A J.O.B.? Really?
The entrepreneurial lifestyle is very alluring. Making your own schedule, hand-picking your clients and determining your own rates sounds very enticing. The ability to get up whenever you want, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and not have to worry about the grinding commute is almost too tempting to pass up, not to mention deciding to go on vacation whenever you want.
But being a true entrepreneur means deciding not to do many of those things. In fact, being an entrepreneur, on average, is more grueling than working as an employee, and the employee lifestyle can teach entrepreneurs 5 much needed skills
1. Setting a schedule: The phrase “the early bird catches the worm” may have its origin in the 1600’s, but it is still true today. Most companies have set schedules for their employees. The standard is still an 8-hour work day. And, while part of the dream of being an entrepreneur is being able to rise and shine at the crack of noon, most successful self-employed people have a set schedule that they keep on a daily basis. Even artistic entrepreneurs, like Stephen King, have a schedule. He used to write 10 pages a day, no matter how long it took, every single day, even on holidays.
2. Customer Service: These days, it is very easy to return an item to a store that you do not like, sometimes even if you have already used it. Large company owners know that brand loyalty is non-existent these days, so in the 80’s a new slogan began to catch on. “The customer is always right” has been the bane of many salespersons’ existence for the last 30+ years. However, this saying does not mean that you have to bow down to an unruly client. Being an entrepreneur means you can pick and choose your clients. But, once you have decided to work with a client, it is part of your job to make them happy; and that may mean going above and beyond what you agreed to do. In fact, it is possible that doing more than what was agreed to is part of being a true entrepreneur.
3. Commitment: Think of this word, and associate it with a handyman, painter, web designer, or other service related business and you will probably think the two don’t go together. Unfortunately, that is sometimes true. But that is why commitment is so important. I know a web design company that gives a discount to every client that comes to them with a half-done web site where the designer disappeared. This company does no marketing because they are already too busy just from word-of-mouth. Keeping your commitments will help you stand out from the pack.
4. Getting Paid: How long would you work for a company if they stopped paying you? Getting a steady paycheck is probably the number one reason most people work for someone else. But entrepreneurs seem to relish in not getting paid. It has been reported that neither Bill Gates nor Jeff Bezos took a single paycheck from their respective companies the first few years they were in business. But, in general, that is a recipe for disaster. Pay yourself first. It’s your company, and you need to feel good about working in it. Give yourself a paycheck and, if you have to, loan some of it back to your company.
5. Job Hunting: There are very few people that stay with the same company their entire lives anymore. That is partly because pensions are gone and retirement pay is unheard of anymore. But it is also partly because there are many more companies than there used to be. In mentoring, I tell younger generations to work as hard and as smart as they can because people are watching them. If their boss won’t give them a raise, someone else will offer them a better job. And entrepreneurs need to keep this in mind. Not for your employees, but for you. If your business isn’t paying enough, it might be time to look at an exit strategy. Maybe your product or service isn’t as popular as you thought it would be. Or possibly working for yourself is harder than you thought. Whatever the reason may be, you don’t have to go down with the ship. And the advantage is that now you have the experience of running a small business. Whether or not it was successful, the experience is one that has many advantages.