An entrepreneur’s life is full of memorable moments and milestones. There’s the Aha! moment when your business idea crystalizes, the lightbulb over your head snapping so that you can clearly see what it can become. There’s the day when you give your business a name and sounds electric, humming with potential. There’s the thrill of opening your first box of business cards, your new logo smartly positioned over your name and title. You celebrate these little victories—your first website, your first customer, your first dollar—and store them up in your heart like a mother with her first child.
But there is one first that should cause every entrepreneur to pause and reflect: your first day on the job as the owner of this new venture. About that day: I’ve got some good news, and some bad news.
First, the good news. Starting today, you are your own boss! Yeah! Go you! You showed them! (Whoever your “them” is, because we all have a “them.”)
Now the bad news: you are your own boss.
Think about that for a moment. You. Are. Your. Own. Boss.
This is you we’re talking about, after all. All of your faults, foibles, and follies. Nobody is going to overrule your stupid decisions, save you from your mistakes, cover for your shortcomings, backstop your budget. You know all those times when you called in sick even though you were only a little under the weather because you didn’t want to go to work that day? Good news: you don’t have to pretend anymore. No more fake coughing into the phone and making your voice sound scratchy. Don’t want to go into work today? That’s cool, don’t. You don’t need permission. You’re the boss, remember? Bad news: whatever you’re avoiding there today will be there tomorrow, only it will have had a day to get worse, because you don’t have a boss who will assign it to someone else or cover you.
You wanted to own it. Now you do. All of it. Congratulations.
The history of business (do they teach that in schools? If not, why not?) is a graveyard of companies with good ideas and intentions. But the line between liquidity and liquidation is leadership. There may be ideas so bad that no amount of leadership can turn them into winners, but there is no idea so good that bad leadership can’t cause it to crater in epic failure.
On your first day, you’ll have to be a good enough leader to hold that line. The responsibility is exactly opposite what most people imagine when they dream about being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is personal responsibility incarnated. No one restricts you, but no one rescues you, either. You get to discover just how shrewd you are, and how well you can perform. Talent is nothing but potential, results are the only things that count. You write your own review, which means you have no one to criticize you unfairly, but you also have no one to tell you when you are doing a terrible job. You find that out from your customers.
Are you ready to be responsible for this business?