Collecting money. Dealing with regulations. Responding to complaints. Handling employee demands. Did I mention collecting money?
These are just a few of the challenges we all face as business owners. And, for more than 35 years, these are the challenges that Tom Brown, a construction business owner, has had to face too. But here’s the thing: not only is he still running his business, he says he wouldn’t even think of doing anything else. Why?
“When you run your own business, you control your own destiny,” Brown told me recently. “My wife says I’ll never retire from this and you know what? She’s right!”
Brown and his wife have been running Sierra Pacific West Inc. since he founded it in 1983. The 100- person construction company is based in San Diego and provides civil contracting work, which includes anything from excavation, grading and back-filling soil to building retaining walls, pouring concrete and removing underground storage tanks. It’s hard, dirty, tiring, back-breaking work. And Brown loves it.
“I love to build and I love the challenge,” he says. “Please don’t tell me ‘you can’t do that.’ I love the ability to choose my challenges.”
That’s what owning a business is all about: choice.
Having the ability to choose his challenges makes Tom Brown very, very happy. It is this big thing that gets us out of bed in the morning and do our jobs during the day.
I get it. My company is ten percent the size of Brown’s. But I choose my jobs. I choose my people. I choose when and where I work. Like Brown, I regularly work more hours than if I had a “normal” job. But the fact that both Brown and I have more control over our lives – particularly in a world where so much is not in our control – makes us happy to be business owners.
Another thing that makes Tom Brown happy to be a business owner: his people.
“There is no greater joy I have than seeing my people grow,” he said to me. “I have always made it a point to hire employees that are as smart or smarter than me and doing that has been a big factor in my company’s success.”
Brown has workers at his construction business that have been there for many years. So many years that their families – and next generations – also work there. He teaches and mentors them. He gives them the opportunity to grow, to choose their own challenges and to earn a livelihood to support their own families. Being a small business owner means creating that little world within this world and being able to share your values with your business family and help make their lives just a little bit better.
“I don’t put the value of my business on the money we make,” he says. “I put our value on the work that my people learn to do.”
The ability to choose his challenges and help people grow – those are the two things that makes Tom Brown very, very happy he started Sierra Pacific West more than three decades ago. Now, if only he could just figure out a way to make collecting money a little bit easier. That would make him very, very, VERY happy!
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