Ian Wood, the founder of design agency ICM Creative (see our interview here), has never forgotten the pain of his first business going under in the early nineties.
‘It really banged me up, to be honest,’ he says, adding that he swore he would never let himself be in that position again. Wood had placed all his eggs in one basket by having a small number of key advertising agencies bringing in the bulk of the revenue. They pulled the plug as the economy faltered, leaving the company exposed.
‘One agency was paying us around £25,000 a month and on 20 December they just said goodbye. That was a nice Christmas present.’
Now it’s a different story for Wood and ICM. He has a spread of clients and the business is going from strength to strength. ‘From day one, I wanted to build a business. I didn’t want to just earn a living. You get people who start a business because they want to work from home. They want the freedom and so called work/life balance that can bring. They pull every bit of money they can out of the company.’
For Wood, a lifestyle business was never an option. For others, the ability to work from home, choosing the hours you work, is the only reason for starting a company. Our most recent poll asked: Why start your own business?
With just under 900 responses, it seems like improving your work/life balance is extremely important (26 per cent). Making your fortune came second (18 per cent), closely followed by wanting to make your own decisions (17 per cent) and exploiting a gap in the market (17 per cent).
It’s open to debate whether running your business does actually give you more freedom, certainly in the sense of time to yourself.
‘My working day is still 7:00am to 7:00pm… You don’t get rich owning a company, you get rich when you sell it,’ says Wood.
Whether you’re in it for the lifestyle or a lucrative exit, often it’s a similar story for owner-managers, especially in the early days. Long hours. Pressure. Hard work.
For all that, I’ve never heard someone say they could ever go back to working for a boss once they’ve struck out on their own.