Behind the Curtain

E File | Posted on April 30, 2014

I was recently interviewed – and true to every interview, I was asked a commonly asked question: "If you had to start a business all over again, would you do it?" My answer is always a resounding, "No!" Don't get me wrong – I love marketing, public relations and strategy, and I love leading a dynamic team. Every day, I live my bungee jump.

But it's the things behind the curtain that take their toll – someone always wants something. According to our new HR firm, that will always be the case. Owning a business is often romanticized in American culture – everyone wants to be the boss, right? But can everyone handle the pressure? Those who personally know me know I can take a lot for a long period of time. What can I say? I was built to last.

As a person full of passion, I'm careful not to make emotion-driven decisions. I wait and I watch, a key to discerning the difference between a person's character and circumstance. Circumstance is temporary; character is longtime. Someone may be financially challenged for a moment, but they might be cheap, stingy and inconsiderate as a rule. (Shameless plug: For ways to improve character and reap the personal and professional benefits, pick up a copy of my book, Chasing Greatness, from an online retailer near you.)

As I celebrate a new birthday Monday, I'm aware of traits often attributed to Taurus women: our emotional strength and consistency. We can survive the most challenging situations and handle huge amounts of stress. It's not surprising that I am a CEO.

The reality is there are two things you'll always find behind the curtain: 

  • Some people won't like you. A traditional Southern saying in my family is: "Oil and water don't mix." It means two people don't get along. There might not be huge arguments or brawls – some people, for whatever reason, just won't value what you bring. For example, I am a get-it-done business owner. It may be messy, but it's effective. My former mentor from Proctor & Gamble told me there are two types of employees – those concerned with process and those concerned with results. I'm the latter – so my leadership style doesn't always work for people who are process employees. Employees who like my style tend to stay longer, those who don't tend to leave sooner than usual and that's okay. What's important to me is that I'm fair and reasonable.
  • People won't always like your decisions. Last week, I read a quote: "An employee understands what, but the boss understands why." Yesterday, someone asked me what the greatest challenge for me as a business owner has been.

Quite naturally, they would expect me to say winning business, but the greatest frustrations come in the form of armchair quarterbacks. Armchair quarterbacks always have opinions from the sidelines, but never have the guts to get on the field and risk being hurt to make the big pass. The convictions and challenges of the business owner working his or her dream without a fallback plan are not the same as those with the backup plan, a job.

Inevitably, as a boss, you will tick people off. Learn to live with it. As long as your motives are pure and honest, that's all that matters. Finding employees with head/hands (technical skills) and heart (a desire to help your company) isn't easy in today's self-motivated culture – no more than it is finding clients who can see your promise from your potential. As a business owner, at day's end, I ask myself: Can I live with the decisions I've made? If my answer is yes, it's been a good day.