By Younas Chaudhary
In the late seventies, when I launched our first oil and gas company with my brother, it did not take long for us to part ways. I wanted to be my own boss in a private company, while he wanted to secure the support of external investors and build and operate a public company.
Later, in the eighties, I joined hands with a few investors and learned the value of going solo the hard way. When oil prices were high, my investors were very happy, but as soon as oil prices fell, they started blaming me rather than the volatile energy market. Luckily, I bought them out with the help of their lender, oil prices rose, and I was able to make a handsome profit out of the assets, even after paying off all the loans. Following that experience, I decided to go on my own and never again wanted to involve outside investors.
And ever since, I have been a lone ranger, a calculated risk-taker, and a fairly unemotional dealmaker. When I lose deals, I ponder them for a day or two and then never look back; and when I win deals, I keep the celebration and joy to a modest level.
According to Winston Ibrahim in an article in Fast Company: “I fundamentally believe there’s never really a ‘wrong’ time to start a business. Either way, you are going to face challenges. Either way, you are going to have to deal with some level of competition. So instead of waiting for the perfect time, you might as well dive right in.”
When I started out, I faced lots of challenges, and I did not have any dream of building a big business or of making an insane amount of money. Instead, through a lot of hard work, consistency, and perseverance, I grew my business steadily over the years in a stable manner, despite a highly volatile market.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in 2017, 67 percent of business owners who employed workers founded their business, while another 22 percent purchased their business. A small percentage of owners obtained their businesses through a gift or inheritance.
I relied on banks to finance my businesses rather than involve any external investors, as I felt it was more convenient and I did not want to answer to multiple bosses. Slowly, my confidence grew in operating my business independently, and my business gave me ample opportunities to be creative and innovative.
I learned most of my business operations through trial-and-error, spending countless hours in the oilfields in oil production areas trying to learn the oilfield operations, since I had not studied them in the past. With just a B.A. in Economics and no formal education in engineering or geology or experience as a landman, I learned the intricacies of operating oil and gas wells and production mostly through observation.
I could do what I wanted to do, which was good for me given my independent streak. There were no partners to answer to, and I knew I was 100% accountable for my actions. I was able to make split second decisions without having to consult with or get the permission of any investors or partners. I had freedom.
Likewise, the risks and rewards were equally high—they each impacted me 100%. If I won a deal, I would win it all, and if I lost it, I would lose it all, unlike in partnerships where the gains and losses are distributed pro rata. But the joy of a gain and the agony of a loss made me a better person.
If you are planning to go on your own, what are you waiting for? According to Brandon Gaille, host of the popular Blog Millionaire podcast, ten traits that suggest you should go on your own are having perseverance, creativity, risk taking ability, multi-talentedness, a visionary outlook, the ability to handle criticism, a strong sense of purpose, frugality, simplicity, and focus. Let me add one of my favorites: having consistency—that is, showing up when you need to and taking a hands-on approach to problem-solving.
Starting a business and being your own boss require sacrifices and are not for the faint-hearted. It is a 24×7 operation, but you can do it. As author Farrah Gray says: “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”
Here are a few tips to help you if you plan to be your boss:
- Be clear on what you want to do and have a passion for it.
- Try to solve a problem that your target audience has.
- Do not jump into the fray without understanding your market.
- Choose a personal business model – independent owner, freelancer, consultant, or contract worker.
- Build a solid business plan about which you are personally passionate and go with it.
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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.