Being your own boss

Sept. 18, 2007
I want to explore the advantages of going it alone in the tool business.

I want to explore the advantages of going it alone in the tool business. I've previously covered the downside of our profession in regards to our loneliness. I think we should all feel good about what we do and how we soldier on by ourselves. Now let's get excited about the positive aspects of our solitary profession.

While watching a movie recently with my youngest son, Nigel, I saw in his face deep concern for the main character as she was mistreated and eventually fired by her boss. I turned to him and explained that I'm self-employed and nobody can fire me!

"I am the boss and no one can tell me what to do or how to do it."

That has a great ring to it, doesn't it, my brothers and sisters out there?

Is this not the greatest advantage we enjoy compared to regular workers? We each decide how we run and structure our enterprises. No one is commanding us and orchestrating our every move.

Interestingly, as the boss, we are very hard on our employee and expect tremendous output and unwavering devotion to the assigned tasks. Unrealistic goals are set forth on a routine basis and are met at an astounding rate. Our worker shows up when feeling ill and might moan and groan about all the overtime but they are always there.

We all get a chuckle when someone says, "You set your own schedule; that must be great."

I quickly set them straight as to how rigid our scheduling is and how its reliability is directly related to success. If your customers are not looking out the door for you if you're 15 minutes late, then you're failing them and yourself. This aspect of being the only employee is the one thing I detest about our business. I don't enjoy getting razzed the following week if I am unable to show up or if they have forgotten that I told them I was not going to see them one week. After 25-plus years, it's still irksome!

However, I don't let that stand in the way of taking time off. If it is a week or more I print up an info sheet for customers and usually run a collection contest to recover some income. Everyone has their own methods; run with what works for you. Savor and enjoy your time off — remember, you alone are in control. Avail yourself of the opportunity that there is no one you have to beg for vacation. Keep in mind that you run the business and you ultimately make the decisions.

Speaking of decisions, this is an area where we are kept busy. On our own, we must decide on credit issuance, inventory levels and a host of business choices. (Hey, let's admit right now — it's fun buying tools!)

Taking advantage of special offers or ordering new products is a blast. We all like to spend money, and the plus side is that we are making moves that will result in income to our families. We get to choose the direction of multiple thousands of dollars each month.

How many times have you heard employers complain about employee issues? Someone didn't show up, another person is having family problems, etc. We hear both sides, from the boss and the tech. It is times like those I rejoice that I'm running the show. Yes, I don't make any money when not working; however I am not losing business nor do I have employees stealing from me when I am not around.

We all see how people slack off when the boss is away. I know there are countless businesses where the employees do a great job and the owner has a tremendous amount of freedom and flexibility. I envy those situations but I also know that won't work in the tool business with few exceptions.

Everything begins and ends with us, and the "buck stops here" plaque sits squarely on all our desks. It is a great feeling to be in charge and piloting your own destiny. We all have the toughest boss imaginable — remember to be fair when dealing with yourself.

I have this crazy dream that when I finally hang up the truck keys and get some sort of job, I just want to push a broom somewhere. Someone tells me what I have to do and if I don't show up for work, it really doesn't matter. I am but a cog in the machinery and when the bell rings I drop my broom, pick up my lunchbox and out the door I go. I am alone again, but it is different. Nothing revolves around me.

You can't say that about our current situation. We are everything, and to assume the responsibility is one of the greatest solo businesses I can imagine.

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