Is That Your Title or Your Entitlement?
Everyone seems to be a founder and CEO. Everyone seems to have some off-the wall "Chief-something-or-another" on their business card these days. They're a networking mastermind, an entrepreneur, a social media expert or whatever else is the trending topic of the day. I don't understand the obsessions with titles. It's as if we need a catchy business card or an Instagram bio to validate our signficance in the world. It's crazy.
Let me be clear with you. In the last four years, I believe I've called myself all of those things. In fact, I believe my Entrepreneur contributor badge still says I'm CEO of 7twelve Media. For all intents and purposes, that's true. I've since taken it off my social media profiles, not because I've demoted myself or I'm assuming less responsibility. I've taken it off because as much as I feel like I've accomplished, I also feel as if I haven't done anything, yet.
Don't get me wrong, I definitely have to play the part, and it's not an easy one. I'm not writing this for anyone who has actually made it, by the way. I'm writing this for everyone in the "idea" phase. I'm writing for everyone in the "get-this-off-the-ground" phase. And I'm writing this for anyone who thinks that being a "boss" means you have it easy.
In my opinon, being a boss means you get to work harder, teach more and eat more shit than anyone else in your company.
I've worn all the hats so far.
As cofounder and operator, I've done the cold calling, the marketing, the branding, the accounting and I even take the trash out and run coffee for my employees. By the way, I haven't just done the nitty gritty for myself, I've done it for our clients as well. I still do.
Over the past four years, I've come to learn that there is so much more to running a business than building an Instagram following or having a YouTube channel. I've definitely learned that there's more to owning a business than just saying you own a business. You actually have to run the business. That means you have to drive sales, stay on the forefront of your industry, innovate, keep your clients happy, and keep your employees happy. It means you have to make sure the WiFi works, make sure your office isn't too cold (or too hot) and lead by example. Do you think your employees will be fired up to give you 100 percent if you're rolling in at noon when they are required to be at work at 8:00 am? Fired up, maybe. But not in a good way.
Start-up life is a good life, but no one said it would be easy.
I understand that our businesses are probably a little different. I run a client service, digital marketing agency with a team of seven. You may be starting a product line, a SAAS or an app. I won't even attempt to speak on what it's like to run business like that because the bottom line is, I have no clue. What I do know is that there is one constant that will define you more than your LinkedIn profile -- and that's your work ethic.
A lot of business owners I've run into seem to be more obsessed with the title than actually operating their business. They seem to be more about the idea of running a business than actually doing it. Everyone wants to build an empire, but they don't really know what it takes. I'll be the first to say I don't know what it takes to build an empire. I've never done it, so how would I?
What I do know is how to grow a team of two to a team of seven in four years. I know how to overcome insanely formidable challenges. I know the importance of company culture and how it can dramatically increase or decrease the productivity of your team. I know how to generate revenue in my space and use it effectively to exploit the strenghts of my team. I know that to get this far, I've worked harder physically and emotionally than I ever have in my entire life.
I also know how to stay in the black. I heard that's pretty important in running a business.
Does that make me a CEO? I don't know; I guess it depends on who you ask. Does that mean I've run a successful business? I don't know; it depends. To me, it means I've grown a business over four years. Success is subjective, and I'm no where near where I want to be, and my company is no where near where I see it going. So as I said earlier, I know I've accomplished a lot, but I equally feel like I haven't done anything at all. I'll tell you what though, I'm not going to use a title or an idea to validate my signficance.
Related: You Don't Need to Be Perfect
I'm not writing this to dismiss your ideas or what you've accomplished. I'm really not. What I really hope you're able to take away from this is from one business owner to another, evaluate your motives and intentions. What are you truly working for? Why are you really doing what you do? If you don't know the answer to those two questions, a title means nothing. I've seen enough ups and downs from peers and colleagues, and I've seen what a real kick in the stomach from a downfall in their business can look like, and I don't want that for anyone.
So before you jump ship or update your bio, ask yourself a couple things. Are you ready for everything that comes with the title? Are you ready for the rollercoaster ride of owning a business? Are you ready to be more real with yourself than you ever have been? If the answer is yes, then I'm rooting for you. If the answer is yes, and you've gotten this far into the article, I'll have our graphic designer put together a logo for you, for free. Seriously. Just tweet me.