The small business life—I think I’ll keep it

Editor December 10, 2012 Comments Off

I took a vacation last week—sort of.
I spent five days in Panama City Beach, Fla. with the wife and two of my four children, so I still did call it a vacation.
The reason I’m making a bit of an issue about the actual term is because I still took my computer, still wrote stories and put the paper together, still returned e-mails to advertisers, and certainly still had to return phone calls.
So I guess it was still a vacation.
I remember the days when I would take a vacation and leave 99 percent of my work behind, barely having a connection to the office.
But those days are gone for now, and probably for a while longer, since I am now a small businessman.
I was the one who decided nearly four years ago to become a small businessman. I decided to walk away from the big company, walk away from health insurance and a retirement plan, and walk away from a staff that could do my work when I was gone.
So now it’s just me and a few others who put together The Slidell Independent every week, me and a few others who write all the stories, sell all the ads and deliver the paper.
But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am hardly alone in this decision I made. There are hundreds of small businessmen and women just like me who are all around Slidell, not to mention every other big and little city in this country.
What is it about the desire so many people have to have their own business?
I find myself endlessly talking to other small business owners in Slidell, probably because we have so much in common that we are the ones who truly understand each other. We understand the burden we willingly took on to have our own business, which brings a certain level of independence with it, but also brings a great amount of stress and responsibility.
I had another interesting conversation along those lines with Stephanie Chivers, who owns Crème de la Crème bakery on Pontchartrain Drive in Slidell. When I saw her recently, she told me that she is just like me, the main employee who handles the vast majority of everything in the business—simply because it is her business and no one cares about every little detail the way she does.
If you have not seen the cupcakes and cakes Stephanie makes, you should stop by her shop to see the incredible detail she puts into the baked goods she creates. They are amazing and it was easy to see how difficult it must be for her to teach anyone else how to do that.
I talked to Kevin Young recently, longtime owner of K.Y.’s in Olde Towne, who told me that he is the guy who is almost always there to make sure his restaurant runs exactly the way he wants. Same thing from his brother Craig Young, longtime owner/operator of Young’s Restaurant on Robert Boulevard, which has built a reputation for fantastic steaks in Slidell. Craig said that he learned after many years that the quality of his product would never be as good if he wasn’t the guy always on site—and so he is, like so many other small business owners.
Like everything else in life, there is a tradeout for anything, and to be a small business owner, you must accept the fact that you won’t be running off for two weeks without a phone call or e-mail. You can’t just leave everything for someone else to completely handle, and it will probably be quite a few years before you can truly trust the business in the hands of someone else.
But for accepting that much burden and responsibility in becoming a small business owner, there is a benefit you get that many people don’t have, and most people who go to work every day wish they had.
For most small business owners, the upside to all the challenges, stress and difficulty, is that you wake up everyday knowing that you are in control of exactly what happens. There is no longer a ranting boss over your head who tells you what to do, or gives you a hard time when you think you have done your best. There are no more phone calls after hours from a boss who seems to simply enjoy reminding you that your life is controlled by someone else.
Nope, for all the pressure and tough times, the American dream to own your own business is right there for anyone to try. This great country of ours still affords anyone the opportunity to have an idea, have a dream, and find a way to make it happen.
And for that reward, it still seems more than worth it to take a “vacation,” and bring the computer, work a little each day, and still answer my e-mails.
To be your own boss is still part of the American dream to so many people who go to work each day, and I for one, feel fortunate to have the opportunity to give it my best shot.

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A final word about that “vacation” I took to Florida…..we were pleasantly surprised when my number three daughter, Vicky, said she had worked out her schedule and wanted to join us for the trip.
Vicky just had a birthday on Wednesday, so “Happy Birthday Honey,” and good luck finishing your college out in the next semester, and graduating next May.
Vicky is the daughter who keeps us guessing about what she will say or do next, and is probably the most independent daughter of the bunch, who has always kept life interesting for my wife and I. So to have her on the trip was an added dose of fun.
Vicky is the one girl who has a host of tattoos—I’ve actually lost count now—and she is the one who decided she wanted to go to school in Tennessee, and somehow convinced us to get her there a few years ago.
Now she is talking about heading back to Nashville when she graduates and I know we will miss her, since she is always the life of the party when she is around. It is that free-spirited, fun-loving lifestyle that we love so much about her.
So Happy 25th Birthday Honey. We sure enjoyed having you with us on the trip to Florida.

Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at kevinchiri@gmail.com.

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