Do you really want to be the boss?

By Lloyd Graff

Brian Capece has a five person shop in rural Maryland. He does wire EDM and precision machining for aerospace, satellite, medical and commercial clients, often working 65 to 70 hours a week. His wife runs his office now that his two children are in school. He’s been doing this for 10 years, since buying his first die sinker at an auction.

It’s been a rough year for Brian. He says he used up his cushion of money to keep the business afloat while not letting any of his people go, because those core employees are the key to his business and if he lost them he would be in the soup.

He is finally back in the black but wonders if the path he has taken for the last decade was the right one.

“After going to the tax man this year and seeing how much I had to pay, I really think I would have been better off working for somebody else than having my own business,” he told me.

His comment was not said out of anger or great regret, but I wonder how many people feel the same way—for the same money and less risk, they’d just as soon pull down a paycheck than sign all the checks.

Question: Do you think you would be happier owning your own company or being a well compensated, valued employee?

Michael Scott from The Office

Michael Scott from The Office

Share this post

14 thoughts on “Do you really want to be the boss?

  1. Jim Whitney

    Not that doing so is easy, but if a business fails the employees simply go find a new job.

    What they may not realize is the owner of that failed business probably lost his life’s savings, possibly his house, perhaps his marriage, AND all the years spent for nought since now he probably also has to find new job. But hey, at least some of the world’s problems were solved with all the taxes extracted from this evil greedy individual who had the audacity to try to operate a business!

  2. Pete Goebel

    I have been in the industrial machine shop business for 27 years, and I absolutely would not trade it to work for any company. I feel that a business owner has many more tools to get tax deductions than a person working for a W2. I have had from 8 to 11 machinists through the years and been able to keep busy most all times. I haven’t worked in the shop myself for 20 years, so that is always a fall back position. I would tell Ben to stick with it, he will be better off in the long run.

  3. Brian "Dwight" Hoff

    Years ago I heard someone say “The only ones that owns a business are the ones who don’t know enough to not own a business” and I thought there could be some truth to that.
    I think these tough years have taught me to admire, even more, those with the kahunas to take on that task. Win or lose there must be a sense of satisfaction and pride knowing you provided jobs for others, you paid more than your debt to help society, and had the audacity to take a thought and make it happen. Cheers to the entrepreneurs!

  4. Joel lehman

    Well, i do both.
    I work full-time. And have my own business at home.
    Its not easy.
    Wife has been strong so far for me. But its been rocky.
    My employer got slow at the end of last year.
    Thank God, i had my business at home. (Financially)
    Time to myself…. Whats that!

  5. Bill Moore

    Simply go find another job? Lets say a 32 year old stays wuith a company 15 years and then the company fails, now a 55 year old is out looking for a job in a young mans game, how is that simplicity Mr. Whitney. The fact is that an employee takes a hell of alot of risk just to take a job these days, and I for one am getting sick and tired of being told that the owner takes all the risk. BAHHONEY I say ,the risk is equaly divided.
    If a shop is on the ropes whats the first thing the employees do? Take a pay cut to keep the job, whats the first thing that the owner does when he is back in the black? Gives himself a raise, you folks do the math.

  6. Abdul Khatri

    In India, we have a saying that goes like this:
    The best is farming. The next best is business. The worst is a job working for someone. Of course, this was back then. Now, hundreds of farmers are commiting suicide, thanks to corporate farming giants.Businesses work by greasing the palms. And jobs are a plenty if you know someone.

  7. Joe

    I would like to add my two cents to this. Everyone has their own opinion, I am a journeyman machinist and I am very proud of that. I have owned my own machine shop for 12 years now. I have been lucky and yes just like the man in the article we went through our cash reserve. This is an extremely expensive business machine cost, tooling cost, labor cost, taxes, insurance, ect. The number one thing that I think is the hardest about owning your own shop is its all consuming you never stop thinking about it. You can be watching TV out to dinner and it’s always there. Yes I know no one will feel sorry for me and they shouldn’t but just because the grass looks greener it may not be. If you plan on your own business no matter what be prepared to work 12-16 hours a day 6-7 days a week for some time because in the beginning your are it it all falls on you. All I can say is in my experience you will never work harder than when its your own and that my friends will weed out the people who thinks it’s a piece of cake. Anyone can do it for a week, month or a year try doing for 5-6 years then see what you think. If you are married you better make sure your spouse is willing to put their life on hold for you to get going. It can be great but it does seem those times are getting fewer and farther between. Good luck to all who try it JMY

