It is that time of the year again when we all look at the last year in review and look forward to the new year. We may look back and wonder why the year did not go as well as we hoped or wanted for some of us. And others may feel this ting of jealousy as it seems that everyone is doing so much better than we think we are.
Yet others may feel like they are on top of the world doing great and have no idea why others do not feel the same way. I have learned in life that being a boss, you will at one time or another feel all these things.
I have learned so many things about being my own boss that I was never taught in any business school or with any business course. Things like how you are always to blame when something goes wrong, or how you need to change with the times, or how any failure you are ultimately responsible for. Many think being your own boss is easy, but the truth is that it can be really tough and difficult.
Here are things they do not teach you in business school about running your own business or being your own boss.
When You are the Boss, You are Always to Blame
Right before Christmas, I accidentally made a payment to an account we have not paid in over 13 years. I should have caught this but did not. My staff should have never set the payment up, but they also made a mistake. All around, the error was a bad one and could have been avoided, both by them and by me. The error was not a small amount; it was over 10,000 USD.
To make matters worse, we found out on Christmas Eve. And HSBC bank said they would process the request to return the funds in 24 hours, but as it was near Christmas so that request could be much longer, and the extra days may make the recovery of the money almost impossible.
The account it got paid into was in Vietnam. As luck would also have it, the banks there are not closed during that two day period for the Christmas holiday. This was adding up to be the worse of all timing and all luck. Due to a clerical and honestly careless error, I could lose 10,000 USD, just like that. All I kept thinking was Merry Christmas. What a lousy Christmas gift and a lousy way to start a New Year.
It was money I certainly could not afford to lose. I am not sure if anyone can afford to lose that kind of money at any time. I spent Christmas in a deep depression, wondering what would happen once the banks opened again. And then I thought – talk about completely lousy timing, why did this have to happen at this time? During a holiday? Why not during another time of the year or during the normal working time? Why me? Why now?
Even though I need to deal with failure a lot, I also take failure very hard and very personally. I spent hours crying my eyes out and doubting myself as a person and my abilities.
As I thought about this failure, I thought about things no one ever really tells you about when you decide to go into business for yourself. The things that are not taught in business schools but also things that can really break your heart.
Here is my list of some of the lessons they do not teach you in business school about being your own boss:
When There Is a Failure, You Are Responsible.
When there is a failure, you are responsible, even if you had absolutely nothing to do with that failure. You, as the boss, are ultimately always responsible.
In this case, with the payment error, I cried and spent hours telling myself that I was not really worthy of being anyone’s boss. I just was not qualified. I had made a huge financial error. One that could cost me a lot of extra money I did not have. I started to doubt myself and my abilities. Failure does that to you; you begin to doubt who you are.
That kind of failure, especially careless failure, will break your heart if it causes you to cry. It will cause you to doubt yourself and your self-worth. I don’t think any business school really teaches you how to deal with that kind of constant emotional rollercoaster. Your staff makes a mistake, and your customers complain to you, and they may even tell you how you are absolutely useless; this kind of failure breaks your heart.
Even if the error or failure has absolutely nothing to do with you, but it is an error of your staff or someone else, at the end of the day, you are also responsible. You may need to stand before a client or someone else and apologize and take responsibility. You need to tell them you are truly sorry.
This will also break your heart. And it is the kind of thing you can not completely understand until you are standing or writing that apology email or message to someone and telling them how truly sorry you are for a mistake or error that was not your own and maybe had nothing to do with you in the first place.
I find it is bad enough when you have to apologize for your own careless mistake and, but when you must take upon the mistakes of others in your company or organization – well, that really sucks. That really hurts. No one tells you how completely and totally devastatingly painful it can all be unless you have had to do it. It just hurts.
You Need to Make A lot of Sacrifices
You cannot be a good boss or a great boss without some sacrifice. And most times, this sacrifice is excruciating.
When you run your own company, and if money is tight, you pay your staff before getting paid. When someone does not show up to get the work done, you have to learn to roll up your sleeves to get the work done. If you need to see a client and travel over a birthday or miss an important event, you must be willing to do it. If you travel internationally as I do, you will sacrifice your sleep and may need to learn to function with jetlag hanging over you.
No one teaches how hard some of these sacrifices can be. How much it can affect even your personal life or sometimes your personal choices. How you need to put aside what you may want to do for what you must do.
