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In praise of the Antihero

My dad had a convenience store for thirty years (and a supermarket for about ten of those years) so I was immersed in this universe all my childhood. I understood at a very young age that my father was the boss and that he had employees…

My father was THE BOSS

I also realized that this gave me certain rights (and powers), such as the ability to walk into the warehouse, to take candy from his store, or to go to places that only employees could access in the store. I felt lucky to be able to walk around an empty supermarket with my sister, pretending we were shopping with our cart in the aisles… And I had a real sense of importance when my father introduced me to his employees: I was the boss’s daughter and I was proud of it. How many times have I watched my father count the money from the cash register in his office to prepare his deposit, believing him to be rich in front of those huge piles of twenties, tens and fives… But what I didn’t know at the time was that this money would be used to pay the suppliers, salaries, rent, etc. As I got older, I also understood that being a boss meant that my dad could rarely attend my soccer games because he ran a business that operated 24 hours a day. When the phone rang at home during dinner, or in the middle of the night, it was never a good sign, and I knew that my father’s role would follow him everywhere, even on vacation. I eventually understood that being a boss had its downsides…

From entrepreneur to employer

An entrepreneur is essentially someone who had a business idea and had the courage to start a company. It’s someone who had the desire to stand on their own two feet and wanted to pursue a dream. It’s also sometimes someone who could not find their place in an overly conformist job environment and who was looking to be happier at work. In short, it’s an ordinary person, perhaps a little more hard-working and creative than the average person, perhaps also more optimistic, but in the end, it’s often a non-conformist who wanted to thrive at work without having to answer to a boss… And, one day, this entrepreneur became a boss too…

Assuming your role as a boss

When I started my business, I had not really considered this aspect of my new professional reality. With no previous experience, I became president of my company and quickly began to surround myself with employees. Learning how to reconcile all aspects of managing a small business is very demanding: setting up the invoicing system, the supply chain, the delivery system, the business development process, the accounting system… In addition to that, there is the management of human resources: establishing salaries, managing schedules, organizing tasks, paying source deductions to the government… And with time, we discover the joys of CNESST files, chronic absenteeism, conflicts between employees, etc.… In fact, we realize that we possess powers we don’t necessarily want: the power to decide someone’s salary, to choose their career path, to hire or fire them… Learning and preparing to become an employer is as important as learning to become an entrepreneur: it’s both a huge responsibility and a huge burden, and you learn have to navigate this reality moving forward.

Lonely at the top

In reality, we are still simple entrepreneurs who wanted to start our own businesses, who try by all means to keep them afloat by making numerous personal sacrifices. But no one knows this because we don’t talk about it. The entrepreneur is perceived as a superhero, rich and powerful, who must exercise his leadership skillfully to motivate the troops. But behind that closed office door, there may be an anxious, tearful, discouraged person… a person who struggles to pay the bills and thinks about giving up every day… Once you take on the role of employer, all eyes and expectations turn to you, and all start to depend on you… you’re expected to ensure fairness among employees, to offer good salary conditions, to ensure the survival and sustainability of the business, to hire the right people, to intervene skillfully in conflicts, to resolve operational and financial problems, to establish an effective strategic growth plan, to reinvent the company in times of pandemic, and to ensure recovery after the crisis… It’s quite a burden to bear for one simple entrepreneur!

Of course, over the years (and many mistakes later), we develop tools, procedures, reflexes and behaviors adapted to this entrepreneurial role. We learn to exercise this power that has been imposed on us to the best of our experience, our values and our personalities and, above all, to surround ourselves with people who skills complement our own. But, in the end, we have to accept that we will upset, disappoint, and frustrate others because the reality is simple: the entrepreneur is not a fictional character with superhuman or supernatural powers, even if they sometimes cherish the dream of conquering or saving the world… The entrepreneurial boss is just an ordinary person with great powers, and with great power comes great responsibility.

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