  8. Dan K

    You can make a small fortune in the Machine Shop Business….if you start with a large one.
    It is not what it used to be 10 or 20 years ago, and it’s getting much tougher every year now.
    I have been a small shop (mostly just myself) owner for over 28 years and it now seems that I made the wrong decision. The USA is no longer manufacturing friendly and taxes, utilities, and regulations have a choke-hold on all small manufacturers. As a small business (Typical Job Shop with focus on production turning 1 inch and under) in upstate NY I am seeing many, many job shops (and Fab Shops) close and many local customers close or shrink in size, which is scary. The ones that are left are now on Net 60, 75 or 90 day payment terms and I cannot wait 3 months to get paid. Not sure how long this can continue……


  9. Jim Palmer

    To answer the question, yes, I want to be the boss. To those who have never been the owner of a business I say, “shut up, you don’t know what you are talking about”. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but for example, I told my children as they were growing up, that they couldn’t understand my decisions related to them until they had children of their own. One who hasn’t been a business owner can’t possibly understand the pressures of ownership and having employees. And no, the risk is not equally divided between owner and employees. Employees contribute their time in exchange for wages, benefits etc. Owners commit everything to the business and risk losing everything including the time they contributed to make the business a success. There may be a small percentage of business owners who take it all for themselves and give themselves raises at the expense of their employees, but there is a much greater percentage of owners who have their employee’s interests and concerns at heart as much as their own. I have owned and operated a job shop for 9 years. In the first year 60% of our business moved offshore. We had to regroup and rebuild. There were employee casualties and eventually reductions in benefits (for everyone including me). Being the owner has been the toughest thing I have ever done in my life. It has cost me more than anything else has cost me, but I still would rather rise or fall on the merit being the one who takes the responsibilities of ownership and provides not only for my livelihood but also the livelihood of those who choose to help build the business.

  10. Jim Whitney

    Bill, I couldn’t agree more with you that the business owner and the employees have an equal stake in a small business. I did not intend to suggest finding a job at any age is easy or simple. I have had to let 4 of my 17 employees go one by one due to reduced business and each of them was kept until the last possible minute draining the company of its resources in the process. But I hung in there in hopes that things would pick up and their positions would continue because I respect and appreciate the risk they have taken and the devotion they have shown to my venture. My observation is that it is largely taxes (obvious and hidden) that ultumately starve small businesses of the financial success they deserve in return for their risk, creative thinking, and long hours. The employees get hurt and the owner gets wiped out when he should have been encouraged and supported in his effort to provide life long careers for his employees. Instead he is portrayed by tax greedy politicians as the “big bad rich guy” we all need to make pay “his fair share”. After you wipe that guy out for that “fair” share he and his employees end up drawing unemployment from the system instead of contributing through their productive efforts. All taxes are ultimately paid for by consumers. Taxes are just another expense a business adds into the cost of their product or service. Business owners add the burden of tax to the price of their produt until they are no longer competitive, then they painfully go out of business.

  11. Gilbert Melton

    As a small shop owner for the last 23 years, I can identify with most of the comments. However, the time to wonder is long past. In my experience, the small shop owner that is forced to seek a job will be hard pressed to find one, let alone keep it.

    First, most shop owners are paranoid enough to think that a former owner will just be looking for new customers and/or tooling to start again and not even give him a job.

    Second, he has been so used to thinking outside the box and “doing things his way”, that he will most likely find a “job” to be stifling, constrictive, and boring. I have seen several former shop owners leave the field altogether as they were unable to work within the autocratic environment that is prevalent in so many shops.

    Long ago my dad told me ( a shop owner himself )… “you have to put up with the politics whether you are the worker or the owner… might as well own it and get the money too….” I took that to heart and have been running my own shop since I was 27. Yes, it is costly. It cost me a marriage and several relationships. But it has enriched my life in ways that are hard to explain to the layman.

    As far as taxes go….. Yes, we pay too much, and are treated as the bad guy. But a good CPA can help you to avoid almost all of them. Explore that avenue further…..

    The risk that you take at the start is greater than is often realized. You don’t see until too late the full extent of what you gamble and the doors you close. All that said, owning your own shop is still the best choice for the right kind of man. It also isn’t all that it is cracked up to be either…..

  12. Peter Davis

    I am sixty four years old, I started my small shop five years ago, ( did not want to wait till the last minute), It has been a struggle, I work seven days a week 12-14 hrs. a day, I have given up a lot, but I do get a lot of satisfaction out of it.
    For you younger guys, go for it, I see a big demand for the small shop in the future, because from the minute you wake up in the morning there is nothng you touch or use all day that a machine shop was not involved in.
    I see alot of the bigger shops closing, mainly because of the larger quantities going overseas, run a tight ship, make quality your main object and the work will come to you, good luck. Pete.
    PS. Dont get greedy! it will consume you.

  13. Steve Baranyk

    It is always easier to work for someone else than to be in business for your self with employees who depend on you and upon whom you depend.

  14. Dan Vespa

    Here’s a crazy question. Would any of you consider starting a shop right now in this day and age?


Comments are closed.