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I enjoy reading some of Inc. magazine.  One writer in particular has been helpful to me.  Meg Hirshberg is the wife of Gary Hirshberg, who is the founder and president of the highly successful company Stonyfield Farms Yogurt.

Meg writes about the joys of starting a business in a very honest way.  If you want to start a business, you should read what she has to say.  Your eyes will be opened.  If you won’t read her, at least read what I am about to write.

A report recently stated that job satisfaction is very low.  In fact, only 45% of US employees are satisfied with their jobs.  Of the 55% who aren’t happy, a huge number of them want to start their own businesses.  I happen to know this because I think most of them have called me…

If you are itching to be your own boss, be careful what you wish for.  Meg is one of the few writers about business who will tell you the truth.  She talks candidly about the sacrifices, the pain, the stress, and the pressure on family.  And I remind you that she is not speaking as a struggling small business owner; Stonyfield Farms is very large and successful today.

As many know, I started Vitabase about ten years ago and have always been the CEO.  And it is my experience that even the most successful businesses go through very dark times.  Business is a roller coaster where hopefully the highs outnumber the lows.  And many small business people never grow out of the dark times at all, struggling just for survival for decade after decade.

I will candidly say that the past three years have been extremely difficult for my business and I have paid a pretty steep price.  For the first time as an entrepreneur, I have felt real pressure.  It has been brutal, and I have not always handled it well. 

As bad as it has been for me, I know that my pain has been minimal when compared to many other business owners.  I have watched highly successful people lose their wealth, their health and their families over the past few years. 

Yes, the periods of big success are wonderful but the tough times are not for the faint of heart.  If you want to start a business, you have to really consider whether you have a temperament that can handle the pressure.  If you can’t, that is nothing to be ashamed of.

I have never lost sleep because of my business.  But I have lost my cool a lot of times.  I have taken the stress out on employees and family.  I have wanted to quit or at least fire everybody and start over.

There are certain things that I do that reduce stress.  For example, I try to only look at sales numbers once a day and I never look at numbers over a weekend.  Focusing on short term trends too much is the worst thing a business owner can do to their emotional health.

The other major strategy I can recommend to reduce stress is to choose to grow slowly by reducing risk.  For the most part, I have done that by instinct.  I limited debt and never took on investors who would obligate me to sell my soul to the corporation.  If I had made those kinds of mistakes, I doubt my company would still be standing today.

I do not want to make the picture too bleak.  While I would do many things different if I could start over, I have never regretted leaving corporate to start my own business.  These past ten years have been wonderful.

I would never tell you not to do it either.  I just want you to count the cost.

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Latest Comments

  • Greg, I grew up knowing the joys and disappointments of entrepreneurship. My father started a print shop when my siblings and I were very young. While the hardships were many, and took a toll on my folks, some of the best family memories I have are of getting to help dad in the print shop, working together as a family perhaps collating a major book project, and it’s also where I developed an interest in graphic design and early desktop publishing. While my folks guarded us children from much of the financial burdens (I’m sure) they dealt with, they wisely used it as a tool to help us enjoy each other and come together as a family.

    My dad’s business did well, but eventually he sold it and wound up getting out of the printing industry all together. Though they may not have much to show for it, I doubt my folks regret their decision to own their own business. At least from my perspective, the rewards of working and bonding together as a family were great takeaways.

  • Ellie J

    Greg,

    How you manage everything altogether is pretty amazing to me. Music is very time consuming and I very much wonder how people like you juggle in between family, music and new business all at the same time? Can you share with us and give us some insights as to how you balanced work and family the time you started your business? i.e. How to maintain life quality without compromising work quality or vise versa. Appreciate you could talk about this with us!

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