Monday, August 30, 2004

After the "power lunch"

Running a business is not in my nature. It is as foreign a concept to me as enjoying having your legs waxed. And yet, here I am.

The business is not mine, really. In fact, I am sort of de facto Principal until my partner can get the firm going enough to allow me the emancipation I am seeking. I will likely go back into fundraising for nonprofits or, if I am really masochistic, perhaps freelancing as a fund development specialist and grant writer. Neither of these professions lead to great wealth, which goes back to my original point of mostly hating everything about business.

My partner has a great deal of talent as an artist. In an effort to save himself from a life of Kraft Dinner, he started a home based business in graphic design. Four years later, the business is doing pretty well for its size. We (I joined on two years ago) have two employees and a little office in the Warner Brothers corporate office building. All in all, I am quite happy for him (for us) and really enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit he's exhibited.

Still, one thing I cannot get used to is the politics and general bad behavior of fellow business persons. It is cut-throat at times, eerily cozy at others. People are motivated by that sickeningly overused cliche, the bottom line. Friendship or no, at the end of the day, it's all about who walks away with the bigger bag of cash. Relationships are only as important as the deals they help produce. I believe the documentary, "The Corporation" sums up beautifully how companies operate, or how the economy works in general.

Now don't get me wrong, I can put on the gloves just as good as any capitalist. I mean, even when I was working for nonprofits I could correlate between a "flush" economy and hard times. Making money is not bad per se. Without people making money, there would be no not-for-profits. Wanting to provide for yourself, your family, and your cause is all important and necessary. You can be a responsible business person and retain your ethics and integrity. This is my mantra...

When times are hard, though, I must share in the passionate lust for greater profit, looking ahead at all the competition that would surely squash us given the chance (you can't throw a pencil without hitting another graphic designer here). It's simple, "Stay ahead or be left behind." There's no 100% good guy/gal in business.

Yet I will never get used to the manipulative kindness, the bravado, the rudeness, the "I need it yesterdays..."

Maybe I just don't have the personality to handle people; I usually get unhinged by bad behavior or mean spirited power plays, especially when it involves someone I care about as the object of someone else's aggression. My mama bear kicks in and I am pissed off for the rest of the day. Guess such is the case of you work with a spouse, lover, or friend. Your instinct to step in and defend them or build them up is often negated by office politics or the politics of being a business owner or professional.

I suppose being in business for yourself is better than having some pointless 9 - 5 job that you hate. There are plenty of people out there doing that and will continue doing something they hate to make someone else money. Such is the wheel. Some days are brutal. Some are okay. The roller coaster ride that is your financial state at any given time is draining.

Sometimes I just want to hide back in the world of not-for-profits and wait for the donations, one shy step away from the money-making-machine. But I am here today and am, as always, presented with new tests to my patience and sense of decency. I am convinced that my curse word vocabulary has been improved since falling into the small business scene.

Off to put out another proverbial fire...

Curmudgeonly yours,
jane

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