Unfortunately this is the unspoken exit strategy for most business owners, now and historically.

A committed business owner does not have the luxury to quit, get fired or change jobs. He or she must stick it out no matter what.

Working long hours is a given. Working 40 hours by Wednesday at 4 pm is the norm.

But being always vigilant and managing risk is what takes the real toll.

Managing all risks both controllable and uncontrollable weigh heavy and never end. A vital role of an owner is being a sentinel...always alert and on watch duty. Keeping your business profitable and sustainable is the all consuming passion.

Dealing with the controllable threats is part of the job...
..being the number two contestant in a high stakes RFP pitch.
..a project manager missing an important deadline.
...a promising new account rep quitting to return to his former employer.
...a vital programmer calling out sick on a big project launch day.

And it is only Tuesday...

Dealing with the uncontrollable threats like...
..the torturous and shameful four year financial and economic  collapse.
...major bank and credit card agency failures.
..back breaking tax and spend policies.
...pitiful global leaders who want to emulate their storybook historical conquering heroes.

And this is 2014 already...

Owning and managing a profitable business is the ultimate competitive challenge. I often warn aspiring entrepreneurs not to do this unless they are fully committed in all aspects of their life...and are prepared to lose everything.

Most businesses fail or fall short of meeting expectations. There can be very good times and times when you feel like you are improvising on the edge of the abyss. There is a great thrill of being able to live and support a family on your own investments and skills, however doing this is not for the faint of heart.

Most business owners I have known do not have storied "happy endings" per se. That is mostly stuff for magazines and the planning story preached by well-meaning lawyers and financial advisors.

There are many winners and local business heroes of course. But most of us generally keep our heads down and keep on with our daily "pick and shovel" duties as long as we can. Taking some time off, paying our bills, helping our kids grow up well and being a solid citizen are our general rewards. Being able to pass the business to family members is dreamed of but I believe most businesses are sold at amounts less than hoped for and at unplanned times.

This is a brief, unvarnished look at the thrills and chills of owning a business from a long time insider. Owning and growing a profitable business is a fundamental part of the American Dream and a Constitutional right. Millions of us gladly and willingly embark on this perilous path for the exhilaration of being independent and for a chance to selling out at a very good price. Working independently can be achieved, but the elusive challenge is doing this while also attaining the financial exit strategy you want or dream of.

Work very hard, be vigilant and manage all risks and carefully plan. There's no denying that it's a difficult path, but with hard work, careful management, a great product and a little bit of luck, there's no limit to how much you can achieve. It's the great American dream, and for many of us, it's irresistible.

Jim Ludlow

About Jim Ludlow

A founding father of Liquid, with dozens of published articles, a nationally-recognized personal investment book and decades of sound business practices quietly notched behind his name, Jim’s mere presence conjures a sense of confidence and integrity. He leads by example, encouraging each of us to push harder, continually improve, execute wisely and use our collective talents to bolster client growth.

Published Mar 25, 2014