Saturday, April 12, 2008

Having a Boss vs. Being the Boss

6 years of corporate life has spoiled me rotten. Centrally airconditioned office set to a comfortable 23 degree celsius, 24 hours on-site computer support (alas, cannot blame a computer break down for not having done anything productive in any given hour), airport pick up and drop, flight bookings taken care of by the company travel desk who are so efficient they can change your bookings about 25 times in a span of 2 days and can literally get you on a flight that has already taken off. And oh, the coffee dispenser coffee – so sweet and strong, it can make a believer even out of a coffee teetotaler. And I have not even begun to talk about exciting meetings at exotic locales, personality and leadership building courses that aim at building the, person and leader, and the benefits of having a full time secretary who keeps the wrong people out, gets the right people in and answers all those pesky emails.

A Company is more than the sum of its parts. I use a capital C for Company because it really does have a personality of its own and I do speak of it as if it is a flesh and blood person….

"This stupid Company won’t even give me a Saturday off."

"The Company says that it will reward good work and good results."

And thus the Company is like a huge human being, with a brain and limbs and hopefully, a heart. Working for a Company is a lot less about who you are and a lot more about whom they need you to be. The Company dictates your vision, your mission and the terms of your bonus. Then ofcourse, there is the question of power. In a large company, and in my position (and completely irrespective of the important sounding designation on my visiting card), I have finally accepted that I only have complete power to choose when to go to the loo and when to call home to check if all is okay. Every other action and timeline is evaluated, discussed and decided at team meetings, by company policies, by my boss or at the very least by my secretary. Sure I can decide when to call these meetings, when to re-evaluate budgets and expand business, but only if all 25 people that I work directly with (and including the temporary secretary) are in complete agreement!

It took me a year to realize that I had given up autonomy in exchange for the tremendous sense of achievement that working in a large Company can bring. I have the authority to make decisions that can affect millions of people around the world, I have the monies to make this happen, I have the resources of brilliant minds and technical know-how literally at my finger tips (I email many of these minds several times a day in hopes that they will save me from impending disasters. Till date, they have, which is why I live to tell this tale). I have efficient supply chain systems in place and powerful advertising to make this happen. It just does not get any better than this, does it?

At the end of the day, when I work here, I am the Company and the Company is me. I am bigger than myself.

But my dental practice is my baby. I dreamed about it…well that’s actually a gross understatement. I fantasized about it. I obsessed about what kind of practice it would be and about the kind of dentistry it would provide. I made blue print after blue print of layout plans, I was architect cum supply chain manager cum desk top publisher cum sweeper. (Thank God the plumbing was being taken care of by someone else.) I chose the exact equipment that I wanted, I selected the perfect wall colour, I decided what my work hours would be, how many staff I needed and what my rates would be. Then more importantly and quite impossibly, I had to be Dr. Genuis and Ms. Sales Person at the same time. Let's just say, I am still working on some of these skills, and no, it's not the former!

When I decided to expand my practice and put in an additional dental chair and some more equipment, it was such a relief to not have to get a work order passed by a purchasing department and to not have to speak to the man who holds the budget who just happens to be sitting in Paris and who wants to club the purchase of my dental chair with the start of another project in a completely different part of the world, thus delaying my plans by 4 months! My new dental chair was in place in 3 weeks – the perks of being my own boss is pretty great.
That’s the beauty of running your own show – there is absolutely nothing stopping you from making it as fantastic as you want it to be. It is clay in your hands, waiting for you to mould it and give it life. But every step has to be well thought out and researched. Mould it one way, and it may be impossible to change it's shape later on. The history of any business weighs heavily on it's future. When it's your baby, you get to determine what it's history is.

To be honest, it is not true that if you run your own business, that you do not have a boss. For me, my bank can make a formidable boss! On some days, so do my patients:-)

Today if I have a happy practice, all the glory is mine. I’ll be the first to admit that all the failures have been mine as well. The buck ends with ME. And I will have it no other way. It’s really is the best feeling in the world to start your own little Company and grow it into a giant. The hardest part is to take that first step.

"Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you're not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were." - David Rockefeller, US banker (1915 )

No comments: