As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, it’s a good time to celebrate independence in business. The freedom involved is a primary reason why entrepreneurs go out on a limb to create their own business and become their own boss.
“For all entrepreneurs, starting a business is the route to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ no matter how risky,” Martin Zwilling says in a story for Business Insider. He calls it “the American dream.”
Here’s a look at some of different elements of the freedom that starting a small business can bring.
Freedom to be happy
There’s a word that more of us could use in our business lives. Happiness can seem elusive for people in jobs that stifle ambition. The independence gained in starting a business can go a long way toward feeling fulfilled, as Caron Beesley examines in a story for fundbox.com.
“When you dictate your own schedule and are your own boss, control is in your hands,” Beesley explains. “For many this equates to greater personal happiness. Sure there’s stress involved, but according to the Yodle Small Business Sentiment survey, more than nine in 10 respondents said they were happy to be small business owners and generally want to maintain that status, while over half (55 percent) are ‘extremely happy.’ … Another survey, this time from GoDaddy, finds that freedom is another big factor in small business owner happiness. Only a little over one-third of those surveyed said their days were structured like a regular job, while 15 percent said they could do their work in pajamas — if they so desired.”
Freedom from bureaucracy
A common frustration for employees is hitting the wall of bureaucracy, the endless hoops to jump through and clearances to gain before a new idea or concept can even be discussed. Navigating such obstacles can seem daunting, and wear on employees. But small businesses can break those walls down. Rhonda Abrams mentions this as part of her “Small Business Declaration of Independence” for Inc.com.
“You’re not a Fortune 500 company, so don’t act like one,” she writes. “Give your employees more flexibility than they could get from a big employer, and even if you work alone, set up simple ways to keep track of taxes, expenses, accounts, so you’re not controlled by paperwork.”
Freedom from office politics
Few things in business are worse than a work culture of gossip, backstabbing and general mean-spirited behavior. It’s enough to make someone want to break free and start from scratch in hopes of improving a day-to-day existence. Abrams notes that the example starts at the top.
“You started your own business so you could enjoy going to work; you certainly don’t want petty office politics, personality spats, and malicious gossip to ruin your daily life,” she says. “Treat your employees, customers, and vendors with respect, and they’re less likely to want to declare their independence from you!”
Freedom to chase dreams
This sounds like pie-in-the-sky territory, but there is beauty in having a business dream and having the courage to actually follow it. The level of satisfaction and accomplishment can be enormous. Jeannine Bottorff, who started a travel-planning business in Virginia “after struggling to find the right fit in corporate America,” is featured in Beesley’s story.
“It took me a long time to find true happiness at work,” Bottorff said. “I never felt like I fit in until I followed my passion and became a travel advisor. Now every day is exciting and rewarding. I now know why I was put on this earth — to help families relax, reconnect and create unforgettable memories through my business.”
Freedom to be creative
Here’s an incredibly important element. For people who put a premium on creativity, it is essential to have room to experiment and explore different concepts. A highly structured business that doesn’t allow for such things can suppress ideas, and create a constant cloud over employees’ heads. In a story for Entrepreneur, Diana Ransom featured several small business owners and their take on independence, including Linda Appel Lipsius, who started an organic tea company in Colorado. She describes running a business as “equally thrilling and terrifying,” but emphasizes the creative aspect.
“I use all parts of my brain, every day — and I love that,” Lipsius says. “The creativity that you get to unleash when you’re setting up and running a business is just so satisfying — it makes you feel alive.”
Freedom to develop the culture
One of the great things about starting a business is having the ability to take lessons learned from other jobs and incorporate good ideas while eliminating frustrating ones. This can range from the org chart to the dress code, and can also apply to hiring the right people. In Ransom’s Entrepreneur story, she features Loren Bendele, who started Savings.com in 2007. Bendele “values the ability to create his own company culture,” she writes, “where jeans, T-shirts are the norm — and man’s best friend are welcome in the office.”
“Creating an environment where you can control the type of people you hire and set the tone in the workplace was huge,” Bendele said. “When co-workers can enjoy each other and where they work, they work hard — not out of fear but passion.”
Freedom to be original
As with creativity, the desire to truly build something new can be a powerful thing. It’s certainly ambitious, and that sense of daring can lead to innovation. In Zwilling’s piece for Business Insider, he compares it to an artist’s process.
“A good entrepreneur feels the incentive to offer a new service/product that no one else has offered before,” he writes. “That’s the same challenge an artist feels on every new canvas, or every musician feels when composing a new work.”
Freedom to be grateful
The good feelings that can come from business independence can be significant. Sure, anyone can say that they are grateful for their job, though that may refer more to financial security than actual fulfilling work. A successful small business owner who follows a passion and creates something special can have an entirely different level of gratitude. In Abrams’ Inc.com piece, she adds the patriotic side as well. She notes that “with all the things going on in the world, with so many people who have less and suffer more,” the Independence Day holiday is an appropriate time to contemplate gratitude.
“We are fortunate, indeed, to have the freedom to pursue our goals, build our companies, and to create jobs for others,” she writes. “It’s a good time to wave the flag in gratitude.”