CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They’re Not Entirely Who You Are

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CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Bernard (Bernie) started his company in 1989. He’ll readily tell you that it wasn’t easy. Many years were spent feeling “more married” to the business than his wife, Ruth. Ruth confirms it. But they managed to endure the hardships, long hours and mad scrambles to make payroll. By 1993 the business was generating a few million dollars in gross revenue. Bernie and Ruth weren’t yet earning the kind of the money they had hoped, but they persisted. By 1996, seven years in, they felt they were escaping the gravitational pull of failure that snatches so many business start-up’s. 

Bernie was always proud to tell people he was the President of his own company. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something he applied to himself. Instead, he was just a business owner and that moniker was glorious enough to suit him. 

Over time the company has experienced up’s and downs – often influenced by the economy. Not unlike many small businesses. Bernie figures he’s experienced just about everything in the 25 plus years he’s been running his own company. Thankful that he’s been successful, and able to achieve a high income, he and Ruth have raised three children. Their youngest is due to graduate from college this year. 

Bernie sits with the calm confidence of a seasoned warrior. I know that look. It’s a look I see sometimes when I look in the mirror, or when somebody takes my picture unexpectedly while sitting in a meeting. We’re not rookies. The street fighting skills of building a business have weathered us, but not worn us completely out. Yet. 

He laments a truth we both know and understand. There’s more to him than his business. Very few people – other than his family – know him outside the context of his business. He remembers a time before he started his company. “I was a nobody,” he says. But he doesn’t quite mean that. Not literally. He goes on to talk of his circle of business acquaintances – he calls them “friends” out of habit. But they’re not friends in the traditional sense, or in the ideal sense. That is, they’re not people with whom he can shell it down. As he puts it, “I can really be myself.” 

It sparks conversation about how as business leaders – business owners – we’re not entirely the roles or titles we wear. He wears the title, President. You may wear the title, CEO. Or, Founder. Or, Owner. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand it’s just one aspect – admittedly, a very large aspect perhaps – of who you really are. 

Bernie isn’t a President to Ruth. Or to his children. But he confesses that to most everybody else, that’s exactly who he is. There’s a sadness in his eyes as he speaks. “Some days I feel like I’m just another asset or resource of the company,” he says. “It can be easy to stop feeling human almost.”

Human. Being human.

Feelings. Emotions. Fears. Concerns. Sadness. Joy. Dread. Anticipation. 

These are human. We don’t speak in those terms when we’re “doing business.” We should. Because business is human. Businesses are operated, led and managed by humans. Businesses provide products and services to other humans. It’s all human, but we avoid the humanity of it all. Too often.

Are you a CEO, President, Founder, Owner who sometimes (maybe often) feels that way? Do you find yourself feeling isolated, unable to find people with whom you can be human? 

I’m in a phase of my own career – after spending over 30 plus years leading businesses – where I’m vigorously pursuing helping business owners and leaders find greater significance and higher levels of achievement. No, it’s not always easy because growth, improvement, and transformation demand asking hard questions. They need collaborators who care enough about us to serve us. People with whom we can be vulnerable without fear that what we say, or do will be used against us. Surrounded by people who won’t judge us, but instead will offer us their insights and experiences to help us decide for ourselves. Not people who will tell us what we should do, or people who want to live our lives for us. Instead, people who understand us and want us to reach new heights — and want us to help them do the same. A reciprocal relationship unlike any we may have ever had before. 

That’s my work. It’s where I began investing, to prepare for 2018 and the establishment of THE PEER ADVANTAGE

The “pitch” is simple, but powerful. 

Seven business owners from around the United States. Any industry. Any location. Any revenue level. People who are driven to grow as people (and yes, owners driven to grow their businesses, too). It’s about people joining forces a few times each month to push themselves individually and collectively. People willing and capable of being vulnerable with one another knowing that’s where the real value is found – in being human with each other! 

There’s no selling to this. As much sales DNA as I have, I’m the anti-sales guy in this effort because experience has taught me that people see the value in challenging their own growth, or they don’t. Those who don’t aren’t fit for the task. Honestly, nor are they the kind of business with whom I want to associate or serve. 

Learn more by going here. Complete the “application” without obligation because it’s merely an application to spark a conversation where we can find out more about each other. Together we can decide if this is something that’s right for either of us. It has to be right for both of us! Because we’re all in this together! I look forward to meeting you and finding out more about you and your company.

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About the author: Randy Cantrell is the founder of Bula Network, LLC – an executive leadership advisory company helping leaders leverage the power of others through peer advantage, online peer advisory groups. Interested in joining us? Visit ThePeerAdvantage.com