At the age of 22, I moved to Albany, GA to start the Albany Auto Auction. I was backed financially by my former employer, Al, and our agreement was that he’d provide the cash and I would provide the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ that goes with operating the business. Even though I was young, I did have a couple of years of experience working in the auto auction business. Coupled with that was plenty of energy, enthusiasm and a strong desire to be my own boss. It was going to be great; I would get to call all the shots, to make decisions as it was going to be up to me if the business was to be successful. For the most part, Al stayed out of the day-to-day operations (he lived three hours away) but there were occasions when he gave me his input on how things should be done especially during business challenges. I, of course, listened. The truth was, he was a successful businessman, with many years of business experience and his opinion mattered.
After a couple of years of owning and operating the Albany Auto Auction, the real estate market in Florida was on the verge of exploding. It quickly became apparent that there was potential for a quick and huge financial success in that market. And even though the auto auction was doing very well, I felt that Florida was where I needed to be. So I closed down the auto auction and moved back to Florida to develop real estate.
As with our auction partnership, Al provided the money and I was to run the day-to-day operations; overseeing the development, marketing and sales. We purchased a large tract of land to develop some 15 miles from Waldo and only a couple of minutes from Hawthorne, where Al resided.
This new business was so exciting for me! I tackled the new development with great enthusiasm and put forth tremendous effort working from daybreak to well into the night. Even though I was in my mid 20’s, I was confident that I was up to the task at hand. I relished in the opportunity for financial success and excited about running such an operation!
Yet, unlike our auto auction partnership, Al would randomly get involved in the daily operations and give employees different instructions than I had given them about what to do on a given day. When that happened, chaos ensued and, of course, that made it challenging for both the workers and for me!
Somewhat frustrated, I met with Al to discuss in detail what each of our roles were so the company could be run as efficient and effective as possible. Al agreed that I would oversee and make all the decisions for the operations and that he would stay out of the operations entirely. It would be my responsibility to develop the property and sell the lots and homes.
I was so relieved after that meeting! Things were going to be just like they were in Albany. I was going to be my own boss! Unfortunately, my relief was short-lived.
As time went on, he again started to show up at the work site. He would tell me how he would do things and how he would manage situations differently. I understood the fact that he had, for many years, owned and operated his own business and that it was quite a stretch for him to not be involved on a day to day basis, especially when the operation was going on within minutes from his house! No doubt that there were occasions where things could be done differently, and (as the old saying goes) there are many ways to skin a cat. Yet, when I was told my way was not the correct way, I started questioning myself. And the doubt this put into my head diminished all the things that were going right with the project.
For almost two years, I just lived with it. The demand in the real estate market was great and we were doing so well financially that I did not want to rock the boat. But after a while, I knew deep down inside that I wanted to get out of the partnership because I was not really my own boss. I wanted to do things my way so I could have psychological income as well a nice financial income. The words that Dean Alfange wrote sums it up:
“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon — if I can. I seek opportunity — not security. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, this I have done.”
After a couple years, we dissolved our partnership. The first few days on my own, I was a little uneasy. But, I wanted to be my own boss and determined to be successful on my own. And this step, although scary, was also exhilarating, to say the least!
At first, I began brokering properties for clients, then began investing into acreage tracts and developing them – something I still do to this day. I added antique malls, flea markets, a golf course, clothing store and a tree farm to my list of ventures. And during my 40+ years as an entrepreneur, I attribute my success to my ability to make quick decisions (without the need of running it by someone else), working hard and answering the wants and needs of others (my potential customers).
If you are thinking about being your own boss, here are some books that I’ve found to be instrumental:
• The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
• See You At The Top by Zig Ziglar
• Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
• Rich Dad-Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
• The Heart of Leadership by Mark Miller
Being your own boss may not be for you. But for me, I feel this course has made me the “master of my fate and the captain of my soul.”