Gini Dietrich

Rewards and Challenges of Owning a Business

By: Gini Dietrich | May 6, 2010 | 

My friend Laura Scholz in Atlanta asks, “What is the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business? The most challenging?” I answer it here. But before you watch…let it be known there is a contest for a free copy of Les McKeown’s soon-to-be-published book, “Predictable Success.” Good luck!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Most rewarding, hands-down, is the flexibility I have to be there for my children in the past six years since leaving the big agency world and venturing out on my own. Yes, there are times that conflicts arise but with (relatively) good time management (sometimes this means putting on a pot of coffee @ 10 p.m. when they are in bed) I am so grateful to be there for their milestones. I will never get back my eldest’s first step (which I learned of through a hand-written pink phone pad message on my chair when I came out of a crisis response session for a client)but now, nearly a teen, she knows I am there to witness every step of her dance performances. The most challenging? I have to agree that whole cash-flow positive thing can get me down, particularly since my husband also is self-employed and it’s always feast or famine! But the greatest challenge is probably having the discipline to do the “business” part – billing, negotiating, keeping my own Website up-to-date (don’t look right now) – versus focusing on the craft for clients. So do I get the book Gini?

  • LOL – Are you going to get a dare in every one of your videos?? I laughed after the first one and thought I would dare you to wear pig tails in one of them.. made me laugh anyway..

    Congrats on doing well and getting your business to 5 years and running well! 🙂

    I am actually just starting a business… so I won’t win your contest, but right now, I can tell you that the most rewarding thing is knowing that I am my boss. I set my hours, I set my focus, I set the company path and I have to be the one that moves it along on the path!

    The most challenging? OH.MY.GAWD. it is getting this stuff set up. The work… I can DO the work… but sometimes the bank, or the business stuff just makes me want to slam my head on the desk, wall, whatever is closest…


  • My experience running a small business is somewhat atypical.

    In 2005, my good friend Steve Cameron and I founded a non-profit organization to help raise money for the Oncology Unit at SickKids Hospital and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. To date we have held dozens of events, hosted thousands of guest and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for our two respective causes. We take great pride in our work and what we have been able to achieve; however, it hasn’t come without challenges.

    Since we both have busy careers in the “for-profit” world, running our organization means constantly putting in long hours, stretching resources and making the most out of each and every dollar. Like every other small business owner, I have come to recognize the importance of working with smart, ambitious, creative people. The biggest challenge from a non-profit perspective is how to attract these people when you can’t necessarily offer financial compensation. Over the last five years we have had the pleasure of working with a number of very talented individuals who opted to work with us because we offered unique opportunities/incentives. The challenge is finding these individuals and then keeping them engaged down the stretch.

    Ironically, the greatest challenge also leads to the greatest reward. For me, seeing people grow, take on new challenges and develop their skill-set is a highly rewarding experience.

    Whether you are running a charity organization, small business, or fortune 500 company, retaining the right individuals is essential to any business.

    To me, there is no more rewarding experience than watching great people do great work.

  • MOST REWARDING: The self-confidence that comes from knowing you can survive completely on your own. I’ve been in business for 15 years. I started on a shoe-string and with no loans, no VC funding, no spousal support. (Well, okay, that’s because I don’t HAVE a spouse, but I digress. LOL!)

    I can’t really describe it, but when you are 100% responsible for your own financial success–when you don’t rely on an employer–and you work through those fears and thoughts of “what-the-hell-have-I-gotten-myself-into?” that come in the early years of the business, there’s this amazing sense of self confidence that you develop. You just know that you can face pretty much anything that comes your way.

    A close second to “most rewarding” is seeing the business improvement of my clients. (Okay, stop gagging! And don’t roll those eyes! I know it’s cheesy, but it’s true. To know that you played even a small role in helping someone else reach their business goals is very satisfying.That is the reason I get up in the morning and keep doing this over and over again every day.)

    MOST CHALLENGING: Coming to terms with the fact that you are, in fact, insane. After all, who would WILLINGLY work at a job where sleep deprivation is the norm, head-banging against the wall is your daily workout routine, your idea of a sick day is working on your laptop from your bed with the “puke pan” close by, everything that goes wrong IS your fault because you’re the boss, your idea of a vacation is answering emails from the beach so that you won’t have a boatload of emails to answer when you get back to the office, you pay for your own health coverage, you buy business insurance and errors and omissions insurance because if ya mess up real bad, you’re gonna get your hinny sued. And you do all of this for NO guaranteed paycheck! Yes, I’m probably insane for working in my own business. But I wouldn’t have traded a moment of it for anything! It is, indeed, a wonderful (albeit insane) life!

