Leaving VA over two years ago was hard for reasons that should have never existed. Leaving was the correct thing to do, and working with Mike was best outcome of that decision. He has a good amount of experience running a company (which I lacked), a good amount of rock (term I use to describe Kris for his ability to not worry, not become emotional and not freak when things are scary) and a good amount of technical ability.
He also have more experience in the cash flow, money part of the business. Experience I sorely lack.
I was used to working forty hours a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes hard, sometimes hardly. Every week or two of that working, I'd receive a piece of paper which I could either exchange for yuppie food coupons or view that my bank account had been credited with the appropriate number of coupons. Once a year or so, I'd write up how I did in the previous year, also be too hard on myself (ah, yes, my own worst critic by a lot), and receive a few more coupons in my subsequent (bi-)weekly ticket receipt.
Owning a business means that doesn't happen any more. There are more things you need to do, like invoices, and deposits, and payroll, and forms, and paperwork, and fees, and taxes, and rent, and more forms, and, oh crap, do we need to hire another person, or have we hit famine?
I treated much of my first year working with Mike as I had my previous decade of working: a paycheck whenever is great. Here are my hours, let me know when you get the check from the client.
But, that doesn't really cut it. There isn't someone telling me, "Do the work this way." There isn't someone saying, "This is the project, we think it'll earn this much money, yes, you'll get paid at the end." There isn't someone that has all the answers anymore.
There really never was that someone, I just wanted to believe there was. I wanted to believe that I just needed to work hard and I'd be rewarded, that someone had the answer, I just needed to look hard enough to find it.
Sometimes I wish life were as simple as it seemed in 3rd grade.
We hired Katie a few months ago when it was obvious that my completely hands-off approach to "running" a business was putting too much stress on Mike on the invoicing/cash flow part of the day-to-day work. Katie's been absolutely wonderful, and I'm so happy she's working with us. She's recently run a few outstanding invoices reports for us to see what's going on with cashflow.
And here's where I learn another lesson in why it can suck to own your own business.
One client hasn't paid in over 90 days and it's unlikely we'll see that money. One client we had to discount a lot for various reasons. And another client is disputing one of our invoices. The total for all of these discounts and disputes is near the amount I've earned this year. If people paid, I'd be twice as rich as I am now.
I can't help but think, man, this just sucks. The amount of stress associated with this work just isn't worth it. The thought of going to work for another company feels like giving up, but, geez, does this need to be so hard?
I've changed the way I work with one client in response to the invoice issues. We have daily calls, which help with communication a lot: no surprises on what I'm working on, no arguments about what's the most important task of the day. I think we currently invoice every two weeks, I'll probably switch that to every week.
Kragen once asked me, how much stress would be reduced by a transparent task list? Based on my short experience with the new way of working with this client, I'd have to say about 95% of the stress.
I just wish I'd learned transparency two years ago.