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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New Direction: An Open Letter

Today is the first day of the next step in my career and the first day of full-time self-employment. After years working for top employers, including Target, Edward Jones Investments, Kohl’s and others, Resu-mazing Services Company is now my sole focus. The experiences and responsibilities in the past have been tremendous as I have led teams of up to 500 people, focused on human resources, sales development and business operations and have gotten to know so many wonderful people whom I am fortunate to call friends. Today I must take everything that I have learned and make it work with my own business. I am sharing this letter with everyone for three reasons.

First, to say, “Thank you!” Resu-mazing Services Company started as a part-time experiment three years ago. As my clients had success with their new résumés and other career marketing materials, the referrals started to come. I believe it true that the highest compliment in business is a referral from a delighted client. Those compliments have become a regular part of the growth of Resu-mazing. Thank you to everyone who has made that happen and have witnessed that “Amazing Résumés Work!”

Second, to convey my commitment to you, my clients. So many of the people I have been able to help have become friends. These are relationships that I value and I get excited when my friends have success. By making this work my professional specialty, I will be better able to serve everyone, existing and new clients alike. For Resu-mazing to continue its growth trajectory, I must give it more time.

Third, you will be seeing new services from Resu-mazing. Being more accurate, you will hear more about existing services and a host of new services. You will see cloud-based value added services to make the Resu-mazing experience even better. One-stop personal branding and career marketing services, including pre-scheduled updates and content creation will be available very soon. These are just two services coming this summer.

My family and I are looking forward to this next step in my career. I am looking forward to making even more friends as I help others find success in their searches. You can look forward to more and better services and a true partner in managing and advancing your career. Thank you for reading this and for your ongoing support of Resu-mazing Services Company!

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

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.

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.

Your Mistake, My Money

The electronic ink flows faster than a western river after the spring melt as small business owners and entrepreneurs discuss how to grow their businesses. How can we get more customers? How can we sell more? How can we get referrals? Here is an idea: do what you said you were going to do and return calls.

Here is a brief and hopefully not too boring example of what has got me stirred up this morning. My house needs a chimney repair. We called one local contractor who visited our home, scribbled a quote with his pencil on the back of a business card (really!) and told us that he really wanted to do the $1,600 job. We called him back to make the appointment. And called. And called again. Tony, where are you?

As I sit writing this, I am waiting for another contractor who committed to a visit during a time window that ended 30 minutes ago. We called this guy from his colorful – and presumably not free – ad in one of those coupon magazines that fill the mailbox. Tick tock, tick tock.

When I get inquiries from potential clients, I always respond right away. There are simple technology tricks to make this possible, solutions like smartphones to get emails and voice-to-text email alerts of office voicemails. Almost always, these people express delighted surprise that I get back to them so quickly because my competitors don’t. They lose, I win. I get paid, they don’t.

Woody Allen famously commented that success is all about showing up. I think he was right. In business, success can come from something as simple: return the call. Show up and win the business, because others have not yet figured this out.

Ideas to Action

Getting started on a new project or business venture requires many ingredients, and one of the most important is passion. Also near the top is skill. Have you taken the time to think about your passions and skills and how they could translate into a new business or initiative? Maybe you have thought that you would like to start your own business (who hasn’t?), but you have no idea where to begin.

Start with your talents and interests and allow yourself to get creative. Start with a large piece of paper, a pen, pencil or favorite crayon, and start freewriting. I suggest that you write “My Interests” in the middle of the page. You can get another piece of paper and write “Things I’m Good At.” Start writing quickly and without editing yourself. This exercise could take five minutes or five days. It’s up to you. Keep going and fill the page, scribbling if you have to.  Most importantly, don’t hesitate and don’t avoid writing something because you think it’s silly or of no value.

After you have had a day or two to think about it, review what you have written. What do you see? Any themes? Anything surprising? Is there anything there that spurs ideas for businesses? Here are two stories that may help illustrate my point.

I have always received good feedback and solid grades on my writing. Whether the writing was for work, for school or community activities, I was always told that I wrote well and that my work was engaging and interesting. I also have an interest in career development and have done a lot of recruiting and interviewing. I was always amazed at the inconsistent quality of resumes that I saw. A few were great, but most were boring. More than a few were terrible. I thought, “I can do better than this.” After thinking and researching, I plunked down my $15 for a business certificate, set up a website and started telling people that I write resumes. Almost two years later, my business is growing well and providing some useful income.

A very close friend was helping a friend with her dog grooming business. He spent some time in her shop and overheard customers asking for dog feeding stands, the kind that raise the bowl off the ground so the dog has an easier time eating. Michael is handy in the woodshop and got the idea to tinker around and make a few models (single and dual-bowl, small,
medium and large). Now you can buy these feeders at the shop and at the festivals and fairs where he has a booth. His interests and talents came together with opportunity to create a new business.

No, these aren’t dissed college kids starting Facebook stories, and I’m sure that Wall Street’s next big IPO won’t focus on resumes or dog feeders, but they illustrate the point that your next opportunity can come from a little time invested exploring your own inventory of skills and interests. For more ideas on brainstorming, visit UNC’s website. To help you determine if your dream is for real or just a fantasy, check out John C. Maxwell’s book on the topic. All the best to you in your self-discovery.