I’ve admitted it openly, both to myself and to the Facebook universe: I want to start another business. I don’t have the details worked out, but I know I want to do it. My entrepreneurial blood has felt confined and restrained for quite some time; I need to give it room to spill, as it were. So, I’m giving serious thought to what I might want to pursue as a business. I have a thousand ideas. But the first thing I must do is talk to my wife about it (you and I are among the first (aside from the Facebook universe) to know of this revelation and she is not yet privy to my admission).
Once that’s done, I need to examine my bank accounts. Might I need to borrow money? Beg? Break into bank vaults? Sell neighbors’ homes while they are away on vacation? Needless to say (I hope), I shall do nothing immoral or illegal, but I might have to adjust my lifestyle. But my first priority (aside from deciding what it is I want to do) is to do whatever it is on a shoestring. That’s how I started my association management company. I quit my job, took $10,000 from savings, and vowed to build a business. And I did. I never took another penny from our personal accounts. When all was said and done, that $10,000 brought in many, many, many, many times its value over the fourteen years we ran the businesses. I’ve never calculated our total revenue, nor our cumulative “take home,” but both were significant. Luck played a part. But I will say with conviction that most of our success flowed from hard work.
But I veer off the path, as I am wont to do. I am not planning this new endeavor, whatever it is, to generate an enormous amount of cash. I can’t afford for it to be a cash drain, either, but a modest income would be not only appreciated but expected. Might this be a flash in the pan? A spark that doesn’t ignite? Yep. Could be. But tonight I don’t feel that’s the case. Tonight, I feel the spark igniting the flame up and down my spine.
Now, what does that flame want to burn? I’ve actually thought about candles (another ex association executive friend bought a soap and candle business after retiring). And I’ve considered hot dogs (yeah, but I have some GREAT ideas!). I’ve thought about creating and selling my own line of rubs for BBQ and smoking. I’ve even thought of creating my version of a Third Place. Oh, there are more. Many more. I’m nothing if not prolific with ideas about businesses I’d like to create under the right circumstances. I’ve even considered organizing group travel, wherein my clients would rely on me to organize and orchestrate trips to exotic/interesting places and I would rely on them to fund trips for my wife and me and add a little extra to the bank account. There are SO many more. I’ve heard so many times how it’s much harder to start a business than I might imagine; this from people who have not started a business, telling someone who has started more than one that he’s deluding himself. Am I drifting to another topic again? Excuse me.
One thing is clear to me. I do NOT want to ever again be in the association management business. I do not want to be in a business remotely like the association management business. My self-respect is too important to me; it took me a long time to regain it after leaving a business that required me to advocate for causes in which I not only did not believe, but actively though immoral. I do not know if I’ll ever get over having been the amoral lobbyist-equivalent who suppressed or betrayed his own beliefs in return for paychecks or payments.
In the past, I was insistent that my businesses would be MINE! I did not want to share the glory with someone else. For a time, I considered allowing my staff to buy in to my association management company, in fact I even offered it up as an option, but no one stepped up. It does require an entrepreneurial spirit and a tolerance for a certain degree of risk. My staff members, with one exception, didn’t have those characteristics. The one who had was only slightly infected. I ended up urging her to submit a proposal to one of my clients (which she had managed) to provide management services. She got it! And she’s still with them. But she looks at it, I think, as just a paycheck, not as the first rung on a ladder. Such is life. Today, I’d consider partners.
I may be too old to seriously consider this stuff. I’ll be sixty-five in October. What?! I still feel like I’m in my late thirties or early forties, tops, save for my arthritic elbows and knees and ankles and wrists and the enormous belly that hides my feet from view unless I implement extreme measures. I’m not yet collecting Social Security. My wife is, but we’ve agreed I’ll wait until I’m 70 so we can maximize our benefits. So, except for her monthly income, we’re living off savings. And here I am, Mr. Entrepreneur, wanting to start a business of some kind simply because he needs to feel productive and not so bloody old! What the hell am I thinking? I’ll tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking I don’t want to just rot away. I don’t want to be a member of society whose only contributions are tax dollars. And I don’t want to be a member of society whose contributions parallel available “charitable time giving” opportunities. People who give their time are marvelous; we need them. But I am not, for the moment, them. I need to do something else. I need to be productive an innovative and able to delay my old age for as long as I can. I guess that’s it, in a nutshell. I’m becoming a bit afraid of being old.
When I turned sixty, I had my first and only experience of being absolutely depressed by my birthday. Until then, they were basically meaningless. I shrugged off the “you’re getting older” birthday cards. They meant nothing. But when I turned sixty, something changed. I was depressed for a week. But then intellect kicked in and I got over that in a hurry. Sixty was nothing, I decided. But now, as I approach sixty-five, I feel different. It’s “retirement age.” Even though I retired at fifty-eight, I didn’t feel retired. As I approach sixty-five, I feel like society is effectively putting me out to pasture. I’m looking forward to Medicare, but only because I am sure it will put money in my pocket compared to the legalized thievery that provides my insurance now. But that’ the only positive thing.
I want to run another business. I want to be productive and I want to prove that I’ve still “got it.” That’s pathetic, isn’t it? I don’t know, maybe it’s not. I ascribe motives to my own actions that I don’t seem to feel inside. But I look at myself as if I were someone else and I don’t like what I see. And I do ascribe motives to what I want to do. But I argue against them. I argue and argue and argue. I haven’t won the argument yet. But I haven’t lost, either.
What is it? Is it an entrepreneurial flame or an effort to defer the inevitable? God, I do love the idea of being an entrepreneur; I always have. But I’ve also always dreaded the idea that I, too, would be old and valueless one day. What’s my motive?