Today, I’ve got something different. Scott Gerber, author of the book Never Get a Real Job and founder of The Young Entrepreneur Council has taken a provocative stance on what Gen Y should and shouldn’t do in the quest to earn a living. And working for someone else, according to Gerber, is a fool’s game.
Scott’s allowed me to share this exclusive excerpt from his book below. As always feel free to build on the conversation he’s started in the comments…
Surviving a “Real” Day in the Life
There is absolutely nothing glorious or glamorous about starting a business. Don’t let the lifestyles of the rock star entrepreneurs or reality TV fool you. Forget about fancy offices, fast cars, and fat expense accounts. That level of success is rare and never built overnight. In most cases, it takes decades.
While launching a start-up is undoubtedly an exciting and liberating experience, managing the organization on a daily basis can be anything but a dream. If you let your visions of “the life” blind your good sense, you’ll find yourself disappointed and looking to quit with every misstep.
The entrepreneur’s lifestyle is not 9-to-5. Entrepreneurship is both a lifestyle and a state of mind. Becoming a business owner means that you’re becoming more than a person. The goal is to form a symbiotic relationship with your business—in effect, becoming your business.
Though the entrepreneurial lifestyle can be truly rewarding, you will only get out of it what you put into it. So give yourself completely to the cause. Reassess and rearrange your priorities. Figure out what’s truly important, and abandon what isn’t.
Need to work late hours? Do it!
Have to do grunt work to save cash? Hurry up and get it done!
Need to downgrade your lifestyle to accommodate your cash flow? Well, what are you waiting for?
That being said, don’t become an entrepreneurial martyr. The term “start-up” refers to the earliest phase of a business’s life cycle; it’s not where your business is meant to stay for all eternity. Every aspect of your company’s success will fall solely on your shoulders during its earliest stages, but this working methodology will be heavily taxing on your body, mind, and soul. It is not sustainable, and at some point, it will work against—rather than for—your business growth. Again, this is why it’s imperative that you work your ass off to get out of this developmental stage as quickly as possible. You want to get to the point where you can hire people and transition from being dependent on bus passes and chicken noodle soup into a stable business owner who works on—not in—his business.
Rise above the grind. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to see the world through rose-color glasses. You won’t be chauffeured in private black cars, no one will think you’re important, and rarely will you spearhead life-altering meetings. Chances are you’ll spend most days working out of your apartment, sending out countless introductory e-mails to prospective clients, and rationing takeout into multiple meals.
The reality is that the world is an unfair, unpredictable and full of hard knocks place where a day without a sale is one day closer to bankruptcy. There will be good days when you’ll feel like you’re king of the world and bad days where you’ll want to crawl up into the fetal position in a dark corner. There will be moments of victory followed by weakness, doubt, and defeat; times when you feel as though you can’t even think about your start-up for another second. You’ll undoubtedly fall down and won’t want to—or think you can’t—get back up. If you truly want to become a stable and successful self-employed business owner who lives on her own terms, there is only one thing I can say to you.
It’s your choice: Accept the entrepreneurial lifestyle for what it really is or go find a “real” job where you’ll never truly reap the benefits of your labor.
Don’t just sit there crying or looking for sympathy when things aren’t going your way; instead, figure out how to get back on track. If you find yourself in a dark hole because cash flow is drying up, dig yourself out by bootstrapping, and improving your marketing and sales tactics. If times get tough because of the economy, restrategize your price structure, retool your service offering to make sense under the conditions, and push forward with a new sales campaign geared to spin a negative moment into a positive bottom line.
Your days won’t be easy, especially in the beginning. However, if you work hard with passion and purpose, they’ll certainly be more fulfilling, rewarding, and fruitful than any “real” job. Never forget why you decided to become an entrepreneur in the first place. Many times, those convictions will serve as the only light at the end of the tunnel.
There is an “I” in team. As president, CEO, and chief bottle washer, you can expect to wear many hats; most of which you’ve never worn before or never even thought you’d try on. Perhaps this will be your first time writing a client proposal, or figuring out how to shoot a video for your Web site. Either way, my point is that some hats will fit right away—and others won’t fit at all. For those that aren’t so snug, fear not. You’ll figure it out. How am I so sure? Because in the beginning you have no choice but to figure it out. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done.
From photocopying to paying bills to cold calling, you’ll need to do everything in the earliest stages of your start-up. Don’t expect to be able to hire an assistant or intern right away; many times, you’ll have to do grunt work. Yes, it’s important to win bids for service contracts, but it’s equally important that you remember to fax the client an agreement, follow up on the status of unpaid invoices, and collect your fees.
No matter how remedial, unpleasant, or boring a task may be, you’ll have to master each process in your business from the bottom up—until you have the means to outsource, delegate, or eliminate them. If you’re a plumber, you need to be able to fix a toilet before you can teach an employee to do it in a manner to your standards. If you’re a childcare provider, it would behoove you not to work with the loudest or messiest kids; how else would you be able to teach your future employees how to handle such kids? Don’t let your ego and delicate sensibilities get in the way of getting things done. Do whatever it takes to be successful with your own two hands. The faster you grow your company on your own back, the quicker you’ll have access to more hands, options, and resources.
If you feel stumped or lost, take a deep breath, step back, and figure it out. Good advice and answers are always available; you just need to know who to ask, where to look, and be able to sift out the gold from the dirt.
Though entrepreneurship certainly isn’t easy, it’s not all that complicated either. At its very core, going into business for one’s self is the process of selling something to someone else. That’s it. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, calm yourself down by remembering that simple fact—and get back to basics.
Always sweat the small stuff. The smallest, seemingly insignificant issues have a funny way of snowballing into major disasters. Little blips on the radar once deemed unimportant may actually be warning signs of dangers on the horizon. For example, dismissing a cash-flow problem as the result of a slow, off-peak month—rather than further investigating to determine if your collections process is too lenient or your services are priced too low—might lead to real problems down the road.
Failure should never be an option if you were able to see it coming. Check each area of your business regularly. Look for improvements and work to fine-tune every element. Identify the real problems behind the small stuff before you find yourself getting ruined by the big stuff.
Win the war, not just a battle. Entrepreneurship is a daily game of kill or be killed, with high stakes: your livelihood and your future. For every triumph, there may be 10 defeats. There may be many rejections before your first sale. Lessons learned from a series of failed marketing tactics might be the reason you score big with a later, more informed campaign. Some days, you’ll take five steps backward for every step forward. However—at the risk of sounding cliché—it’s true that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Mental fortitude and persistence are the keys to prevailing over adversity. Never retreat in the face of hardship or let the game kill you. Even the most successful entrepreneurs suffer sales and marketing setbacks and resistant marketplaces. Play to win instead. Find the balls you didn’t know you had and attack obstacles—and your competition—head on with only one mission in mind: complete and total annihilation.
Remember, it’s not how you fall down that defines you, but how fast and strong you get back up.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., www.wiley.com, from NEVER GET A REAL JOB: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business, and Not Go Broke by Scott Gerber © 2011 by Scott Gerber
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