Can entrepreneurship make you a better person?

Yesterday, I told the teenage Panera workers making You Pick 2 meals all damn day that they’re amazingly good at their jobs, even when late-for-a-meeting Grumpy Pants Customer is shouting that they’re not.

Then I wondered: Has being an entrepreneur made me a better person?

Last May, I left my corporate marketing job to start a business: Jody Lamb Communications, Inc., a copywriting, PR and content marketing agency. People called me crazy and promptly shared the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur.

While I knew entrepreneurship would have a huge impact on me professionally, I hadn’t expected any change to who I am as a human being.

But since then, I’ve noticed changes in the way I live, such as:

Deeper appreciation for every dollar earned.

Somehow, when a paycheck came every two weeks, no matter what, I didn’t value every dollar as much as I do today. Now every dollar I earn is measured in billable hours. Prior to making a purchase, I consider how many hours will I need to work to pay for it? I’m just now realizing that the $5 chai tea latte is five dollars, which really adds up when you work at coffee shops at least a few times per week.

Now I’m putting back that pretty shirt that I don’t really need because I realized I have to bill X hours – plus account for the time spent securing the project and the administration of it. Forget it. I’d much rather skip the shirt and save the money for something else.

Greater generosity.

Owning my own business and being 100% responsible for the success of it, I have a clearer understanding of this: It. Is. Hard. For. Small. Businesses. To. Make. A. Buck. The small businesses of the world are powered by extremely hard-working people doing extremely hard jobs. I’m tipping more, smiling more, thanking more and complimenting staff and owners.

Enjoyment of people.

As they say, the less you experience of something, the more you appreciate it. Lunch with friends and clients is now something I really treasure. In some of my previous roles, lunch with pals and co-workers happened almost every day. Now those less frequent get-togethers are much more meaningful. I so look forward to their stories and their laughter.

Confidence to take chances.

I’m the big kahuna at my business. The only kahuna. If screw up, which I do regularly, it really only affects me. When I was on a team, all decisions I made impacted my team and my superiors. Now it’s just me. So, boom. Decision made. I’m taking more chances. No one has to wait while we discuss and think about it. More business is happening.

Patience with difficult people.

The world is teeming with unethical, stubborn, selfish and conniving individuals. I still have to work these kinds of people from time to time but since I don’t have to spend hours every day with them, I’m more patient and understanding about what motivates them to behave the way they do.

Back in the day, I sometimes had a hard time working day in and day out with people I felt lacked a proper moral compass.

Look at this photo of me in a business meeting years ago. This is my you make me lose faith in humanity face.

monkey

I displayed this facial expression a few times in my career.

Once, a colleague pulled me aside and in her best “kiddo, I’m looking out for you” tone, she said, “You really need to pick a side.”

What?

“You can’t be friendly with everyone,” she said. “You’re either with them [the non-program managers] or us.”

No, I’m cool with everyone, actually.

Office politics are real.

Fortunately, I worked closely with only a few of these types of folks in my career and I was pretty good at hiding my distaste for them, except for the day the above photo was taken.

Now, as an entrepreneur, I can decide to simply not work with divisive, toxic people.

I accept help with gratitude.

If people want to give me advice, I’m all ears. If people are kind enough to introduce me to So-and-So, I’m all about it. Before I became an entrepreneur, I reluctantly accepted help. After all, I thought, you’re supposed to make it on your own. As a business owner, this mindset makes survival impossible.

Business is still all about relationships and I’m grateful for every kind thing someone does to help me make it.

Appreciation for the now.

Nothing about life or business for certain. Somehow, without the security of a big employer with a twice-monthly paycheck and other little, comfy safety nets, I’m more aware of how fast everything could change. This helps me appreciate every new client, every new challenge, every successful project and every opportunity that enables me to keep living this dream.

I understand the power of listening.

In my 13-year marketing career, I did A LOT of talking to clients and on behalf of clients to media. Now that I’m writing about things totally new to me, I have to listen in order to learn so that I can write intelligently and accurately about them. I have to ask the right questions and then listen, really listen. It’s amazing what you learn when you stop talking and just listen. This power of listening realization is carrying over into all of my interactions and relationships. Lately, I’ve been wondering how much I missed out by not being a better listener throughout my life.

But above all, entrepreneurship has made me more aware of who I am professionally and personally, and that the hundreds of things we do every day are of greater impact than what we generally consider the big, important stuff. Now, I’m far prouder of these little things that impact other human beings than all of the accomplishments that earn spots on my résumé. They’re what matter most.

Has owning a business changed who you are as person?

 

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