Ever get the Feeling…. “Business isn’t Fun Anymore!”

Ever get the Feeling…. “Business isn’t Fun Anymore!”

by John L. Ward, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and Principle of the Family Business Consulting Group

As advocates of private, entrepreneurial companies, we’re greatly troubled by the growing exasperation of business owners. “Business just isn’t fun anymore!” is a phrase we hear too often.

We understand.Business is more complex than ever.Change is more gripping.Either is problem enough.But business owners tell us that their real problem is they feel they have less and less control over their own destiny in this sea of change.And that, they say, is what really gets to them.

Entrepreneurs, by their nature, their proven psychology, seek to control their own destiny.As one said, “All this change is tough enough, but so much of it is just unpredictable and irrational.How do I respond to it?Even if we work hard and smart, there are no answers!”

What set this entrepreneur off was the increasing fragmentation of state laws and regulatory standards.California demands things not useful in some other states, but California is more than 20 percent of his market.He pleads for more common federal rules–as they once were–but knows it will only get worse.

Coping with social changes is becoming more fickle too.With the polarization and fragmentation of interest groups, executives are torn between competing and contradictory interests.How can one be “politically correct” when those making the rules can’t make up their mind?Competing “single issue” groups demand fidelity to their causes and threaten discredit and troubles if the business owner’s response does not soothe their sensitivities.

As is often the case in troubled economic times, business owners seem to be again a growing target, the culprit for the ills of our multi-cultural society.He is, after all, usually white, European, male and relatively wealthy — each condition being something that prima facie requires an apology.

The trends look like this:

Change with more unpredictable
Complexity with more fragmentation
Culture with more polarization
Control with less of it

These trends can translate into a less spirited commitment to business ownership and leadership.The entrepreneurial hero of the ’80s is aging and becoming a more tired soul in the ’90s.We hear more and more talk of lost purpose and fatigue.The doubt spreads to family, successors and employees.

However true these sources of frustration, we encourage focusing on two additional questions:

Is there a simpler life?
Is that life more desirable?

Business ownership has never been easy.Each business stage and cycle has its own challenges and frustrations.While outsiders see ownership as a privilege, the owners understand the extent and burden of their responsibilities.

There doesn’t seem much shelter from reality.Perhaps that’s an advantage for business owning families.Where else can you learn so much about life as in your family business?Where else can you be more a part of the solutions?

While society polarizes and fragments, private business leaders can search for moderation and fairness.While rules and regulations petrify many, entrepreneurs can learn to cope and continue to move forward.While so many call for their rights, business owners remain society’s best model for accepting responsibility while seeking balance and justice.

Looking back to simpler times fosters a “good-old-days” illusion that feeds frustration and fatigue.Looking ahead to life’s inevitabilities makes the family business seem like one of the best learning laboratories imaginable — and best bastion in a fickle world.What a gift to future generations!

This article appears with permission from Family Enterprise Publishers.