  • Let’s face it, I got into business for the chicks…nuff said…give me the book! 😉

  • You should clearly have a Brutus cutout on your desk (from Ohio State) but I digress…

    MOST CHALLENGING: Learning about myself throughout the entire process. Coming to grips that I’m not the best at everything, how to gracefully take criticism (and change for the better) learning new skills, hating things I used to enjoy, learning how to be a good boss, how to interact with others, and how to be true to myself. The business stuff is challenging, but for me, it’s all about working to my fullest potential

    MOST REWARDING: Being able to provide positive experiences for kids and adults through the game of soccer. I don’t want to give them memories, but I want them to create their own memories through their positive experiences. Everytime a kid yells, “Coach Ryan, Coach Ryan’ when we are at the mall or any other public place. I want to touch the lives of the most kids possible, because they will be the next generation of coaches long after I’m gone.

  • All I can say is hooray for hitting what we all strive for and that is being “cash flow positive”. Way to go Arment Dietrich and your fearless leader Gini Dietrich. Here’s hoping this rubs off on the rest of us. Cheers,


  • Congrats! It is not easy to be cash flow positive!
    That said, I am crafting my response to your contest, and I am thinking way out of the box, due to your creativity guidelines. Be back soon.

  • Ooops…forgot to add my rewards and challenges on owning a business…thanks for the gentle reminder BFF:

    Rewards – seeing an idea of developing a concept of a more personal, relationship-centric business into a self-sustaining reality…assembling a “creative brain-trust” of suppliers who not only fully support but participate in helping me grow the business…working with clients who know what they want – provide definitive direction and reward handsomely when the results match their expectations (maybe a little motherhood there but it’s true) – on the flipside who also help me grow as a business when something comes up short (thankfully few and far between)…becoming the master of time commitments especially where it relates to the Trips :).

    Challenges – time…never enough of it to go around…maintaining cash flow positivity…trying to be everywhere and all things to everyone all at once…client budgets (but then again who doesn’t)…then as you say each day has it’s own challenges – but the bottom line as cliché as it will sound is not looking at them as hurdles but as opportunities.

    I think one of the best things though is – as THE decision maker here on every aspect (for the time being) I never have to say “let me get back to you” when a client asks “can we do this?” That question can only – for me – be answered by saying if there is a way – yes…let me figure out how.

    As always – great initiative Gini…thanks for the reminder. 🙂 Andy

  • Andy, let’s be honest though, sometimes it SUCKS being the decision maker when you have to say “No.” to someone. The longer I’m in business (12 years now) the less I put myself out there as the owner. A lot of my customers just think I’m a manager, or an employee here and I’m totally fine with that. I’m insulated and it makes it a bit easier so my decisions are made logically rather than through guilt..

  • Most rewarding: I work whenever, wherever I want 24/7/365. My end goal: Results for my clients. Does it matter where or when that happens?

    Most challenging: The clock. I have so many ideas, and I actually just learned there are 24 hours in an actual day. Could have swore at one point there were 30. Managing my time is without question my biggest challenge. But, I work at it every day. And, I’m getting better. Practice, practice, practice.

    More video blogs, please, Gini!


  • Gini,

    I find the biggest reward and the biggest challenge to be very similar…the freedom to choose our own direction…to steer your own ship (especially of you created it from scratch).

    Because once you’ve created a successful business, you’ve learned a huge lesson…how to create and bring to market something of value. Once you’ve done this, you are at the helm…confident and satisfied, knowing that you can survive anything…you can start from scratch and make it work…from idea to income. The freedom is great.

    But, at the same time you are enjoying success, your head explodes, as every branch, twist, turn, and thought becomes the freedom to move in another direction, a new direction, a fresh direction…another way to improve, change, or market your business. Focusing can become challenging.

    Thoughts enter your brain with no regard for time and place.
    Be careful what you wish for. Freedom is hard work.
    But, we can always sort things out at Frontera Grill.

    General Healthy

  • Oooooops, you wanted creativity. OK

    I like running my own business because I nac etacinummoc yna yaw I tnaw dna ton teg derif!!

    lareneG yhtlaeH

  • Thanks for asking my question, Gini (and cute outfit–will bribery win me a free book?). The best thing about owning my own business? I’m the boss. The worst part? I’m the boss. I love the control, the flexibility, the freedom to act on all of my ideas, to form really genuine, lasting relationships with clients that produce results. I hate being a bill collector, dealing with finances and paperwork and having no one to blame but myself if things go wrong. But the good outweighs the bad every time. I think this is the closest I’ll ever come to having a baby. Watching it grow is an amazing thing.

  • Tom Miesen

    Just getting into the “real world” from college, but I think that the main reason people own a business is because they are allowed so much freedom. I’ve learned a lot about companies with such dynamic leaders that just didn’t seem to fit in working under someone else. So, working for themselves is really the only option.

    With that being said, the drawback of owning a business is that if you fail, the failure is all on you. That is a terrible position to be in.

