17 Years of Assisting Entrepreneurs
As a long-time economic development professional, I have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and small-business owners over the past seventeen years. Sometimes, it feels as if I remain stuck in the dinosaur age as a local government employee with set hours, a rigid hierarchy of power within my organization, and all policies and procedures set by others, meanwhile working with people who have pursued their own interests in pursuit of controlling their own fate and pursuing wealth.
I have a lot of respect and admiration for successful entrepreneurs, like many people do. Unlike most other people, I know dozens of successful and also dozens of not very successful entrepreneurs. Pressure involved with making their payrolls, dealing with customer problems, problems with their employees, challenges with their families and at home, finding new customers, collecting on accounts payable, paying their bills, dealing with a never-ending stream of sales people trying to sell them unnecessary goods and services, and dealing with the problems that never stop coming are just some, but not all, of the problems that my small business owner friends deal with on a continual basis.
What they are seeking, and some of them are even finding, is greater freedom. After assisting, working with, and even befriending many of these small business owners, I have come to realize that freedom is based on a hierarchy of entrepreneurial needs. Plainly stated, these needs start with control over their own fortunes in terms of making money, and controlling their own time.
I am the type of guy who wouldn’t mind taking a Wednesday off once in awhile, and might not mind working twelve straight hours on a Sunday some other time. However, that is not the way it works for yours truly Middle Class Guy and millions of other middle-aged middle class guys like me.
Realizing that money alone doesn’t result in long-term happiness and satisfaction, control of one’s own time can be just as much or even more of a valuable commodity. You can always make more money, but you cannot give yourself more time.
If you were to ask the twenty or so small business owners whom I have befriended why they started their own business, I would be willing to bet that money, time and a chance to be their own boss would be the top three. I happen to be lucky and have a very good boss, one that understands that a family man like myself sometimes has to leave early or come in late to attend a can’t-miss family related event.
However, prior to the past twelve years of working at my current place of employment, I never had a boss who would grant that type of flexibility to a lowly government functionary like myself. If I wanted to leave two hours early to watch my young child parade through the school in a Halloween costume in the middle of the afternoon, I would have to submit for a half day off well in advance. Just one of the perils of being an 8 to 5 employee for the past twenty-four years.
Office politics in the corporate and government world do very little to promote the voice of the working class. In an effort to climb the proverbial ladder, coworkers infringe upon each other’s ideas and Innovations.
Managers and department heads frequently disregard opinions in favor of their own ideas, and decisions are typically made by a handful of executives and elected officials who are typically several steps removed from the reality of the situation, or at the tip of the iceberg of ignorance.
Another big reason for becoming a small business owner is due to the entrepreneurs purpose. Many of them love what they’re doing, want to help a Cause, feel the need to be more creative, and the ones who are the most successful tend to be the ones with the greatest sense of purpose.
It is easy for a Middle Class Guy like me to see how the quest for greater freedom in terms of hours worked, and defined by the chance to make a lot of money, to gain control of your own destiny, and fulfill a particular purpose has led millions of Americans like you and me to start their own small business.
Whether it’s opening a craft brewery, a small fabrication shop utilizing the latest 3D printing technology, a local coffee shop, an automotive repair business, many middle-class guys like you and me have taken that giant leap of opening their own small business. Unfortunately, many if not most of these small businesses will fail.
Again, as an economic development professional with 17 years of experience, I have personally witnessed hundreds of such failures.
As much as we have become dependent on the Internet for almost everything that we do, the risk of too much communication can contribute significantly to the chaos of running a small business. We are constantly bombarded with requests and questions and if we don’t have a good way of managing our inboxes they will in turn manage us. Some days at work, yours Truly middle-class guy is relegated to reactive mode for half of the day, constantly doing whatever the email senders want me to do rather than working toward the overall mission of my job, which is to increase business investment and private developer investment into our community. It puts us into reactive mode instead of proactive mode, and I’m getting sick of it.
