One Entrepreneur Answers 'Why Do We Do It'?


We put out the call recently on one of our Business Achievers mailings to ask people "So you want to own your own business? Why?". One business owner took the time to write back. Here's what Mícheál Ó Doibhilín, Kilmainham Tales had to say:

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Our Business Achievers editorial

So you want to own your own business? Why?

You're not your own boss.
Every one of your clients is your boss.
Employees want to be praised for doing what you’re paying them to do.
Employee’s personal problems invariable affect you, as if you haven’t enough problems of your own.
You can’t talk to anyone about your problems - spouse, management, staff, investors - because...
When times are tight, you pay your employees and, maybe, can’t afford to pay yourself.
You are never done working or worrying — which is your primary job.
No one else is putting money into your retirement, however, you are putting money into your employees’ retirement.
You work when you’re sick.
If you’re really sick there’s no dole for you.
You work on holidays, if you can take holidays, because it’s your business.
Every problem is ultimately your responsibility…. and your fault.

So why do you do it? Hit reply and tell us what keeps you motivated.

Mícheál Ó Doibhilín's reply

Dear BA,

You asked 'why do we do it?".

I started Kilmainham Tales Teo. 10 years ago to publish simple introductions to aspects of Irish history during the so-called 'long century' - 1796-1924. I discovered a need for these when I worked as an Information Officer/Guide in Kilmainham Gaol and found incredible ignorance about our history among the visitors there. But I also found a desire to learn, frustrated by the complexity and depth of available history books, or dreadful school-taught history (in all countries). 

Initially, I took the most frequent questions and either wrote the books myself or got other eminent historians to write them for me - historians driven by the same need to communicate our history as I did. Profit never entered the equation.

Now, 26 publications later, my books are recommended constantly and I have a stable of authors from Ireland, USA and Australia. Some books have been commercial success, other not. Overall, we make a loss every year, and have never produced a profit. As a small 'independent' publisher we are unable to break into the major distributors, so must sell direct.

This is a 7-day-working-week - writing, editing, designing, doing final artwork, publishing, contacting retailers, bookkeeping, running a website - non-stop. It consumes my time, and all for free (in fact, at personal financial cost). It is a one-person operation, I could not afford to employ someone.

So, why do a job no-one could pay me enough to do? 

I love it. I love the idea of producing something useful, that people want. I sell all over the world, and now have people who collect my publications! I have helped change public perceptions of some historical events or people. 

Most of all, though, it is fun. I love the challenge of designing a new book cover (I was a trained graphic designer). I love meeting potential authors and encouraging them to write their first book (many have gone on to be published by other, mainstream publishers). 

And another thing - As a 'retired' person (I am 74) I could simply go and play golf and enjoy a few pints afterwards. What legacy is that? Some lousy score cards and a pot belly, and a big hole in my bank account as I pay exorbitant green fees?

Instead, I am leaving a legacy, a collection of valuable books that will long outlive me in libraries public and private. My imprint is known and respected among the history community. Yes, there is a big hole in my bank account - but I have something to show for it.

Quite simply, I do what I do because I ENJOY IT.

Hoping this helps,

Mícheál Ó Doibhilín

Over to you now. Does this resonate with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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