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The Startup Experience: Being the Business

Probably one of the most intriguing aspects of starting a family-owned business is how it changes both the family dynamic and the individuals involved.

In my previous posts, The Startup Experience: Getting Off the Ground and The Startup Experience: Daily Challenges, Surprises, I discussed the more practical aspects of starting a business, such as securing vendors and outsourcing the payroll taxes. However, the day-to-day work of building Alliance Memory changed my family and me as much as we changed the business.

No matter how you slice it, the transition from working in a large Fortune 500 company to owning a small family business can be a bit tough. Lots of things you have come to count on in your work environment no longer exist — hot coffee, clean restrooms, office supplies — and it's now up to you to provide them.

In the beginning, these details did nothing but take time away from building Alliance Memory. However, as time went on, a sense of pride took over, and those mundane tasks are now part of the joy of running my own business, much like the joy in keeping my own home. In fact, the Alliance Memory office has come to really feel like home, much more so than the sterile office buildings I came from.

Another mindset that quickly needed adjusting was my sense of responsibility. Going to work every day for large corporations, my responsibility was to the company since they paid me to do my share. As a small business owner, on the surface, you could say that I'm working for myself and my employees work for me. However, it's really much more than that.

My employees are my responsibility, and this fact enters into every decision that I make. It becomes very personal to make decisions for the company, because if they are wrong, it could negatively impact my employees — who are an extension of my family. For David and me, it has really made us stop and think about how our business is run. We have people who have given up the security of larger organizations to work for us, so we have to make sure their livelihood is secure. The responsibility feels so much greater than going to work and putting in the effort to get your job done well. Now everything we do has the potential to affect families we truly care about.

Looking back seven years later and the success that has resulted from all our hard work, there really isn't much that I would change about the startup experience with Alliance Memory. The only thing that David and I really miss is downtime.

Owning a business is an all-consuming thing, so it's difficult to have an evening when the topic of work doesn't come up or the laptops aren't open to answer emails. It really does take over all aspects of your life, and you find yourself accessible at all times by employees in other parts of the world who are trying to do their jobs for you.

When the phone rings in the middle of the night because someone in Asia needs an answer, they apologize for waking me. I always feel like I should say, “Thank you for waking me. I appreciate that you are doing your job now rather than putting it off until it's convenient for me.” The truth is, being a productive company isn't convenient. But with the right attitude and the right people, it sure is a lot of fun and well worth the work you put in.

32 comments on “The Startup Experience: Being the Business

  1. Himanshugupta
    July 30, 2013

    Thanks Kimberly for sharing your experiences. I enjoyed and learned from your experiences in previous posts. It is true that working in or for a startup feels like working in a family. Most of the people own responsibility rather than doing job as the mission, vision and path forward is clear.

  2. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    July 30, 2013

    Thanks for the reminder that not every or even most businesses in the supply chain are behemoths. I'd love to know how define your corproate culture overall and how you transmit taht to your employees.

  3. elctrnx_lyf
    July 31, 2013

    This is truly inspiring to hear how much you as an employer care about your employees. I think the business is all about being humble to customers and to employees. There is no other satisfaction than feeling busy all the time wearing many caps as HR, Finance and CEO.

  4. ahdand
    July 31, 2013

    @Hailey: Yes the transformation of the information will be the key factor here.      

  5. SunitaT
    July 31, 2013

     Independence is a big plus when regulating a small business, but it also has a downside to it. When the business hits a trough, i.e it runs in loss, the working capital is reduced. 

  6. SunitaT
    July 31, 2013

    Running a small family business has slow improvement. Mostly in getting access to raw materials. Secondly, since the business does not run on a policy framework adopted by larger companies, employee-employer relationships are not developed on a business-profit level.

  7. SunitaT
    July 31, 2013

    Running a small family business without providing job security can be disappointing for employees. However small family businesses benefit from having warm relations with employees. Trust is a big word when running a small, growing business. Employees often tend to stay in the company even when they have better options available, solely because of the healthy atmosphere.

  8. Himanshugupta
    July 31, 2013

    Being busy all the time and having own business can take a big hit on the social and family priorities. The fact that you are so involved in day-to-day operations and every small detail that you do not get time to spend with the children and friends. It can go on for sometime but ultimate you need to stop micromanaging the company and be involved only in stategic decision making.

  9. Himanshugupta
    July 31, 2013

    Things can go either way for employees working in a small company. If the company goes faster than expected then employees also get opportunity to expand their wings and take on the sky but if the company is not going well even for a short term then employees get frustrated and can plan to leave for “better” prospects.

  10. Daniel
    July 31, 2013

    from employee side aprt from satisfaction, perks are also important. I think better pay and perks can bring more cheers.

