Entrepreneurism Calling: 8 Reasons to Answer

Today is a holiday in the United States. Does that mean that your usual Sunday night dread will be Monday night dread, an evening of tossing and turning as you think about returning to the office Tuesday morning?

If you have a job, you need to start a business. If you don’t have a job but want one, you need to start a business. Make your own job! Here are a whole bunch of reasons why you should get started building your own venture.

  1. Protect Yourself. Average job tenure in the US is about 4.5 years (see the Bureau of Labor Statistics report). If you are going to work a 40-year career, that means you will have anywhere from 8-11 jobs. Do you think it will be a smooth, full-employment experience every time? No, probably not. Even modest income from self-employment will be valuable when the payroll checks stop.
  2. Develop Skills. There is nothing like having to figure it out for the sake of your business to get your attention. Do it, or you fail. It’s that simple. Building a website, setting up a bookkeeping system, marketing, managing customer relationships – all are critical and may take you beyond what you do in your daily work as an employee.
  3. Build a Network. Take my word for it: you will meet people during your entrepreneurial activities you will never meet otherwise. These people could be customers, referrals, potential business partners, community leaders and others. The point is that your network will become more broad and diverse than it would by keeping your head down in your employee work experience.
  4. Give Yourself Hope. A tough day working for someone else doesn’t seem as bad when you have other things in your life (I know this firsthand). Having the hope that comes with activity and effort building your own success keeps things in perspective and a stern look from your boss will not ruin your day.
  5. Become Known for Something. Have you ever worked in a company or for a boss that gives no recognition? Does your supervisor take the credit? That will not happen when you are out creating a name and reputation for yourself. You do great things for your customers, they thank you, they pay you, and they send you referrals. That’s how it works. A phone call like this from your next customer feels so good (and maybe a lot better than the Employee of the Month award): “Hi, John Smith told me you did a great job for him and I would like you to help me, too.”
  6. Account for your Time. Many transition from employee to self-employed status and back again several times. Depending on the situation and the opportunity, traditional employment could make sense and you will want to take a job. Or, you could get laid off. It happens, even to the best people. Self-employment will allow you to fill in the time on your résumé and answer the question, “So, what have you been doing since you got laid off?”
  7. You Can Get Help. SCORE (visit www.SCORE.org) offers workshops and counseling to help you plan, launch and run a business. Even if you have no idea where to start, they do. If you have a skills or service you would like to offer, they will help you consider opportunities and risks and will coach you through business planning. Other resources include the Small Business Administration (www.SBA.gov) and many local services. Check with your public library, your city’s economic development office, or the local community college for available services.
  8. You Give Yourself Freedom. Do you want to express yourself and your values in your work? If so, you can do it when you own the business. Are there people with whom you don’t want to work? Fine, say no. Do you want to offer special discounts or do pro bono work for special groups or causes? Go for it! You can choose to incorporate and live your most closely held values through a business you own.

What reasons do you have for yourself? Why would you launch a new business? Think about it, internalize it, and make it happen. I would love to hear your motivations and stories in the comments below.

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Bill Florin is a business owner and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.

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Saying Goodbye

Don’t be a jerk. That’s about 98% of what you need to know about leaving your job before taking the next step in your career. The objective is to go out with class, respect for others – even if you don’t like someone – and respect for yourself. You should know most of this, but here are some quick reminders.

Intellectual Property. Remember that stack of paperwork you signed – either actual paper or electronic forms – that talked about the company’s property and secrets. They meant all that stuff. Avoid the temptation to copy and swipe information. An ethical employer is not going to be interested in facilitating or encouraging thievery, anyway. Plus, it’s just wrong.

Contacts. In our hyper-connected age of social media, you should have all of your contacts already, but you should take time before giving notice to have everything that you will need. Names, email addresses and phone numbers at a minimum. You may never see your desk again after resigning.

Proper Notice. Give at least two weeks for your employer to react, but be ready to see the door from the minute you say goodbye. Some companies will have you stick around; others want you gone ASAP.

Coworkers. Everyone has friends at work, and probably one or two that you won’t miss. Fight the urge to tell people how you feel, no matter how satisfying that may be. Chances are great that you will come to regret what you said, and it comes back to doing what’s right. Be respectful.

Be Thankful. Whether you have been with your current employer for six months or 16 years, your run there began with excitement and optimism. Chances are that you learned a lot and your company invested some time and money into developing you. Say thank you to everyone who has helped you. You will all feel great and you burnish your reputation as a professional. Win – win!

Go out with a smile and help others come to miss you and your positive professionalism. Congratulations on your new job!

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Give the Grumps to the Competition

No More Grumpy Employees
Let your competition have the grumpy people that hurt your business with bad customer service.