The internet sometimes provides small business people and entrepreneurs with too many solutions for their business challenges. Moreover, if you happen to search a particular issue, you will be bombarded with advertisements and sometimes even direct emails and even snail males in regard to that particular issue.
Because each business is unique, and nobody else will tackle a particular problem or issue in the exact same way that you would, how can you possibly be expected to know what would work best from a simple Google query.
Instead of just phone calls and letters, we now must manage our emails, text, Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, blog accounts, yelp reviews, and whatever they’ll be coming up with next. The small business that I ate launch following my government worker days May in fact become a social media Consulting business. Someone who will look at and respond to comments criticisms on all manners of social media currently existing and whatever would exist 10 years from now.
As Clate Mask and Scott Martineau wrote in Conquer The Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy, everything starts with thoughts.
The authors discuss how you can come to believe the right thoughts about starting a business. You have to rewire your brain and recognize that your thoughts don’t and can’t just happen reactively. We are the creators of our thoughts and if we want to believe the right thoughts we must first create the right thoughts.
They have you asked yourself five questions. One why do I want to be an entrepreneur? Two why do I want to be successful? Three is My Success worth the hard work I put into it? For what success is have I seen? And 5 how can I get more of that success so that my business can become what I always envisioned?
The authors right that if you’re logical or subconscious mind answered any of those questions negatively, play again. See the good in things and work on yourself until these answers are positive, painting a picture of future success for you. It is amazing what getting your mind prepared will do for you. Mental strength is the greatest tool that you have for starting, planting and growing your own business. Mask and Martineau right that mental strength is the greatest tool you have for starting running and growing your business.
Talking With Others
The authors right that they’ve noticed that small business owners feel like they have to be innovative, creative and singular in their businesses. Because their products or Services may be unique, they feel like they must find different ways to manage their prey this rugged individualist mentality can cause entrepreneurs to live in a cocoon, and sail to seek the Assistance or guidance of others as their business dies on the vine.
Most entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of talking with other entrepreneurs all day. They are too busy putting out fires, making sales calls, making sure that orders get filled, and keeping the electric on. As a result many get wrapped up in their own stories and problems and failed to consider that others may be going through or have already overcome the same thing.
The authors mentioned the human tendency to band together. In high school, the jocks hang out with the jocks, the computer nerds hang out with other computer nerds, the burnouts and druggies hang with other burnouts and druggies, and the band geeks hang out with other band geeks. Even the shy and quiet kids have shy and quiet friends. Add search, the authors urge small business owners and entrepreneurs to make an effort to hang out with one another. In the community where I work, this is easily accomplished with a $100 or $200 fee (based on the number of employees) to join the local Chamber of Commerce.
There, small business owners trying to gain a foothold in our community are able to tap into a network of other small business owners, many of whom run home-based businesses, and some of whom have become very successful businesses in the community for many years. By no means is it a cure-all, but it’s a place to start to at least meet some of the people with small businesses in the community.
These words of wisdom by Mahatma Gandhi should inspire us to keep our thoughts positive. Positive thoughts become positive words, which become positive behavior, then habits, then values, and ultimately your values become your destiny.
After you proactively come up with the right thoughts, if you pursue them through your behavior, habits and values, ultimately you can achieve what you are destined to. If you believe in Gandhi’s logic, like I do, you can see the importance of positive thoughts.
Mental strength is the greatest gift that we have whether your goal is to launch your own business, whether it is a retail shop, a professional office, or what I most likely will launch in the future, a business consulting in a field that you have worked in for many years. In my case, that would be economic development consulting on behalf of municipal clients.
Allow Yourself to Dream
Sometimes the only way that I can cope with the rapid changes effecting me at my place of employment, none of which I truly embrace and think are for the better, is to dream of something better.
