There were a couple of posts recently about the benefits of being an employee. For that point of view, check out DC’s post at Young Adult Money or Holly’s post at Club Thrifty. I have not been an employee for over ten years. I bought my optometry practice in 2002 and have been the boss ever since. I’d like to share my opinion on the ups and downs from my time as the head honcho. Maybe you can gain some prospective in determining if you would like to be in charge or if it makes sense to remain an employee. This is my experience of being a boss; the good, the bad, and the ulgy.
- Making my Own Schedule. While my office is open five days per week, I can determine when I want to be there. I’ve changed my hours several times over the years. If I want time off, I can work longer on another day. As long as I see enough patients, it doesn’t really matter what day or times.
- Vacation. I can take vacation whenever I want. I don’t have to get it approved or see who has seniority before I ask for time off.
- Dividend Income. I pay myself a salary, but if the business is doing well, I can take extra income as a dividend. Taxes are lower on dividend income, and it has been great for supplementing my normal salary.
- Employees. I usually have 6 full time employees plus a part time book keeper/office manager. Our head optician has been there for 30+ years. While I did not hire him, I have contributed to his quality of life. If you are trained in how to use ophthalmic equipment, it is a skill that can translate to any area of the country. Maybe I can help enroll some of them in a masters of communication online. It is something that can also help all over the world. It feels good to provide jobs and teach skills.
- I can provide service as I see fit. I love medical optometry, and manage anything that doesn’t require surgery. In some chain opticals, you dont’t have the correct diagnostic equipment for medical problems, and you have to turn out a certain volume to meet your contractual obligations. You’d have to refer anything medical to another doctor. I like to take time to get to know my patients. It also helps me figure out what they require as far as eye care needs. If I had to spit them out every 15 minutes, that doesn’t leave much time for conversation.
- It’s 24/7. Since I run the business, I have to take work home often. I have a book keeper and accountant, but if you don’t understand and keep up with your financials, you can get in trouble fast. I also have never had a vacation where I didn’t get a call about something.
- The Buck Stops Here. No matter how bad someone screws up, even if I am not in the building, I am responsible. I have a great staff right now, but mistakes happen. I have to put out lots of fires.
- Taxes. Small businesses get eaten alive with taxes. Just recently, we had to pay more unemployment taxes because the state had used up it’s reserve. I try to remind myself that if we didn’t make money, we wouldn’t owe taxes, so it’s a good thing. However, that’s a hard argument to win.
- I’m always on call. I don’t mind the patient emergencies, but if a pipe breaks, the alarm goes off, or our sprinklers are going crazy during hours you aren’t supposed to be watering, guess who gets called?
- Decisions. As a small business in a small town, we get daily requests to sponsor something. I can’t honor every request. You are always making someone mad if you don’t donate to this fundraiser or sponsor this team. If I was an employee, I could tell them that I’d have to check with the boss.
- Mad Customers. I’ve been yelled at over the years by a number of angry customers, ususally over a bill that insurance didn’t cover. While it is not my responsibillity to know what your plan covers, somehow I tend to get blamed, not the insurance company.
- Employees. Yes employees can be good, bad or ugly. This is the worst part of being the boss in my opinion. I have had to fire five people in the past 10 years. One was a flake and didn’t care. The others knew it was coming. Employees who know they are getting fired do one of two things in my experience. They either rile up the other employees and make them feel vulnerable, destroying any rapport you have built, or they suck as much as they can out of you while doing very minimal amounts of work.
The last two employees that I had to fire turned out to be real gems. One was angry when I hired a new office manager. I’m not sure why, maybe she thought she should have gotten the job. Anyway, after she slammed my door so hard it broke, we had to let her go. She filed all kinds of complaints with various agencies. Since she was a white female under 30, and I am a heterosexual woman, she was not able to declare race, gender, age discrimination or sexual harassment. She did, however, say she was bullied due to her religious beliefs, which was funny because she didn’t practice any religion I knew of and didn’t attend church. She also said we violated patient’s privacy and that she tried to tell me, but I fired her instead of correcting the violations. It was all bogus, but I still had to get an attorney and prove we were not in the wrong.
The last one I had to let go broke my heart. I hired her when she was 19. It was her first real job, and she did great. I paid for her to take a year long course to become a certified ophthalmic technician. She found a lousy, criminal boyfriend, had a kid, and just went on a downward spiral. She actually took my office credit card and went shopping. She was pregnant again when I had to fire her. I had to get the attorney help make it clear she was getting fired for stealing, not for being pregnant.
Aside from the ugly, I have enjoyed my time as a boss. I am burned out from the all consuming nature of the position, though, and am selling my business at the end of the year. I’ll get to be an employee again, and we’ll see how I do after having my way for so long. If you want to be your own boss, it has many rewards, but it’s not all roses. You have to account for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Do you want to be your own boss? What would you buy with the boss’s credit card?