American Public Media’s Marketplace ran a Freakonomics Radio piece this week about customer service. As is true for most of their work, it was entertaining and made a great point. This week I also spoke with a long-time friend who is working with Sheetz, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain, as they aggressively expand in North Carolina. Both experiences had a similar theme. When you’re talking about employee quality, you get what you pay for. Pay more to get rid of the grumps.

The Marketplace story makes a simple, really an intuitive point. If employers spend more to attract and retain quality employees, they will take better care of the customers, helping beat the competition with service that drives customer loyalty. Costco and Trader Joe’s are two examples. I would add Sheetz to the list.

As my friend was describing the Sheetz environment, he explained that all employees in the organization, right down to the part-time cashier working a few hours a week, earn a bonus based on the store’s performance. If the unit hits its goals, all share in the rewards. Performance above goal juices the bonus and all get more. Deliver the goods and get more green in your pocket. Simple! The plan has created a culture where the entire team cares about sales, service and profitability. My friend also shared that they have been able to attract great employees from their competitors, hurting the other business twice with people and market share victories.

Compare that to other companies that view payroll as a cost that should be reduced whenever possible. These are the places where people work when they have no other option, but quickly abandon when better opportunities arise.

If you own or manage a business, there is a lesson to be learned. If you care anything at all about your customer’s experience, better employees matter. They will stay longer, learn more, provide better service and build a loyal customer base. When viewed as a cost to be minimized, employees at the low-wage employers will deliver quality commensurate with their pay. Business leaders, make a decision. Do you want the grumps on your team, or your competitor’s?

Bill Florin writes on business and entrepreneurism when not busy helping clients with their career marketing needs at Resu-mazing Services Company.

Why Are You Really Calling?

Every organization that sells something, whether it is a tangible product, a service, or just an idea (think non-profits and politicians), has to reach out to its customers, and active existing customers are the best bets. After all, if I have purchased something from you or donated before, I may buy again. Anyone in business who has had any success has likely spent time and money cultivating existing relationships for additional sales and referrals. Why? It works.

Can we get real about the sales call, though, and avoid pretending that the call is about something that it isn’t? My family has a subscription to a famous magazine, one with a long history, filled with pictures and featuring a yellow-bordered cover. You know the one. They called every day last week at about 10 AM. The phone would ring, I would look at the caller ID, say, “Oh, it’s them,” and ignore it. The answering machine would kick in and the caller would hang up.

On the fifth day, I finally broke down and answered. The person on the other end of the call started by stating, “Hello, Mister Florin, this is Matt from the yellow covered magazine, and we are calling to say thank you for being a loyal subscriber. We are also going to send you a free gift – a world map poster – that is yours to keep just for previewing the blah-blah-blah DVD.” The call didn’t get much further than that, and I am pretty sure that they will not call again soon.

Why do telemarketers feel like they have to start their calls with false pretenses? The thank you was not sincere, of course. It was just a way to keep me on the phone for a few seconds. Maybe there are people in the telemarketing industry who know better than I, but I can’t be the only one who finds the hollow thank you approach irritating.

Here’s a better idea: Be direct! You know that we have subscribed to your mag for years. We sometimes watch TV shows on your cable channel. We like you – or did until the telemarketing blitz. Why not say, “Mister Florin, this is Matt at the yellow covered magazine. Since you enjoy the magazine, we thought you would like to preview this incredible new blah-blah-blah DVD. Just say yes and you can be enjoying it by next week, and if you don’t love it, send it back at no charge.”

As business owners and leaders, don’t we have the obligation to be clear with our customers? Matt wasn’t calling to say thank you. He was calling to sell me something that I might enjoy. The next time you call your customers, be clear, concise and purposeful. I know I appreciate the direct approach, and they will too.

Slamming the Door in Your Customer’s Face

Getting to the airport early is the first rule of travel, right? That, at least, is what the TSA pounds into our heads. Wanting to do right by the federal employees who have the authority to pat me down when I don’t want that particular experience, I always get there with plenty of time to spare. It’s important that they have time to count and scrutinize my three-ounce bottles. Last week was no different, and I had lots of time to sit, watch and listen.

If you have ever been in the Westchester County Airport (NY), you know that it is small. When waiting, travelers are sitting just feet from the gates, leaving lots of opportunity to observe airline employee behavior. Here is what happened.

Airline Gate Agent (talking into two-way radio, annoyed and impatient): “I need to close out this flight. Is the passenger almost through security?”

Voice on the Radio: “Yes, she is almost done, but she is kind of snotty.”

AGA (picking up and talking on telephone): “Go ahead and close the doors. I’m not letting her on. She is snotty and giving TSA a hard time.”

Seconds later, I could see the cargo door on the commuter jet closing. Ms. Snotty Passenger arrives after her 20 second, 30 yard journey from security screening. She quietly asks, “Am I on time to get on this flight?”

