These are thoughts based on my own personal experiences, limited research and biased viewpoints! It's something I've had on my mind for a while and feel I want to share because I can't be the only person with their own business who thinks like this.
Regret and business growth are not mutually exclusive! I've recently heard David Attenborough and a business-man who spent his whole life getting rich admit that their biggest regret was spending too much time building their career to the detriment of seeing their children grow up. I've now been working for myself for over two years. I quickly discovered that the advice and the ethos within business is about growth, expansion, building an empire, employing loads of people and making loads of money. It's not surprising, given that this advice was promoted by government, when it's in their interest to grow the economy and obtain more taxes. It was also quite surprising for me to hear the apparent derision towards what are termed 'life-style' businesses, as these are people who are still working hard and paying taxes. I personally think it is a shame that there is such little support if you want to develop a life-style business, because you are paying taxes, but you will be happy doing what you want to do, and happier people tend to be healthier people, so putting less burden on the NHS later in life. Anyway, back to the story - I originally bought into the ethos of growth and development and I had grand plans for expanding my business and becoming the next Richard Branson - haha! To do that though, you have to make massive personal sacrifices ... and I had to question if having a large business and more money would actually make me happy?
When I went full-time we had a one-year old son and I thought I would have to work hard and grow my business to make lots of money to take care of my family financially. I hadn't really thought what it would mean for me or my family to not be present while they were growing and developing. It was about mid-way through my first year of working full time for myself that I started to question the ethos of business growth as I was spending a lot of time working and less with my family. Furthermore, if I was going to grow my business I would have to start thinking about employing people, and ultimately, I would be spending less time on the aspects of my business that I love - the creative side of developing ideas, filming and editing (why I wanted my own business in the first place). Instead, I would have to deal with employment, networking and investing in offices to allow the business to grow. I really struggled with what to do and was quite unhappy in my first year of working for myself (wasn't I meant to be happy working for myself?), but I went with my gut feeling, and I am so happy I did!
We now have two wonderful children and I have a much clearer vision of what I want out of self employment. I work from home and get to see and hear my children as much as I want. When others are commuting, I get to play with my children before I start work and at the end of the working day. As I write this, my eldest son is sitting to my left painting his face and all his animal toys. I wouldn't get to see the fun he was having if I worked in an office. I try (although it is difficult) to spend short periods of time during the day playing with them as well. It also helps me as it acts as a good break from work, allowing me to come back refocused and fresher. I will admit, it's not always joy and happiness!
In the future, if I want to grow and expand my business, I will do it through personal growth. Teaching myself new skills so that I can increase my hourly rate and either earn more for the same amount of time or earn the same by working less (and being able to spend more time with the family or doing the things I love) - I'm a great advocate of this approach. I'm also utilising freelancers to pick up any slack that I cannot do myself (so spreading wealth and providing opportunities, where none existed before) and I find this a far better solution than employing someone. I am happy and I am in full control of the work, so you, the client, get a high quality of service at all times. Quality rather than quantity.
Hopefully, when I'm about to peg it, I won't have the same regrets ... or be a pauper!