Who do you think is happier at work? Worker A works for a fine company with a decent salary and modest benefits package. He has a normal job with standard duties and much predictability. His employers expect him to work about 40 hours a week, and he does, but there is little creativity or room for upward mobility in his position.
Worker B owns her own business and in the process, has created a demanding job for herself. Her flexible schedule necessitates that she works long hours – definitely more than 40 per week – and she often finds herself working at night and on weekends. Sometimes she even has nightmares about her business failing.
According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that our entrepreneur, worker B, actually feels quite fulfilled with her choice and work (and I think it is safe to say that the employee likely feels pretty stifled). In fact, according to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, entrepreneurs generally state that they find their work:
Those are some strong adjectives.
Maybe even most interesting is while these entrepreneurs clearly work long hours, the ever-elusive work-life balance doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for them.
Why is that?
In my opinion, the answer is that for many small business owners, work doesn’t much feel like work. It feels more like passion. Oh, sure, they work hard – Worker B works way harder than Worker A – but because it is their own work, based on their own vision, passion, values and schedule. It seems less like work and more like a vocation.
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This is not to say that their work isn’t difficult and challenging. When asked to describe their experience as a small business owner, 47% said that it is “demanding”. Almost a third (30%) used the word “stressful” to describe their job. And yes, a quarter even had nightmares about their business failing. Despite this, most small business owners also said they have little issue with their work-life balance, even though they work a lot. How long are the hours? Pretty long! More than three in five said that they work more than 40 hours per week, and more than 75% of respondents, stated that their work interferes with their home life.
And even so, consider these surprising statistics from the Report:
- Business owners are more likely to report that they have achieved a work-life balance (82%)
- 80% said they are “satisfied” with the number of hours they work, and
- Almost all report that they love the flexibility and schedule that being self-employed offers them
So, what can we make of all of this? Clearly, small business owners are of a different breed, a breed that values creativity, flexibility, and hard work above regularity, predictability, and ease.
And yes, they love their work.
In fact, that seems to be the bottom line, the X factor in all of this. When you love something, it is difficult to see it as getting in the way of other things, even if one of those other things is time off. That is why Worker B, the entrepreneur, is the more fulfilled of our two hypothetical workers. She does work that is demanding, yes, but also fulfilling. Worker A has work that is neither demanding nor fulfilling. So, what should he do? Perhaps start his own business.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
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