I read an article somewhere online today that listed 20 things everyone should accomplish in his or her lifetime. I read through the list, just out of curiosity, not that I thought I needed another to-do list to work on. I was expecting rather grandiose and unattainable dictates, so I was mildly surprised at how basic the list was. It included things like Keep a journal (yes I do), Get your heart broken (how many times does it take?), Take a leap of faith (every time I get on the treadmill), Adopt a pet (do kids count?). Of the twenty items, I had actually accomplished 15. Not bad. There are a couple I probably won’t get to such as Live in a foreign country (not that I’d be opposed to a short stint in Europe) and Go wilderness camping (regular camping is bad enough). Oh! and Take a sabbatical unless being involuntarily unemployed counts, but the true version I don’t see happening anytime soon unless I strike it rich in the lottery. My last winning ticket was only $4.00 so I don’t put much hope in that.
The first item on the list was Own a business. I have to say that is one thing I am grateful to have done. I’ve actually owned a couple businesses over the years. One was in decorative painting that I started on a whim, mostly. I enjoy art and painting and thought I’d give it a go for extra income in conjunction with my full-time job. I put an ad in the local newspaper and got a call from a lady asking if I could paint a couple of white columns in her house to look like marble. Of course! I told her, and then proceeded to figure out how to do it since I’d never done it before. Thankfully, she loved it and hired me a couple more times. I eventually got connected with an interior designer and my business took off. I painted in homes, in restaurants, in other businesses and basically learned along the way based on what people requested. Metal doors to look like wood, walls to look like animal print, lots of marble and stone look-alikes and murals. Murals were my favorite. I’m proud of the fact that I built a business that lasted for many years off of one ad in a newspaper and word of mouth. I learned a lot. But not as much as I learned with the second business I’ve had. My ex-husband and I owned a heating and air conditioning business that we started out of the basement of our house. He knew the trade, and I have to admit, he was good at it. I helped with marketing and as an extra pair of hands whenever needed. In a matter of a couple years, we were able to move the business into a rented space and eventually into a warehouse we bought. We made it an official corporation and hired employees and equipment and trucks and even expanded into a second office space. We eventually reached a million dollars in business. It was quite an accomplishment. It was also quite a learning experience.
There is a daily struggle that comes with business ownership that is unlike the daily grind of a normal 8-5 job. When you are solely responsible for earning not only your own living, but the livelihood of people you’ve hired, there is a weight on your shoulders that never goes away. It’s a 24/7 proposition. Oftentimes hiring someone to do the extras doesn’t always pay out, so you end up doing a lot of the details yourself. I learned how to make and install duct work, and help set air conditioners and boilers, and sometimes went with on midnight emergency calls because two sets of hands were needed. I helped reroof our commercial building with metal sheeting. I learned how to do payroll and talk with vendors and call customers about unpaid bills and spent weekends manning a booth at fairs. I made countless runs to pick up supplies in various towns. There was never a moment when there wasn’t something to do. And yet, in crunch time, when the money doesn’t come in as quickly as it goes out, paying yourself is often last on the list. Funny how that happens.
Ultimately, we sold the HVAC business. That also had its own special lesson. And my painting business fizzled out over time, especially after I moved. I don’t regret either one overall. The best teacher is experience and I now know what I know. Owning a business is both a blessing and a curse. And it isn’t for everyone, so I don’t necessarily agree with its inclusion on the internet to-do list. I’m glad it was on mine though.