Typical topic I hear while bartending at Bonish Studio…”I cant wait to open my own business! It’ll be so fun to work for myself and do what ever I want and not have to deal with a boss.”
Reality: Working for yourself is probably the hardest thing there is to do!
Cindy and I have worked for ourselves for multiple businesses now. It’s not easy, it’s down right taxing, in more ways than one. I’m amazed we’re still married and when everyone asks “Why did you sell the Red Dog Saloon?” or “Why did you sell the Low-Key Hideaway?“….on the inside I think “To save our marriage” on the outside I usually say something simple like “Oh, we just wanted to try something new.”
No one wants to hear the horror stories of the back-of-the-house and what it takes to run a successful business. The long hours it takes and the very, very low pay you actually make when compared to simply working for someone else who is paying the property tax, utility bills, the insurance, the payroll and the upkeep of the business while you just come to work, work your 8 hour shift and collect a paycheck at the end of the week.
Dream World when we we thought about opening a studio:
I’m going to work for myself. Yeah, no boss to have to take orders from!!!
I’m going to create really cool products that I build myself
Spend hours browsing Pinterest saving cool ideas and projects you plan to work on in all your spare time
Travel to new places to find new products to showcase in your studio
Only open Friday thru Sunday so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday you can go out and have fun
Spend your days off going out photographing new locations to feature the images on the walls of the gallery
Argue about what you’re going to do with all the money you make 🙂
Reality of Running Your Own Studio/Gallery/Bar:
I’m going to work for myself. Yeah, no boss to have to take orders from!!! Now take orders from your spouse on a daily basis and see how easy this is. Or better yet, show your spouse that you’re going to prove them wrong by ordering a few thousand dollars worth of product on something you both argued about for a week, then have it not sell and have to eat crow.
Wonder why you actually own a house you’re making a payment on since all you do is pull in the driveway around midnight, shower, crawl into bed to get up at 7am so you can be back at work at 9am to open at 10am. Our dishwasher at our house usually has 15 coffee cups in it and a couple of spoons…..that’s it.
We had friends who visited months ago. They just visited again a few weeks ago. He said “All the beer in your fridge was in the exact same spot last time we were here?” My response “Yeah, that’s because we don’t do anything in our house other than sleep.”
Constantly think how easy it would be to clock out and go home not worrying if you made the liquor/beer order or if a delivery is going to be there tomorrow before you open
Seeing a paycheck is something you’ll NEVER see in your life if you work for yourself
Hope the check you just wrote for the $1000 liquor order on Friday afternoon doesn’t clear before you can make a deposit on Monday morning
Spend days combing the Web to find new products that only you carry, only to have the shop next door order the same thing the next week and prices it lower than you do. This happens over and over no matter how much you order or where you order from.
Forget that you have a Pinterest account or any time to work on all those really cool ideas you planned on due to the amount of time you spend in the studio working on cleaning and keeping it rearranged
Wear the same clothes for 3 days straight because you’ve yet to have time to do laundry due to the amount of hours you work
Monday comes around, you’ve just spent 4 days working back to back 15 hour days. You feel hung over and your feet hurt so bad you do not want to get out of bed. We have termed our new phrase, “Zombie Feet“, because our bones don’t move after being on our feet for copious hours. Tuesday you spend the entire day cleaning the house you’ve neglected and catching up on laundry. Wednesday you go into the studio to do your liquor orders, beer orders, put some money in the account so the checks you’re going to write don’t bounce, and clean the shop so come Thursday morning when you open, it looks presentable
Fail to use your boat or leave the island for anything other than……ok, for nothing. I was going to say grocery shop but we now have a meal company deliver food for us to cook
In order to have a cooler full of beer, A shelf full of liquor and art hung on the walls, it takes thousands upon thousands of dollars up front. That product might take months to sell and get your profit out of it. In the mean time, the bills keep coming in. If you wonder why I’m 43, bald, fat and stressed out, it’s that simple sentence right there.