You Must Learn to Have Mental Toughness
I am not sure if mental toughness comes naturally to me. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and I take things very personally. I take failures personally, and I can take life personally.
My mind can also play many tricks on me, and I berate myself probably much more than others do. I am hard on myself.
Mental toughness is really tough for me. Some people have it naturally, but I do not. If you are like me, it can mean failures, you really. But as a boss, you cannot allow every single failure, every single hard thing that happens to completely and totally devastate you. It would help if you learned how to deal with problems in a way that will help to solve them. You must be a problem solver as problems will happen. It is just the nature of the way things are.
Your Heart Will Be Broken Many Times
One year, I discovered that a large part of my office in Vietnam was cheating on me. And I am not saying in a small way but in a substantial way. I was losing money every month to them. I had to fire all my top people.
It broke my heart. It really upset me. I wondered a lot about my judgment. I wondered how could I trust someone so much and believe them only to find out they had been cheating on me. How could they come in day after day and lie to me?
It really broke my heart in many ways as this kind of cheating was so sophisticated and so well thought out and executed so well that it would have been hard for anyone to find. In another country or another place, I could have placed them in jail, but I had little or no recourse in Vietnam.
Years later, my heart got broken again. I had worked with a manager for 18 years who I considered a lot like a daughter who just walked out one day. I discovered that she was trying to go behind my back to contact some of my customers to switch production to another factory.
But with this all, I have learned a very tough lesson. That lesson was that as a boss, your heart would be broken many, many times. So prepare to have it be broken. It is part of being a boss. You may think people are your friends, or you may hope they are, but in the end, it is those that you may think are your friends who will break your heart the hardest.
You Need To Always Show a Positive Face, Even When You Do Not Feel That Way.
There are so many times when I feel just outright discouraged. But even when you do not feel happy or positive, you need to learn to put on a positive face. After all, you are the team leader, the team cheerleader, the one that will continue to drive the company forth.
And this is the hardest part of all as business changes. It continues to change at a rapid pace. Each day things are changing. In my business it used to be that people bought a product only in the stores, now they are buying online. This has changed in a huge way how people buy products, so many retail stores are going out of business, and as a supplier, you can get stuck in this change and need to adapt.
The point is that you must always be able to change and be ready to change. In fact, you should be ahead of the change. And that is not easy and can be very difficult. But you as the leader must be prepared to be part of the change, part of the solution and not the problem.
You Must Constantly be Looking at Change and Improving
As I run a small business, I have had to learn to wear a lot of hats. I never thought I would have to learn to wear. Hats like how to write a blog, do a video, or a podcast. How to work on my website and adjust it as needed. How to learn about search engine optimization. How to look at new management techniques. I need to be looking at and improving myself constantly.
So many things that I need to try to learn as the world constantly moves around me. How do you constantly improve and streamline things? How do you not forget things when you must wear so many hats at one time? It is not easy. At times, it can be really hard and very tough, and I predict with the way the world is changing, which will only get more difficult and not easier. So to be a good boss, you must constantly be looking at change.
You must be looking at things like, how do you manage change? How do you implement change in your own company? How do you manage the change that is constantly happening around you?
As a boss, you must be a change-maker and a change implementor, and this is not always easy, especially if you are someone who likes the status quo and does not like or deal with change easily.
This story does have a happy ending. The money that was lost did come back, and all was recovered. The bank did not help us recover it, but we had to contact the person we accidentally sent the money to, and they were honest and kind enough to return it. I learned that many people are inherently good.
My huge mistake is now a bleep on the radar of business. But at the same time, lessons were learned along the way, and changes were implemented to ensure it would not happen again. After all, that is all part of being a boss in today’s world.
Can You Learn Business Without a Degree?
You do not have to have a business degree in business, especially to be business for yourself or be your own boss. In fact, most people I know who do their own business do not have a business degree.
But if you want to be successful in any business, you must become an expert and be good at what you do. This means you will have to constantly look at ways that you can learn and improve and change with the times.
What Do You Learn in Business School?
A business school will teach you things such as accounting, finance, strategy, economics, entrepreneurship, human resources, management, leadership, computer systems, organizational behavior, marketing, and market strategy, strategy, to name a few.
Having a business degree is not necessary to do your own business or work in business, but it will help you in business and give you a perfect background. That is why many businesses want to hire people who have a business degree as they know they have the background and learning foundation they need or require.