Someone asked me about paychecks recently.
"Paycheck? What paycheck? We are business owners, we don't draw paychecks."
Once you've owned a business before, it becomes nearly impossible to revert and think of work-life in terms of five-day work weeks, the concept of weekends, annual leave days and monthly paychecks.
The definition of work is not about clocking hours in the office and just getting stuff done. It's also not purely about meeting sales targets and looking forward to that big bonus payout at the end of the year. It is about managing resources - both people (talent) and money (financial).
So we don't live paycheck to paycheck, have no golden parachutes and no notice periods / "gardening leave". We also do not 'cash-in' any unused leave days (no leave days to speak of really), have virtually no possibility of getting fired from employment or taking severance pay.
An entrepreneur is constantly kept on his toes not because he is afraid of losing his job but because he fears for his survival, he fears for cash flow as well as the supply of the resources around him - both people and money.
That constant worry is what keeps him alive.
Once, there were two boatmen who set out to sea, aspiring to catch some fish so that they could make a living by selling them at the wholesale market.
But the world of fishing is characterized by rough seas and unforgiving waves. Every journey out to sea is a dangerous mission, but there is big business in finding and selling a quality catch. The boatmen understand these risks but are also driven by its potential rewards. Together, they invested some money to buy a boat. The boat is not huge, but with some luck and effort, they believed they'd still be able to get a decent catch.
As they were preparing to set off, an older and seasoned-looking gentleman observes them, standing on the edge of the jetty. He looks on with envy while at the same time admiring the perseverance and determination these two boatmen have. Applauding their effort, he tells them,
“It's remarkable that you are venturing on your own, it will not be easy - I've been there - but you have my full support. And when you come back, together, we’ll go to the largest fishery in town together and sell the entire bounty.”
He then reached into his pocket, took out a pendant and passed it to them.
“Here, take this as a token of my support, as well as a good luck gift from me!”
The boatmen, encouraged by this comrade-in-arms, accepted the token in good faith, thanked him for the kind words and went on their way.
A week later, they return with a broken mast and a severely damaged boat. There had been a storm at sea and they barely survived, losing more than half of the stores onboard, leaving only a small bucket of anchovies, barely enough to sell and make ends meet. The old gentleman, seeing the state that they were in, tried to encourage them:
“Don’t give up yet! This is all part of the process, I've gone through this before. It won’t be easy. But persevere, all the hard work will pay off and the rewards will eventually belong to you!”
Exhausted but unbeaten, the two decided to pool more of their money to make repairs on the boat and subsequently set off to sea again.
Shortly after they had set out to sea, the man at the jetty erected a signboard that read “Fresh fish for sale”.
“How fresh are your fish? And how much?” a passerby asked.
“Very fresh! I’ve got two guys out there reeling them in as we speak!”, he replied. The banter and conversations started to draw many curious onlookers. Seeing the heightened interest from the crowd, the he started to take customer orders and payments.
Four weeks later, when the two boatmen returned to the same jetty, they were surprised to find themselves greeted by a group of impatient and frustrated customers. “Good grief! You guys are so late!”.
"Late?", the boatmen asked, with a puzzled look on their faces.
"The guy who was here some weeks back said you two will be bringing us our catch. It's grossly overdue!”
"We were delayed because we had to find more storage space."
"Great, you can pass it to us now then."
"Hang on, aren't you going to pay us?"
"What are you talking about? We've paid for these already!"
The boatmen were confused as to why these people were trying to take their hard-earned catch without paying. They looked around for the man at the jetty but was nowhere to be found.
"Where's he?" they asked.
"No idea, but that's his pendant you are carrying. You should be able to find him!"