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  Chairman's Message

Business Ownership Isn't for Sissies

Posted 4/4/2007
By Charlie Elder, AAM, Chairman

Charlie Elder Business ownership does come with some advantages. You are your own boss, you make the decisions, and you do it your way. It is the dream of everyone working for someone else. Little do they know the real deal. Owning your business is mostly about hard work. Most employees believe being the boss means you make lots of money and have to dream up ways to use all of your spare time.

Having started my first business at the age of 12 and owning an automotive service center since 1972, I have spent most of my life as a business owner. There have been short stints of working for someone else in small business, large business and in the union environment. All of these experiences have helped me to understand both sides of the coin.

Truly there is the opportunity to do great things as a business owner. There is no better tax shelter than a small business - providing you make a profit - and that is the challenge for most. There are always the issues of cash flow, capital investment, marketing, employee hiring and training, management systems, customer service, pricing, supplier selection, employee benefits, insurance issues, government reporting and on and on. These are the life of the small business owner and it can be overwhelming at times. What happened to all of that spare time you were supposed to have? Some of my longtime customers will comment that they thought I would be retired by now. My response is, "No, I just work half-days now - 12 hours that is."

Let me share a few things I have learned that are keys to a successful business owner experience. First, you must have a passion for what you do; if you don't, then burnout happens quickly. The key to avoiding burnout is to have a life away from your business. It is easy to have long hours at work, but you must balance that with family time, time for recreation, time for pursuing other interests and time for personal and business development. You must force balance into your life or you will be a slave to the business rather than the owner of it.

It is essential to get help and training from others. Today, there are many resources available, you just have to make a point to use them. Automotive Management Institute and "Keep Educating Yourself and Staff" training, 20-group participation, industry trainers, trade magazines and networking with leaders in our industry at ASA events are just a few examples. All of these have been important to our business success. Don't be bashful about asking for help, because we all need it often. Finally, you must operate your business with proven business principles; it's not a hobby shop.

I would not choose a different career path even if I could do it all over again because owning a business has been very rewarding in many ways. If anyone ever tells you it is easy, be assured they are lying to you. Thanks for having the courage to be a business owner. Without you, we would have no members.

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