Not to belabor the point of my own goals and dreams, but they involve the publication and subsequent strong sales of eBooks. I know that there are millions of eBooks out there vying for attention, but I plan on setting mine apart from the others mainly by my target audience (middle aged middle class men seeking greater meaning and success in life) and the fact that I am not preaching from high above, like most of the authors who I have read. Particularly the guru of them all, Tony Robbins. He has achieved far greater success than any reader could actually hope for. If you could fully embrace his way of thinking and living, more power to you. I am seeking to help regular guys, like me, move to the better through baby steps, more positive thinking, setting goals and Resolutions, and investing steadily. All things that I have been working on, myself, throughout the past eighteen or so months.
Also, a lot of guys my age do not tend to read a lot. I am sharing some of what I have learned from my avid reading of books by an assortment of authors of books written over many decades. One could never read and share everything, but I intend to share a lot.
Anyway, my dreams involve providing for my family, spending quality family time together as much as possible, paying for as much of our children’s educations as humanly possible on a Middle Class Guy salary, taking better care of our home and autos, being a better husband, and ultimately actually retiring with a decent standard of living.
Let yourself dream. Allow your entrepreneurial spirit and creativity to grow, whether it is in a little-known blog like this, or going big with a storefront business that you have dreamed of opening for years. We can’t all grow up to do the things we dream of as children. If that was the case, I would have helped the Cubs win their first World Series in many decades twenty years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties.
Unfortunately, I did not possess the skills to become a slugging outfielder for the Cubs, or any other big-league team. I do, however, possess writing skills as good or better than many published authors, so I need to do better in putting my thoughts and ideas to keyboard, so others can enjoy reading them while riding the train, on the beach, lying in bed, sitting on a bench on their lunch hour, or on whatever device in whatever place people read in the future.
You Can’t Please All the People All the Time
I have written of my seventeen years as an economic development professional. Prior to that, I spent my first seven years out of college (including four while working my way through graduate school) working in the criminal justice system as an Adult Probation Officer.
Needless to say, I could not please all the people all the time as a probation officer. Especially the few hundred criminals that I did my job with and got locked up in jail again after they violated the terms of their probation.
Likewise, I have not been able to please every current and prospective business owner whom I have worked with since 2000. I have also failed to please every elected official, appointed commissioner and co-worker over these many years. Despite my best efforts, I have pissed off many people.
If you start your own business, you should never go out of your way to offend anyone. But on the flip side, it is inevitable that you can’t please everybody even if you want to, and conflicts will arise. That is just part of being a small business owner and it should not stop you from exercising your rights and responsibilities in running your business. Stand your ground if need be, and if someone continues having a problem with you, think to yourself what I am thinking at present about a co-worker who does not care for me in general and does not like the way I am working on a map-related project at present: Too Fucking Bad for her.
We Are Creative
You may not feel creative. There are many, many days and nights when I do not. But we both are.
Our subconscious mind is always working. When we have clear minds, new ideas pop into our heads that we never thought of before. I again advocate here having a place to record those thoughts, because if you are middle aged like I am, there is a good chance that you may not be able to recollect your great idea later on.
I have not written about it, but my memory has begun failing me quite a bit over the past two or three years. It is not something that I am highly alarmed about yet, but it is not something that I am happy about either.
I doubt that any other self-help authors that you have read have admitted to having a failing memory. That’s one of the reasons that I write, too. I can go back later and see what it is that I wrote at some later time. It is recorded here for posterity, and possibly for future prosperity, as well.
Our creative thoughts are generally products of our strongest passions, experiences and beliefs. When a major challenge comes up for you at work tomorrow or next week or in the near future, think of it as a chance to push your creativity a bit further.
There is Always More To Be Done
Mask and Martineau write that work never ends and there is always more to be done.
This goes for not only small business owners, but also yours truly Middle Class Guy and most likely for you, too. Once in a while, when I complete a big project or land a great business, I breathe a sigh of relief, reflect on the accomplishment for a few hours or perhaps even a few days. But I know that there will be another major thing to work on, another most important project or something else urgent that will need to be done, and the past accomplishment will fade into distant memory.
As the authors write,
He knew better than anybody that work never ends. No matter how many projects you complete this week, there will be more projects to tackle next week. No matter how far ahead you think you’re getting, there is always an infinite amount of “stuff” to be done.