What if you Don’t Like Your Role in Your own Business Anymore?

“I was sitting on the front steps of the salon thinking ‘If I kill myself I could get out of the lease’” he told me.

I had a hairdresser a few years ago who was fantastic. I found him by accident sometime in the middle of being pregnant and waking up one morning thinking “I need a fresh haircut NOW!” (has this happened to anyone else?).

I called a local salon and they told me Marc (not his real name), had an appointment that day. Thus began the next six years that he cut my hair.

He had moved to Houston from another large city recently where he was very well established and had even appeared as the hair person on a popular make-over show a few times. But hairdressing is very location specific and he was in the process of re-establishing himself in Houston, thus my luck in finding his schedule open. The next time I saw him, he was at another, even nicer salon and had raised his rates.

The NEXT time I saw him, it was after I got an email he was opening his own place, excitingly, a few blocks from my house.

I went to see him and the salon was beautiful, the people were incredibly nice, and everyone was congratulating him. He made it! He had his own salon! No more “renting” a chair and giving a % of his work to the salon owner when he was the one bringing in the clients. It felt good. It felt like he had arrived he told me.

Three years later, with no warning, I drove by the salon and saw that it had been re-painted and had a new name. What?

I reached out and he gave the name of the new place he was at and told me he’d explain when he saw me.

His latest salon was literally the nicest place I’ve ever gotten my hair cut. It had its own secret elevator. It opened into a lobby with hair products displayed like a museum, herringbone wood floors, huge chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on an expensive shopping area. It was like being in an antique Paris apartment (in Houston!). Even the hairdresser stations were classy.

But of course, all I was thinking about was what the heck had happened with his salon?!?

I knew it had been super busy, had great reviews, and a loyal clientele. Why could it have closed?

As he cut my hair he started to tell me about how quickly the honeymoon wore off once the salon opened.

He told me about how stressful he found it to manage a team, particularly one that was made up of a mix of employees and contractors who had different expectations.

He loved working with clients, but it was hard to enjoy because he was constantly interrupted with questions about things like supplies or logistics for the salon. His partner had taken on some of the managing responsibilities, but they hadn’t anticipated working together in that capacity and it wasn’t proving to be a great arrangement for their relationship or the salon.

At the same time, while financially things were going reasonably well, he told me he had felt a constant worry that somehow everything might be just a month from falling apart and not being able to pay staff or make rent (even when this wasn’t actually the case, it felt as if it was).

After all this, he said the moment of reckoning was when he found himself sitting on the front steps of the teal salon, in front of the beautiful flower-filled window boxes, thinking killing himself would be a way out of his lease.

At that moment he realized he was literally contemplating death as a better option over continuing to run a successful salon.

It was time to do something.

I want to pause this story for a moment to highlight something. There are lots of things in our culture that we celebrate. Owning your own place. Having your name on the door. Running a financially successful business. It’s the dream, right? So many people struggle to get there, and then you do!

But here’s the secret no one talks about.

When you go from doing a trade or skill as a freelancer, independent service provider, or contractor, to scaling to a business with employees and greater reach, your role changes overnight.

Yes, ultimately the service you’re providing to your customers remains the same, but you are now primarily a business executive and a manager instead of primarily a technician managing yourself and your own time.

We glorify the latter, which makes it really hard for someone who moves into this role and realizes they don’t enjoy it, to figure out how to extract themselves without feeling like it’s a personal failure and something is wrong with them.

It’s not a failure if you don’t enjoy running a company! It means that’s a role or a skill set you don’t enjoy or doesn’t play to your zone of genius. Period. It means nothing else. It’s a case of just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you want to.

This is particularly hard if you’re doing well financially, as my hairdresser was. He felt incredibly selfish for wanting to shut down a business that was supporting others’ livelihoods.

In the end, he realized something needed to be done quickly or things were not going to end well.

Through his network, he found another hairdresser who was willing to take over the last two years of his lease. He made call after call to help his employees find new spots at other local salons. He and his partner prepared to use savings if needed while he transitioned and paid a few penalties for early termination on contracts.

He told me he didn’t regret anything. When I saw him at his new high-end home, he was full of energy.

He and his partner were preparing to take their first vacation in three years. He had an intern assistant helping him, but didn’t have to find or manage this person. He laughed and joked as he did my hair and talked about how much easier it was to sleep at night and that he loved having more control over his personal schedule.

At this salon, he was charging enough to work just four days a week and not worried about the salon running well when he wasn’t there on the other three. He laughed and told me that ironically, his personal take-home pay was not that much different since he was working in a place that supported higher rates and clients willing to pay them because he’s great at what he does.

Now, I want to pause again to be clear, all the things that he found stressful and disliked about owning the salon are things you could work through, there are solutions. And in fact, when my clients do decide to scale, these are the kinds of issues we work on. And some of my clients thrive in this new role, and it’s the very goal they are aiming for when they start their businesses!

What I want to make clear is that sometimes you try it and then realize it’s not creating the life you want.

I want to say loud and clear here, in those cases,it’s ok to scale down!

In my approach, that’s the whole point of having your own business is to:

  • Do work you feel matters
  • Meet your personal financial goals
  • Create a life you enjoy

If one of those is out of whack, something has to change.

Sometimes the solution is scaling up and getting more help and growing into a new role.

But sometimes, it’s realizing that a simple structure to your work makes you happiest, and returning to it.

Do what works for you. You are the boss of this! ????



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