AGA, taking the opportunity to deliver a lecture, lets her have it. “Ma’am, you gave up your seat on this flight as you did not get here 10 minutes before departure time. We had to give your seat away. Please sit down and you will be on the next flight in three hours. Remember in the future that you must get here at least 10 minutes before departure.”

Ms. Not-so-Snotty Passenger accepted this answer, turned and sought out the seat that she would fill for a good portion of that afternoon. She would never know that her delay was so heavily determined by this single airline employee. Her seat had not been filled; the agent simply did not want her in it.

So what’s the point? If you own or manage a business that employs people, your best efforts at advertising and systematic customer service excellence can be snuffed out by your AGAs. What are the values that you work to teach and demonstrate, hoping that your team will make the right choices?

If you work in a service role yourself, you decide how you will behave, the actions you will take and the service you will provide. Think about what that gate agent could have done for the passenger and her company’s reputation had she said, “Ms. Passenger, please hurry. I told them to keep the door open for you so you could make it to your destination on time. In the future, be sure to get here earlier.”

Whether you work solo or in a large organization, finding ways to stretch and serve internal and external customers can make the difference between success and failure. That decision to slam the door on that one passenger was more than an inconvenience. It was a demonstration of the culture of that airline, something that will not be undone by advertising and other efforts to tell me how great that airline is. One person can make all the difference. Yes, come on board, or no, go sit down and wait.

Book Review: Linchpin

I picked up the latest Seth Godin paperback release at the airport bookstore last week and devoured it. After being inspired by The Dip and The Big Moo, I was excited to have the opportunity to grab five hours of flight time for a Seth pep talk. It was worth the 16 bucks.

As an entrepreneur and someone who is constantly working to do remarkable work for my clients, Godin’s focus on artistry resonated and validated what I and many of my clients do every day: Engage in “artistry” (Godin’s term), rising above the pack to add that which cannot be described in a policy manual or procedure, adding that special something – creativity, emotional energy, caring – that sets my work above the rest. You probably do that too, and are at your best and most energized when you are in that zone. Godin profiles people including coffee shop employees, CEOs and sales executives, creating opportunities to identify commonality between the reader and Godin’s subjects.

One of the reasons that I still prefer paper books over the Kindle for non-fiction with lasting value is that I like to scribble in the margins. Stars, checks, lines, comments and other visual reminders of, “Hey, this seemed important at 30,000 feet,” make up my system. This book is now filled with them.

Are you working for someone else? Become a linchpin. Be indispensable be doing more than is expected, by adding the qualities that are unique to you.

Are you an entrepreneur? Work hard, work fast and give you best as a gift to your clients and employees. You too will become indispensable.

Godin’s point is simple, but profound in its ramifications. If your job can be described in a training guide or a policy manual, if it can be automated or given to someone else willing to do it at a lower price, you are cooked. He challenges us to think and act, working to be remarkable, indispensable artists of our trades.

I Can’t Take Your Money

A Note about Work: I am taking the Work blog in a different direction as it becomes more obvious every day that our economy and our work experiences are also shifting. In our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, working was about finding a good company, staying there for decades, and getting out with whatever the retirement package the organization offered. While this is still true for some (e.g. public school teachers and police officers), more of us are spending at least some portion of our work lives without the comfort of a paycheck. Instead, we have to spend some time, either by choice or by necessity, figuring it out for ourselves and earning some of our money in other ways. Our employment relationships are more contractual and much shorter-term.

It is with that understanding and the experience from my own entrepreneurial efforts that I am adding this dimension to the blog. While there will still be a lot of useful information (at least I hope that you think so) about job hunting and career management, this extra element will make the blog more reflective of the experiences that my clients, my colleagues and I share. My hope is that you can learn from them and me, both copying the wins and avoiding the mistakes. Please share your reactions and ideas.

Sometimes, you just have to walk away from the money. You get excited about the opportunity to close more business, send out another invoice and watch the money flow. It happens a lot if you are running a successful business – however you define success – but there are times when you just have to say, “No, I can’t take your money.”

I recently worked with someone who wanted me to review some of her work and possibly make some improvements and changes. She mentioned several times that she was willing to pay me for my time. Upon reviewing her material, I realized that it was already very good and that there was very little that I could do to make it much better. Maybe a tweak here and a little polish there, but that was about it. I told her what I thought, gave some advice for free and moved on, thanking her for the opportunity to help.

I am not sharing this to make you think that I am a saint, ready to work for free and give away my services. Instead, I share this because there is more to the story. Because of my decision, this potential client went public with the story and gave me a solid recommendation on a huge social media site. I also know – at least with some certainty – that if she ever has the opportunity to refer someone to me, she will.

Consider the value of the good will that you can earn by doing something for nothing. Whether it is in your own gig or while working for others, sometimes some free advice, a little extra effort with expectation of reward, and a “thanks for thinking of me” can pay bigger dividends than a few dollars in the bank.