"Any time you see a business, somebody once made a courageous decision.” ~ Peter Drucker.
Please enjoy my office’s newsletter discussing entrepreneurship. The August newsletter will always be about business/entrepreneurship since that was the month—a little over two years ago to this day—when I decided to open my own law office.
Why Do People Become Entrepreneurs?
72% of American adult citizens want to be entrepreneurs.
Why do people become entrepreneurs? Just shout it out. Freedom, that is a theme you hear a lot. What else? Be your own boss—BYOB. You hear that over and over and over again. What else? Control, absolutely, control over my own destiny. What else? Money. You also think you will make more money on your own but there are huge hidden costs to being self-employed. However, with the average starting salary of lawyers entering the legal market, the money you make on your own will almost surely be at least what you would make as an associate by your third year in business.
USA Today did a survey of high school students. 70% of them said they want to be an entrepreneur. That was their goal. A decade earlier that number was barely over 10%. To high school students, entrepreneurship is starting to become something.
The Realities of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship can be exciting, energizing, and an entre to a world of sharp, talented, and creative people. You may also find yourself exhausted, broke, discouraged, and unable to even collect unemployment. While some people may fall into starting a business, most make the conscious choice to become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is definitely not for everyone, especially lawyers who often go to law school with the idea that it is a safe, stable career path.
I personally come from a long line of entrepreneurs on my mom’s side. My great grandfather came to America from Russia via Ellis Island and started a baby carriage business that was lost in the Great Depression. From that baby carriage business, there was one truck leftover which is how my grandfather started his trucking business, Slatkin Trucking.
Immigrants today are more than twice as likely to start businesses as their native-born counterparts and are responsible for more than 25% of all new business creation and related job growth. And while some of these immigrant-led businesses are next-generation startups and small businesses, many actually top the charts when it comes to America’s largest companies.
Currently, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, according to a study by The Partnership for a New American Economy, a group of governors and business leaders launched by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Australian media heavyweight Rupert Murdoch.
However, having your own business is not what it is cracked up to be. If you think meeting a boss’s deadlines or demands is tough, try meeting your own—especially when your personal savings are on the line.
In most jobs, you can leave the work behind when you go home to enjoy your family, friends or hobbies. As an entrepreneur, the workload can be intense, especially during the early stages when you are the CEO, CFO, HR person, sales staff, marketing guru, tech guy, office manager, and janitor. With all these roles, there’s rarely a moment that you feel your work is “done” for the day.
In a contingency practice, you often find yourself lying awake at night staring at the ceiling wondering if you’ll still going to be in business in six months.
The Positives Outweigh the Negatives
I’m often asked by young lawyers, “Josh, is it worth it and are you happy?” With the kind of stress, pressure, and workload that comes with owning your own business—apart from the stress of having a litigation practice—the answer is simple: the positives outweigh the negatives.
When you’re successful, you reap both financial and emotional rewards. There’s no better feeling than seeing a happy client when you’ve provided your services and maximized the results. Once you work for yourself, it’s common to feel you could never work in a conventional 9-to-5 environment again. I believe it’s mostly due to flexibility. You may work more hours, but you can do so on your own terms.
Many entrepreneurs are driven by the need to build something great, help other people, or leave something behind. Perhaps it’s a business that your children can join and grow. Maybe it’s the legacy of creating something that will be around long after you’re gone. No matter what the motivation, creating something from nothing that grows and develops through the years can be almost like raising a child; it’s your baby, and you’ve nurtured it to its current level of success.
On my desk is a picture of my grandfather, Robert Slatkin. That picture serves as a reminder of the challenges of having a business. Even though he is no longer physically with me, the picture spiritually gives me a sense of companionship—that he is there understanding what I’m going through. He inspires me to never give up, even when the challenges seem insurmountable.
Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, said, “Too many young Americans these days don’t get a chance to learn how to enjoy work. Much of this country’s social and political philosophy seems aimed at removing the risks form life one by one. As I told a group of student students in one of the talks I gave at Dartmouth, it is impossible to grant someone happiness. The best you can do, as the Declaration of Independence put it, is to give him the freedom to pursue happiness. Happiness is not a tangible thing, it’s a byproduct—a byproduct of achievement.”
Or, as Richard Branson said in his book Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way, “Business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders, it’s about being true to yourself, your ideas, and focusing on the essentials.”