Forget you own a camera to go out and take new photos
Remember the Friday, Saturday and Sunday thoughts? Well we now open on Thursdays to help pay the bills. During season (January thru March) we were open 7 days a week
No matter what size photo you order to hang on the wall, someone will want a larger/smaller size
Forget that you have $20,000 in high end liquor on the back of the bar, someone will always ask you for something you don’t carry and question why you do not carry it
You find some super cool product, order a few to see if they’ll sell well. They sell out within the first day. You order 500 more so the cost comes down and you can actually profit off of them. Never sell another one and end up selling them for less than you paid. This happens with EVERYTHING! Beer, Wine, Liquor, Photos, Jewelry……pretty much everything
Order all your shirts in Gray. Everyone asks for Black. Order the next order in Black, everyone asks for Gray….AHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Just when you celebrate that you’ve finally caught up on bills and your account is at zero, you get a renewal notice for your liquor license for $1000
Save up to order a $500 Vitamix blender and a few cases of Piña Colada mix because everyone asks for a frozen drink. 2 months later, you’ve yet to use the blender once
I’m 43 years old, I had a customer ask me what it’s like being retired and working for myself at such a young age? When I questioned what he was talking about, he said “How are you retired and working for yourself when you’re only in your mid-50’s?” I guess this line of work does not make me age well
Speaking of Retirement. Do you not realize how hard it is to work for yourself? Do you not realize how hard it is for me not to scream at you when you’re on vacation partying like a fool and telling me that when you retire, you’re going to do what I’m doing because it’s soo easy and fun.
Hold my tongue when you’re cashing a guest out and hear for the 5th time that day after serving a big party their drinks with the best service they’ve ever gotten….”Thanks, that was great! Here’s the total, I don’t tip the owner!”
People ask me all the time why I don’t update this blog more often? No one that works for themselves asks me those kind of questions
If you were to see the arguments Cindy and I can have with one another without saying a word out loud because the studio is full of guests….It’s actually hysterical the amount of communication we have with a few simple looks and eyebrow movements
Would I change it? No!
Trust me, I’m not complaining. If I wanted to change this, all I have to do is sell the business, go to work for someone else and forget this as a bad experiment, but we chose to do this. We’re not complaining in the least. We both sat talking about this the other night and after an hour of talking it over and talking of the way we thought it was going to be compared to the way it actually is, we were both laughing pretty hard at how bad it all sounds. In reality, it’s a fun sickness for us.
Last year while Cindy was recovering from her pneumonia, I went to work for someone else. It was the first time in a long time that I had to work in a setting that I was not the boss, or co-boss, Cindy is ALWAYS the boss.
Although we worked for the Yellowstone Association for the 5 months in Yellowstone National Park, that had to be the easiest job I’ve ever done. I worked by myself each day in a book store. Probably the least stressful job I’ve ever performed.
Working in a bar where I was not in charge of the ordering, the scheduling and the other employees was somewhat easy, but at the same time it showed me that it’s too hard for me not to be the boss when it comes to someone not doing their job. I simply couldn’t be just a bartender. If one of the waitresses wasn’t paying attention to their table and sitting at the waitress station on her phone, it was all I could do to not go reprimand her and tell her to put her phone away and go to work. When 20 guests a day asked why you didn’t have this type of alcohol, it was not up to me to order it. I simply just had to apologize and try my hardest to satisfy them with something else.
It showed me that I’m in a conundrum when it comes to my work for the rest of my days. Unless I want to sell everything, move back into a RV and go back to work in the National Park System, I’ll be here, arguing with my wife over the maxed out credit card bill while dreaming of that catamaran and the blue Caribbean water.
And by no means are we experts when it comes to starting a business from scratch and making it work. We really only talk about the ideas that worked out for the better. We’ve also failed miserably with a few businesses we tried in the past. Back in Michigan we started a magazine and sunk close to a years salary into it. After two years of solid work, we finally called it quits and chalked it up as a learning experience. That $80 grand would have been a REALLY nice boat!
We also tried to start up a cab service in our small town of Milford. After 6 months, we sold the two vans we had bought and dissolved that business too. Another really nice boat that we could be playing with right now.