  11. Daniel
    July 31, 2013

    “Probably one of the most intriguing aspects of starting a family-owned business is how it changes both the family dynamic and the individuals involved.”

    Kimberly, family business has its own advantages when compare with the corporate sector. For family business I had seen the whole support of family and hence tensions and pressure are very low when comparing with the corporate sector

  12. Daniel
    July 31, 2013

    “I enjoyed and learned from your experiences in previous posts. It is true that working in or for a startup feels like working in a family. Most of the people own responsibility rather than doing job as the mission, vision and path forward is clear.”

    Himanshu, up to extent ur right. Working with a startup company is challenging because there is no assurance about business or can sustain for a long time. But have thrilling experience.

  13. Daniel
    July 31, 2013

    “This is truly inspiring to hear how much you as an employer care about your employees. I think the business is all about being humble to customers and to employees. There is no other satisfaction than feeling busy all the time wearing many caps as HR, Finance and CEO.”

    Elctrnx, when we look in to private sector, how many employers concerned about their employees, very rare. They are trying to squeeze them with more work load and deadline pressures.

  14. Eldredge
    August 1, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your startup experience. I am currently in the situation where I am working full time and also working at home in a different field. At some point, I may want to focus more on the secondary business, and your insights regarding the advantages and concerns regarding a startup are very helpful.

  15. FLYINGSCOT
    August 2, 2013

    I envy your courage in starting up your own company.  I have never worked for myself and sometimes I feel I have always chosen the most comfortable career route.  I do agree that for a startup to be successful one really needs to dedicate every waking second to the business for several years. 

  16. Anand
    August 2, 2013

    Your business is at its most vulnerable when it is just starting out – finances are often on a knife-edge, you concern about who to trust with your business plan and who to hire. But risks go outside poor cash flow and personnel – in today's digital economy, information is money, and cybercriminals are thieving whatever infor they can from businesses large and small, young and old.

  17. t.alex
    August 4, 2013

    I really love to hear stories sharing startup experience. They are always inspiring for me to make my move in the future 🙂

  18. Wale Bakare
    August 4, 2013

    I think that's just a naked truth about becoming startup/business owner. But on the other hand, despite all odds and adversities many are still making there millions of dollars and sustained till big acquisition knocks.

  19. itguyphil
    August 27, 2014

    @Wale B,

    That's the dream but very few entrepreneurs reach that goal. Small business keeps the US economy humming along, most of them nowhere near being millionaires.

  20. Adeniji Kayode
    August 27, 2014

    I agree with you on that, almost all the challenges of a big business are faced by the small business too.

  21. Adeniji Kayode
    August 27, 2014

    You are right, its just like when you have a baby, you do everything for that baby for couple of year but then one day the baby start to do them by himself.

  22. Adeniji Kayode
    August 27, 2014

    @jacob, From experience, I know that if you do not care for for your employee, it is your business that will suffer it. Employees can take your business to another level when you care about their welfare.

  23. ahdand
    August 27, 2014

    @kayode: Indeed and that is how the cycle goes. It does need changes. You cannot expect the same routine to happen for the entire life cycle itself. 

  24. ahdand
    August 27, 2014

    @kayode: In a way YES but there are other factors which only affects the big names in the industry itself. 

  25. ahdand
    August 27, 2014

    @Pocharle: Well that is because they have not planned properly. Some have planned but not executed at the right time. 

  26. ahdand
    August 27, 2014

    @kayode: Exactly and that is why many companies do not last longer. Even some big old companies do fail because once the original management do change things do not happen as expected and used to be

  27. Adeniji Kayode
    August 27, 2014

    Many investors think that the most important part of a business is the capital but I bet to disagree, the people managing the capital are much more important.

  28. Daniel
    August 27, 2014

    “From experience, I know that if you do not care for for your employee, it is your business that will suffer it. Employees can take your business to another level when you care about their welfare.”

    Adeniji, only employees can left the organization; nothing else because each and every activities are monitored.

  29. Daniel
    August 27, 2014

    “You are right, its just like when you have a baby, you do everything for that baby for couple of year but then one day the baby start to do them by himself.”

    Adeniji, on due course of time baby learn to be carry own his/her own needs. Situations groomed them for that.

  30. ahdand
    August 28, 2014

    @Jacob: Well yes but there should be someone a bit more mature for the baby to guide and select which one is ethical and good for the baby

  31. itguyphil
    August 31, 2014

    @nimantha.d,

    There's a lot of external factors that could affect a CEO outside of their “plan”. They must do the best they can with the time they have at the helm. But I seen what you're getting at.

  32. Daniel
    September 1, 2014

    “Well yes but there should be someone a bit more mature for the baby to guide and select which one is ethical and good for the baby”

    Nimantha, mentors are always there. It can your TL, PM etc. The only thing is chemistry between these two has to be work well

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