By Michael Gunther

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to numerous business owners who are questioning the value of being business owners. They are all running companies with less than 25 employees (the same size as more than 90% of all US businesses) and each person is the key leader and driver of his or her business.

They wonder if all the hard work, stresses of dealing with employees, the economy, new competition, and ever present cash flow management issues is all really worth the price. Surprisingly, they all seemed to envy the thought of working for someone else…leaving at 5 o’clock every day, and not having to worry about payroll, business growth, people issues and the like.

Over this same period, I spoke to two individuals who have both sold their businesses within the past couple of years. One now works temporarily for an organization, and realizes how much he enjoys being on a team, but at the same time really misses the freedom he had as the business owner. The other is in year two of a five year contract, working with the company that bought her business. She is immensely frustrated and unhappy having to be part of a larger organization after twenty years of being the business owner—even though this is what she thought she wanted.

This contrast between the conversations with current owners and past owners reminded me of the quote, “the grass is always greener.” I must admit, being a business owner myself for the last 20 years, that I’ve had similar thoughts at times…wouldn’t it be great to work for a larger organization and not carry all the stress of running and building my own company? But usually those feelings come up when I realize there is something I need to address or deal with in my business. For me, it has become a kind of barometer of my business’ well-being. Once I understood this, it allowed me to realize that maybe it was time to step back and figure out what I’m avoiding dealing with or what needs more attention in my business.

I truly love being a business owner, and the growth I can provide my team, my clients, and even myself. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I bet the owners I spoke with recently who thought the “grass was greener” and weren’t sure they wanted to continue leading their businesses may just need to address what is really happening within themselves and their organizations. I would venture to guess these owners often feel lonely at the top. I know I have many times. We often have a self-imposed belief that as the leader we are supposed to have all the answers, and yet, we don’t. No one does.

In fact, I just read a survey from the Graduate School of Stanford Business that nearly two-thirds of CEO’s do not receive outside leadership advice—yet nearly all want it. A little more than 96% of those who have hired a coach or advisor said they agree (some even strongly agree) that it was an enjoyable and valuable process. Yet, less than 40% of them shared their progress or experience with others. Those stats made me wonder if business owners associate asking for outside help a sign of weakness. If the best athletes know a good coach can take them to a new level, why are leaders of businesses less willing to be as vulnerable and ask for help?

Bottom Line

As an owner or leader, when you start having a “grass is greener” mentality, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what’s really happening with your leadership and business. Maybe it’s time to get a new perspective and hire a coach or advisor to move you to the next level.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ― Criss Jami

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. 

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