My Dad started his own company. He is a first generation American, PhD in engineering and invented the first fully automated fortune cookie machine. He is an inventor. Other than watching sports (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), he enjoys nothing more than building stuff. He wanted to build things for other people. And starting his own company was the only way he knew how. So he had the rarest gift – he did what he loved for a living. He paid for his children’s college educations. He supported a family for 35+ years. He was a success; the American Dream fulfilled.
That said, it was a gut-wrenching life.
Practically speaking, he had a family to support and like many entrepreneurs, there were many weeks when he didn’t know if he could deliver products on time; pay suppliers on time; and most importantly, make payroll to people who relied on him.
His darkest days were always worse than his happiest ones. We had a language barrier between us so I learned at a young age how to read body language pretty well. I remembered when he had to fire someone who had young children. He wouldn’t do it. He took out personal loans to pay for this person’s salary. He’s still paying for this loan nearly 30 years later. The company suffered. When this came up again, he fired someone who had two kids. He wouldn’t talk for a week. He is a guy of few words but i knew that that ate him up inside. He never once complained or talked about it.
You should only start a company if you’re prepared to feel like this more days than not. Or this. Or this. I’ve seen my Dad feel it. I’ve seen other founders do it. I’ve never felt it. Watching my Dad, I realized at a young age that I didn’t have the brass to do it. The second-best thing was to be the guy who helped the people do it. In some respects, coaching is easier than playing. And when I see prospective entrepreneurs tell me that they want to start a company because “they’ve always wanted to start a company” or “get operational experience” as if it’s the next milestone in their career ladder, I wonder if they know the real price. The price can be – and should be – excruciating. As my dad always would tell me, nothing worth having is easy.