    Just some thoughts!

    Tom Miesen

  • Dave M

    For me, it’s getting it going to next level, while still having to hold a 9-5, and two kids at home. So, the free time is the most challenging. I need to recapture my free time, working on building it like I used to. Lately, I have found too much comfort in spending my free time as down time. Also, conquering fear, has held me back tremendously, I have walked away from two investors, because I did not feel worthy and up to the challenge, to let go of the 9-5 and jump. So I guess that’s two, well three if you consider not letting go of my modesty. I’m rambling. love the video!

  • It’s not too creative, because it’s been mentioned before – but the biggest reward for me is being able to be with my kids almost every night. I traveled so much during my corporate life that it feels like a real gift to be home every night. That was my prime motivation in starting my business.

    A more surprising reward has been the community of other business owners that I get to be a part of. I know 100s of other business owners and they are all spectacular, live-life-out-loud kind of people. Smart, creative, doing what makes them happy; and I love to be around them. That was a surprising reward.

    Biggest challenge – Well I actually perform really well in the corporate structure of accountability and structure. The “rules of the game” in corporate fit my personality. The unstructured nature of small business, the lack of accountability is difficult for me. I’ve had to create structures and find people to be accountable to. That’s been hard, it requires a lot more transparency and self-examination than I really want; but I need it to succeed.

    I’m really happy with my choice, I’m having fun, making money and I commute 11 blocks. I have smart, creative people that I work with every day and I have time for my family and life outside of work (including an occasional bike ride).

  • Gini,

    First of all, thanks for taking my dare. You never cease to amaze me! Go Green! 🙂

    Back when I was a musician, the thing I loved the most about being “self-employed” was the freedom to call my own shots, how hard I was going to work, when I was going to do it, how I was going to do it, and who I was going to do it with (well, I suppose my band mates had to agree to some extent, but we usually did). Plus there was a certain rush that came from being entirely responsible for sinking or swimming!

    The hardest part? Obviously, the entire idea of creating/maintaining cash flow. But it was also the challenge of trying to maintain artistic integrity (that’s what musicians who don’t mind being really broke all the time are motivated by. I know it’s weird for “business” people to even consider.) In my case, by the time I was in a position to start making money from playing music, I stopped loving it because it was no longer my passionate escape from life, it had become my job that I wanted to get away from.

    Ironically, my first job after I stopped being paid to play music was in the corporate world, and I hated every soul-sucking minute of it, which is why I decided to become an “intrepreneur” after I was thankfully, and mercifully, downsized. I learned that if I cannot be trusted by an employer to “own” my job, then I will not work for someone else. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that for over eleven years now and I’ve learned a lot since I was a “musician”.

    I know now that I would rather worry about the cash flow and do what I love/what I’m good at than to be a slave to someone else who cannot see beyond job descriptions and org. charts and/or will not let me own the work or the results. (I understand that they will get most of the extrinsic rewards that come from my labor, but I am OK with that because they are the ones putting up more of the risk as they worry about where the money is going to come from and how they want to use it.)

    I plan on going out on my own again eventually, and look forward to it. However, right now I am happy to let my employer pay for my lifestyle, and the music equipment that I like to PLAY with whenever I get the chance! When I finally leave them, I know I will have been an asset and will leave the place in better shape than it was when I started (as opposed to others I’ve worked with in the past who seem to prefer to just wait for the weekends to come, while they wait out retirement, or for their band to get rich and famous.)

  • Tom Harper (@trharp1)

    Owning your own business (any business) is like being your own restaurant. You get to create the menu and create all of the delicious dishes; you get to greet the customers as they come in; you get to enjoy the interaction you have with all of the satisfied customers (after all you’ve done well and all of your custoners are satisfied, right?. . .); and you get to design your marketing and engage the wonderful people who will become your customers. On the other hand, you have to cook; you’re accountable for all mistakes; you have to greet all the people who come in (regardles of evreything else that is going on in your life); you are accountable to all of the customers; and you have to market whether you like to or not and bring as many through your doors as necesary to succeed and grow (through the ups and downs). In other words; all the “get to”s are yours as are the “have to”s; and all the risks are yours as are all the rewards. Ultimately you get to create, develop, have, and fulfill your own dreams and visions (and bring people with you for the journey – both partners/employees & customers).

  • Great post and love the Sparty! Are you a MI native? Congrats on a job well done!

  • Here you go Gini, I thought about a creative response, thus you get a video response for your video post. Enjoy!

  • I let Les choose the winner and it is … drum roll, please …


    But Jason, you win on creativity, so he’s also sending you a book.

    Everyone’s comments are great. Thanks for participating!

  • Congrats Vicki!!!
    And thank you to Les and Gini for sending me a book for my creativity:)