Risky Business

You’ve heard it said, “When you work for yourself, you work for a real tyrant.” A seasoned and successful businessman friend recently gave us another pearl: “If owning a business were easy, everyone would have one.”

When you’re the boss, you get to make the rules.  You can close early; you can set policy, pricing and salaries.  Ah, the rewards of independence.

Many small business owners also work “in” the business as key employees.  I would venture to guess that most private practice hearing care providers fall into this category.  There are some who own and manage without daily duties of seeing patients and overseeing operations, but that’s not our story.

A tremendous fear that most small businesses owners wrestle with is, what will happen when they aren’t able to go to work.  This is just one of many areas where the rewards of independence are counter balanced with the risks.  We have been fortunate to be around long enough to be able to finally relax….a little bit.  But back when our family was young, just the thought of one of us becoming sick for a week or, even worse, seriously ill or disabled struck a mighty fear in our hearts.  Who would see the patients?  Who would make sure that the bills at the office were paid?  How would we be able to generate enough income to cover the fixed costs of the business, payroll and our salary?   Who would take care of our busy youngsters?  If one of us had to work and the other was unable to care for the kids, what would we do?  It often felt very risky.

I can’t tell you how many times we looked at “key man insurance.”  Generally, it is recommended that you take out a policy that covers your salary for 8-10 years….I don’t remember the exact figures, but the premiums were high…..we felt we just couldn’t afford it, and therefore elected to take the risk.

With deep gratitude I can now report that the “big one” never came our way.  And, just as fortunately, my audiology partner and husband had an uncanny knack for getting sick on a Friday.  This, of course, meant that I had to be caregiver for 4 (instead of 3) needy individuals for the weekend.  I didn’t mind one bit however, since he was usually up and at ’em (full of anti-mucosal medicine) by Monday morning.  Breathing a sigh of relief as I sent him out the door to the the office, I was thankful that we had “dodged the bullet” once again.

I mentioned earlier that we are finally able to relax a little.  The kids are grown, have great jobs, pay their own bills and have their own health insurance.  But we still have operating expenses, payroll with young families depending upon their paychecks and, naturally, our own personal bills to pay.  In business, there never really is that day when you can say, I’ve made it!

Business ownership requires a high tolerance for risk.  Entrepreneurial spirited individuals are sufficiently rewarded by the perks of independence to balance the risks.  It’s definitively not for everyone and we’ve had to “sweat it” more times than I care to remember…..but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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