The difference between a business and a job …

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You already know that I won the business lottery!

[Let’s face it, some guys have all the luck: It took me just 7 years to build a $7 million real-estate, business, and investment portfolio from worse than scratch (I was $30k in debt when I started). Then, I managed to sell my businesses (in the USA, Australia and New Zealand) just before the market crashed. On the other hand, I’m only 5 ft 4 inches tall and balding … so, things have a way of balancing themselves out.]

So, now I get lots of people who are clearly excited when they tell me that they are “also in business” … except that they aren’t!

Mostly, they’re just working 60 to 80 hours a week – on little to no pay – for the toughest boss of all: themselves.

Worse … their spouses!

Let me give you a couple of real-life examples that should help to explain:

Peter Hastings, who already owns the antiques store right next door, opens a sandwich shop at 2264 North Lincoln Avenue. A quaint sandwich shop that he decorates with many of the items from his antique store. The shop thrives and provides Peter with a nice income for the next 20 years, when he sells it. Peter, with his two little businesses, has carved out a nice niche for himself. He was careful with his money, both before and after ‘retirement’, so – after 20+ years of hard but fulfilling work – he can finally afford to take it a little easier.

Bryant Keil buys a sandwich shop; it’s uniquely (and, quaintly) decorated, it’s in a nice location, had one owner who is selling in order to wind down a little after ‘working’ the business for 20 years. Bryant buys the little shop and develops a franchise model around it. Within 10 years, Bryant has “over 200 stores, in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Kentucky, and Wisconsin.” Bryant is now a billionaire.

So, if you own a little sandwich shop – or, the online equivalent (here’s how you spell it: B-L-O-G) – don’t bother me with the details … it’s nice that you’re keeping yourself busy, but I’ll get bored listening to your story.

But, if you’re working on the next Potbelly Sandwich Works – or, the online equivalent (F-A-C-E-B-O-O-K) – drop me a line and don’t spare the gory details … I’m listening to every single word you say!

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9 thoughts on “The difference between a business and a job …

  1. I’ll meet you half way on this one, if you work for yourself you get (at least) two things which you are unlikely to get working for someone else (i) the possibility that you could grow the business into something bigger and (ii) the experience to actually run all (or most) aspects of a business (rather than the much narrower skill set that comes from doing a “job” for someone else.

    Of course, this is not true for every situation – being a partner in a professional services firm makes you a business owner but the reality is you are still just grinding out the billable hours.

  2. why an online business? I am starting a brick and mortar business,which will be a real business(one that can be run without my presence) this is the only real business. If you must be there day to day to run things,you’ve simply got a job,that some call a business.
    In about a year or year and a half, I expect to start (or purchase) a second business,later selling them for a nice profit once built up.

    I have some online things in the works,but don’t consider them businesses. They just more or less help me connect with others,in a fun way I suppose.Making connections is always a good thing.You never know when they might be helpful in the future.Or not.

  3. @ Steve – I’m more aiming these 2 posts at readers still Working For The Man (i.e. full-time job) … an online business is an ideal intro to the fine world of business because it can be started part-time, is not geo-centric, need have no staff, and costs next to nothing to set up.

  4. I think the first guy with the sandwich shop has both; he has a job in his own business. It’s still a business, whether he chooses to work in it(his job) or if he decides to hire someone to run it for him, or if he decides to sell it. It’s still a business. I’m in the same situation right now myself. I own half of my practice so I’m holding a job in it(with far, far more freedom than I would have if I had a true job in the corporate world), but in a year i’ll own it 100%, then i’ll have the freedom to practice in it to help people, keep my skills up and do it for enjoyment, or I’ll have the freedom to pay someone else to run it. Or, i’ll have the freedom to sell it, etc…

    It’s still a business because it’s a business entity that you own and you can simply make a choice about how you want to ‘work on it’ or ‘work in it’, or both! 😉

  5. Scott,you must understand. There is a definition for a business. A true business can be a corp,or LLC or whatever, but it MUST be structured so as to allow you to walk away for say a year,and when you return,this business is still thriving (and even growing).If this so called business is not structured so you can walk away, you have a job not a business. Take my Boss’s business for instance, the way it is structured,he is on the phone (while on vacation) and giving orders. He hires people to run this thing,then tells you on the phone I don’t want you making any decisions,I will make all decisions.This is not structured so as to allow him to actually walk away. If he were gone for a year,the thing would fall apart ,simply because he won’t allow anyone to actually be in charge. So he thinks he has a business(had to pay workers comp,taxes,do the ordering,keep track on every little detail) just like a business,but the difference is he is stuck there not really free.If I owned this business, it would be structured to be a true business,with competent People in key positions to run things while I was not there.

  6. @ Scott – most of these owner-run businesses don’t / can’t run without their owners; but, there ARE things you can do to change that situation … just look at Bryant. And, maybe you – one day 😉

    But, there was a LOT that he had to change and do just to open shops # 2 & # 3, probably a lot more than he had to do to open shops #4 thru’ # 200!

    @ Steve – “he is on the phone (while on vacation) and giving orders.” … even though I had 130+ employees in 3 countries, that was still me! I hated it 🙁

  7. Oh I completely understand Steve. But that’s exactly what I mean. In the first example, the owner of the sandwich shop could easily do what the second guy did, at least for his one shop or maybe 2 or three. It’s a simple decision that he has the freedom to make. You don’t have that freedom if you work at say, Office Max or something, but here, he has that freedom(he might not have the knowledge that he can do it, lol).

    My current business partner has done this so many different ways, depending on his particular mood of the year. Some years, he’s been right there in the trenches of his practice or practices, going back and forth working between them. Other years, he’s had associates run ALL of them while he spent a year traveling the entire globe, visiting every country and came back weathier because those other associates were busy little bees running those clinics for their personal performance-based bonuses and he got richer while taking pictures of Rome.

    These offices, including mine are set up as PSC’s. Like I said though, i’m just counting the days, this time next year i’ll be taking complete ownership of my office and the first thing i’ll do is hire an associate and take time off while I still invest, then come back refreshed, open up number 2 and repeat. But the beauty is, at any given moment I can jump right in and see patients and help when I want to, but the ‘business’ didn’t change, I just decided whether or not I wanted to have a “job” in it in any particular week, lol.

  8. Adrian – I definitely see what you mean about how owner 2 had to make a LOT of changes just to open sandwich shop number 2 and 3. It was the business model that he changed(organized, so that it could easily be duplicated over and over), then once that ball got to rolling, he could do it in multiples with ease, relatively speaking. Good stuff!

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