I am and what I want than I’ve ever been.

Your path does not have to look like mine, or his, or hers, or anyone else’s. And hey, if you’re a passionate entrepreneur and love every minute of it, all the more power to you. The world needs people like you.

But it needs people like me too, and maybe some of the rest of you as well.

That’s the beauty of all of this. I think the magic in the world we work in today is not that it’s an entrepreneur’s world.

It’s that now, more than ever, there’s a place for all of us. The business owners and the blue collar workers and the early startup jockeys and the blue-chip professionals and the freelancers and the somewhere-in-betweens.

So if you’re not entrepreneurial, fret not. The world is still your oyster, too.

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