Many people are surprised to learn that the Workology community is managed and maintained by an extremely small team. At present, it’s myself, my blog editor who works part-time, and a handful of freelancers that help me as needed with production, graphic design and administrative work as needed. People often assume that we are a team of 5 full time or more focused on developing content, driving engagement and ensuring that we provide resources to the larger HR and workplace community. The answer is no. My business just isn’t built that way.
I, personally haven’t ever had the desire to run a large organization. I have never wanted to be a CEO of a large analyst firm or an agency. I have always wanted to use the community to help drive change in the HR and recruitment industry. My work is squarely focused on developing content, training, and resources for the HR and recruiting practitioner while also working with vendors and service providers in the HR and recruiting industry with content development, marketing, and product and process strategy. Sure, the consulting side of my business flexes just like your business does too. Sometimes I have a client who wants me to write, research and develop 5 white papers while I simultaneously am tasked with writing and facilitating a recruiter training. I find ways to make these things work either outsourcing part of my responsibilities, changing project completion dates or recommending a friend or colleague to do the work. My work ebbs and flows so I flex as needed bringing on consultants and other contractors to fill the gaps quickly.
The Benefits and Perils Being an Entrepreneur
Operating this way means that I am committed to finding ways to maximize my productivity, stay organized yet flexible and operate on all cylinders whenever and wherever I may be. In that respect, I think I’m an awful lot like most of you. You are doing a lot with limited resources and there are only twenty-four hours in the day. The main difference from my HR and recruiting readers is that as an entrepreneur is that if I don’t perform, I don’t get paid. There is no twice a month check that is direct deposited in my checking account. If I don’t do the work that’s needed to get done, there is no money.
This is one of the main reasons that working as a freelancer, small business, consultant or entrepreneur is so damn hard. Some days are good ones where the work is easy and plentiful. And sometimes you spend days and months working towards something that isn’t a guarantee. That’s part of the rush that entrepreneurship brings. You can truly create your own destiny and make your own rules, But that independence and freedom come with risk, failure, and uncertainty. It’s been nearly 9 years since I left the comfortableness of my corporate HR job. And that feeling of uncertainty for me is almost always there. Sometimes it is front and center in what I am doing. And other times, it’s lingering quietly in the background. It took me a long time to be okay with that feeling. I just acknowledge it, focus and move on to whatever priorities and goals that I have set for myself in the long as well as short-term.
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While I mention risk, failure, and uncertainty, there is also reward: success; the rush of being completely in charge; and the choices you make are completely your own. Changes are faster and more fluid. There is no committee meeting to present your plan of action. You make a decision and begin to act, allowing you to succeed, fail, and learn quickly.
Entrepreneurs & Executives Often Suffer in Silence
The reality of this work and the risk as an entrepreneur is something that is often not discussed. We don’t want to appear weak or small to clients so we don’t openly discuss the struggles with entrepreneurship. And that’s exactly why in the past I haven’t talked about my team, our size or what it’s like to work for yourself. I find it ironic because working among the senior leadership ranks at organizations, we avoid talking about the compromises, the struggles, and our mistakes because we don’t want to appear vulnerable or unqualified. We equally don’t discuss our successes because we’re vulnerable if we do that too. It’s just now that we are “successful” the stakes are higher and the pressure to maintain that success and the expectation to achieve more weight even harder on our shoulders.
I think it’s in that vulnerability that we can truly learn from one another. Vulnerability isn’t always a weakness. It’s an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to grow, and it’s an opportunity to consider and evaluate there might be a better way.
I think there is a lot we can learn from each other because we are driven by the same things including success, passion, and focus. These businesses don’t run themselves and yet we celebrate those that simply tell us to silently “lean in” in order to be a success. Well, I don’t think I can be silent for any longer at all. Building a business whether you are an executive or entrepreneur is hard and in many ways, we are silently operating in parallel paths. Instead of focusing your workplace mentoring program solely executives and high potentials, I urge you to include a handful of entrepreneurs into the mix. Where you see politics, we see opportunity and possibility. I think we can learn a great deal from one another. We just have to extend an olive branch, start a dialogue and be open to learning from one another.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, is workplace change agent and author focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer. She's the founder of Workology. Follow her on Twitter, @jmillermerrell.