By Chuck Violand
July 3, 2017
Two hundred forty-one years ago, fifty-six men pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors to a cause they deeply believed in when signing their names to the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, they also signed away the futures they had been planning. They knew their lives would never be the same following the conflict that accompanied the Declaration, regardless of the outcome. And they were right.
Two of the signers, Adams and Jefferson, would become presidents of the new nation won in the conflict. Four were captured by the British and tortured until death. Nine fought and died in the Revolutionary War. Several others had their homes looted and their properties confiscated and destroyed. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Life definitely changed for them afterward.
Yet, these men signed the Declaration with their eyes wide open, bracing themselves for a future they couldn’t predict or could ever have imagined. They knew that if they didn’t change, the revolution would not succeed, and the union it created would not endure.
While most business startups don’t involve life or death, or having to choose between liberty or bondage, I continue to marvel at the number of business owners who think they can grow significant businesses without having to change some of the behaviors and habits they brought with them when they launched their companies.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence certainly knew their lives would change after penning their names to the document, but I’m not convinced they were fully aware of just how different their lives would be. Rather than being subjects of a king and having to follow the laws of a distant ruler, they would rule themselves with the consent of a diverse population.
This sounds a lot like an early lesson learned by most entrepreneurs when leaving an employer to start our own business. Rather than just having to satisfy the quirky demands of one boss, we quickly realize our newfound freedom means we need to satisfy the quirky demands of lots of bosses—including customers, suppliers, and eventually, employees.
To be successful in a new business venture, we have to think beyond our own needs, and we frequently have to grow beyond our previous habits and behaviors.
When businesses are small we’re responsible primarily for ourselves. We are our own king, and if we don’t produce, we don’t eat. The effects are mainly limited to ourselves. As our companies grow we become responsible for the lives and families of the people we employ. To consistently support them we may have to change some of our behaviors. The basics like showing up, following up, and following through are just the beginning.
Choosing to run a business has a lot to do with choosing to govern ourselves. Along with the freedoms come corresponding responsibilities and the need to change. Recognizing the changes that will be required of us before signing our “John Hancock” will give us a lot more to celebrate every day—not just this one.