Swallowing Nails – Entrepreneurship Takes No Days Off

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Breakfast of champions
[Photo: Shutterstock] How I metaphorically feel as a metaphor for entrepreneurship

June 13, 2017

My last blog post to Medium was published around 10:45am. They had already put in my IV, and at 11am, they walked me to the OR and got to work. There was that slight smear of the lights in the ceiling, and that 45 played at 33rpm quality to the voices of the nurses and doctors, and then nothing.

This was my second surgery to try to reel in sleep apnea, which is a huge factor in a number of my health problems. These include fatigue, obesity, depression, and several others. It’s funny, because I’m not too concerned about the surgeries themselves, just the effect they’ll have on my work and home life. I was told to take a week off of work, and you may as well have told me to take off a couple toes. In entrepreneurship, time off isn’t something you think about.

I came to in recovery, heavy in an anesthetic fog. That can take some time to come out of, sometimes days. As soon as I had access to my phone, I was sharing my blog post on Gratitude to all of my social media platforms. I may not have been AT work, but that surely didn’t mean I COULDN’T work.

Nails for breakfast

I don’t actually eat nails for breakfast, but the past week has felt like it. Even the simplest throat surgery has notoriously painful recovery. It requires a lot of rest. The problem is, I’m a business owner and those words don’t mix well in my vocabulary.

A week off work for me requires that I fit in an extra week of work prior to that week. A week off for surgery means I need to cover that week, plus the cost of the procedure. I always play a numbers game, and everything I do is based on net loss or gain. I can’t help it. My bottom line is the success of my family, and I can’t jeopardize that for anything.

So when surgery puts me out, and I feel like I beer bonged a cup of thumb tacks, I can’t get thrown off track. I can’t truly take the full time to revel in recovery. Sure, I’ve been getting in a few more naps, but many days I’m still up at 5am, plugging away.

How I work when I can’t work

The vast majority of my income comes from chair time with my clients. I’m talking 98% of income is from one on one face time with them. As a service practitioner and skilled craftsman, one on one time with clients is how I earn my keep. There’s extremely limited opportunity within the context of maintaining my work habits to grow that number easily or quickly.

It has been difficult to continue to work during my recovery, yet still be able to get the necessary rest after an operation. My method has been heavily based in shifting organization of tasks so that my time before and after the break are heavier in the studio with clients, and the time off is allocated to other tasks. I’m spending the majority of this time writing, working on paintings, and pushing toward related goals for brand expansion.

In addition, I stopped taking appointments 3 weeks in advance, and had my assistant begin scheduling and taking deposits the day I went out. The backlog of clients waiting to schedule will help balance out the money generated during downtime. I strategically released new items to my online store. When you are a man in my position, this is critical to not cutting into the bottom line. Surgery or not, I still have bills to pay.

I always thought success involved Bentleys?

Well, I guess it depends on your definition of success. Do I make millions of dollars? Absolutely not. My business doesn’t generate anywhere near a million in revenue, and it relies heavily on the work ethic of others, much like a salon or barbershop. My overhead still accounts for a good deal of that, and I continuously funnel money back into the business. I’m not independently wealthy, and if I don’t work, we don’t generate operating capital.

This doesn’t mean I’m not comfortable. This doesn’t mean my family is in need, or my business is struggling. All this means is that I am a normal person running a normal business. In fact, according to Payscale, the average small business owner has a median income of $65,000. Yet somehow, people like to feed themselves ideas of becoming millionaires running their business. This is not only uncommon, but actually quite unlikely.

Now I’m not trying to dash anyone’s hopes or dreams. It’s important to stay focused forward and set your goals high. No one changes the world by having low standards. At the same time, we all need context to what we are trying to achieve. Anyone who goes into business for themselves for riches is delusional and probably can’t stand the heat when the game gets real.

BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN, TIM?!

This means that sometimes we don’t get days off. It means my wife had to work during our honeymoon, and right now I have to work during surgery recovery time. The trick is knowing how and when to adjust your task lists and calendar to compensate for events like this. It’s knowing how to work in the cracks, and accomplish small feats in between the large ones.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t about flashy cars and bling on your bezel. It’s working hard, juggling tasks while maneuvering around obstacles, and swallowing nails. I’ll be the first to tell you that you can have whatever you want out of your life, but I am also the first to tell you that you will bleed for it. This isn’t work for the weak willed. I can’t count the number of 12 hour days I have and still work. I can’t count the 70 hour work weeks, the nights I didn’t tuck my children in, or the family events I’ve missed. This is a life I chose early on.

This isn’t judgment on the work ethic of others, or pontificating on definitions of entrepreneurship. My only business is to stick to my business, and speak my own truth. My truth points to hard work and sacrifice, regardless of how much or how little I may profit. We find our strength of character in our work ethic and the impact we have on others. It’s not about followers on Instagram, or the clothes that we wear. It’s not afterparties and bottle service. Being an entrepreneur is about passion and love, and a drive to blaze your own path.

All that really matters

I love what I do, and wouldn’t trade the hard work and tears for anything. It’s fine that I haven’t grossed a million annually, and it’s fine if I never do. I make a difference in the lives of my family and my employees. I’ll continue to be ambitious for my future, because growth is the purpose of life. Hard work doesn’t scare me, serving no purpose does.

In the end, all that matters is that I grow, and provide a positive example for the next generation. If that means I have to swallow some nails from time to time, that’s just fine with me.

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Tim Pangburn
I am a father, husband, artist, and business owner. I constantly seek to help others improve their lives, and I cook a mean steak. I can't escape dog hair. It follows me.