What It Takes To Be an Owner

In the spring of 2014, I went to Owner Camp in Portland, OR. I’d describe Owner Camp as a therapeutic retreat for business owners. It’s put together by Bureau of Digital – a joint created by some folks at Happy Cog and nGen Works, and it’s three days of sharing, confessing, arguing, and learning from other owners. It’s not a conference. It’s more like a lesson in validation – this is hard work.

Someone gimme a tissue

Being an owner of a client services company in an industry constantly tearing itself down and building itself back up is tough. Clients are building their own internal teams after picking up the tools of the trade from companies like ours. Technology is relentlessly evolving. Intellectual property, billing, client relationship dynamics, operations, and competition – these are all things that eat away at the owner’s mind day in and day out. It’s tiring. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question my ability to lead my companies forward, and I’ve been doing it for nine years.

No one else has our job. We don’t have managers. We can seek feedback from clients, employees, and partners, but our career path is our own. It’s up to us to figure this out. At times it’s a power surge; it can also be really isolating and lonely. That’s where Owner Camp comes in.

Owner Camp in Chicago

Last week, Owner Camp did their thing in Chicago. Thirty founders from several countries came to Chicago for a three-day-long opportunity to learn they’re not alone in this mixed bag of an experience.

We invited the cohort over to our office for some drinks and some chats. We also put some markers out for folks to draw their logo on our big board in the front of our shop. It only took a few minutes for it to get filled up. I forgot to check if they were dry-erase markers.




Chicago Owner Campers, I hope you all got as much or more value out of your sessions as I did. I got more than three days of experience from my time in Portland. I got access to 30 other folks who I can hit up for advice, ideas, or simply as an outlet for how it feels to be on this roller coaster at times.

To Greg, Carl, and co. who organize these events, you all are doing a great thing for this industry by creating an outlet and sounding board for owners that didn’t exist before. Thanks for that.