How to start your own business and ways to make money while enjoying the process
Ramblings of a Serial Entrepreneur
C. Mark Johnson
COPYRIGHT © 2015 Christopher Mark Johnson
“ALL RIGHTS RESERVED”
Big White Dog Publishing, LLC
**Author’s Preface and Chapter 1 are posted here with the Author’s permission as a free introduction to readers** Enjoy!
You may also purchase the Paperback here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1942651066
The Kindle Version May Be Purchased Here:
The most important person I focus on in my writing is you, the reader. Even though we haven’t met, I respect you and see you as a kindred spirit, seeking business knowledge as I have done all of my adult life. If you are reading this book, you are either thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, or you are already one, hungry for information. I will share my knowledge with you in a way that is as clear and concise as possible. Here’s my background.
As of this writing, I hold an MBA (Master of Business Administration) in International Business and Marketing, a Bachelor of Business Administration in Organizational Management, and an Associate of Applied Business in Business Management. My numerous hands-on business ownership experiences stretches back to 1988 when I was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force.
Just before making the transition from the military life back to civilian life, I became a fixture at the base library where I began with an intense self-study of business. Some of my fellow Airmen friends joined me and we formed a discussion group where we kicked ideas around. This expanded to the nearby coffee shops where we tipped the wait staff generously due to our enthusiastic, but very long stays.
My civilian introduction to hands-on business began with start-ups and also a stint into the 100 hour per week world as a series 7 licensed stock broker at an investment banking firm. Although this was a good financial education and I learned many cause and effect relationships between company actions and stock price, entrepreneurship was what my heart and mind were drawn toward most.
I leaned mostly toward service oriented businesses because of the typically higher margins than product oriented business. I was the personification of “get out there and do it”. I attended classes at the SBA (Small Business Administration) like an addict.
I have experienced advertising on shoe-string budgets with start-ups, written my own ad copy, TV and Radio commercial scripts, producing my own TV commercials on a budget with a very high response rate, cold called residentially door to door, cold called business to business, marketed with flyers, postcards, web ads, website organic search engine marketing, magnets, cards on cars, face to face selling of small and large ticket items, sales and sales management, telemarketing and telemarketing management, business consulting, and the operational, bookkeeping and accounting aspects of business. I have owned LLC’s, a Corporation, several partnerships, and several sole proprietorships as well.
I mention this background summary not to boast, but to simply share the academic and hands-on experience that forms the background from which I write. Learning from someone with experience can indeed speed the process of becoming an entrepreneur.
As luminary voice over teacher and performer Pat Fraley says, “Experience is not the best teacher, it’s the slowest and you can’t afford the time. You need to seek out somebody with wisdom, who has circled back and is willing to show you the short cuts.”
The same type of concept applies here. I have the experiences, circled back, and I’m showing you the shortcuts and other helpful information throughout this book. I will present my thinking on many particulars to steer you clear of many obstacles you may encounter and toward opportunities.
I use a story early in the book to illustrate the ripple effect of one’s decision on one’s life. It’s honest and a bit hard-hitting, but valid, and gravely realistic. Anything I write that’s candid is not meant to offend, but to be helpful, and to provide clarity and direction.
Share your thoughts with me and offer any suggestions you wish. I like getting constructive feedback from my readers. If you would have rather seen more or less of a particular subject or topic, let me know. Point out the parts you really liked and which parts you were not so crazy about. I am always looking to improve and you’re like that too, or you wouldn’t be reading this book. All the best! I hope you enjoy this book.
So, you want to be an entrepreneur? What makes you think this? Is it a deep down, burning desire grown from a passion, a true love for starting something new and achievement, or is it that you’ve gotten motivated purely by money alone? The former is good; the latter is more likely a financial death-rattle. It’s been said by many successful people over the years that “you have to love what you do”. This is not just some knee-jerk, feel-good saying, but in fact, a reality. If you don’t love what you do, you won’t try as hard or work as long and you won’t persevere through thick and thin, good times and bad. The output quotient is far greater when there is love and passion for what you do. In fact, you truly can’t compete without it!
Think about this logically; if you’re going up against your competition, in whatever industry you are in, and they indeed love what they do and are on-fire with passion and you don’t love what you do, are not passionate about it, but only after the buck – which one do you think will prevail? I would say that the odds lean heavily toward the person that is totally passionate about and in love with what they do. When you love what you do, it literally becomes who you are, instead of simply what you do to earn money. Doesn’t that seem like a better place to compete from and increase your chances of success?
With that in mind, think about it this way: Doesn’t it make sense to look for a business in the areas that you love? If you’re a dog lover, you’ll perform better in a dog business than many others who are just in it for the money. If you have a love for automobiles and love classic cars, you’ll perform at a higher level fixing up classic cars for resale than a person who sees nothing but dollar signs, and is totally absent passion. Does this make sense to you, yes? I think it’s important to do what you love to do, because I believe the wrong vocation is a bad thing. As I was writing a few days ago, a saying formed in my mind pertaining to this.
“An unwanted vocation robs a man of the now, and destroys all that could have emanated from the heart.”
Think about that for a moment. If you are stuck in a rut, doing something that you don’t want to do drags you down and absolutely destroys both your passion and your creativity. Passion and creativity come from the heart and you cannot become inspired while working and living from an uninspiring emotional place. Seeds grow in fertile ground as does passion and creativity successfully emerge from the positive mental states of joy and happiness. For most, it is impossible to hate what you are doing and be positively inspired at the same time. Almost always, an unwanted vocation and being inspired in a creative way are mutually exclusive. It is like having bright sunlight and darkness existing in the same space and at the same time; it simply cannot happen.
Even if you have the passion or love for a thing, does it mean that you’re cut out to pursue it as an entrepreneur? The short answer is, not necessarily. This question has many moving parts to consider before making a decision. The most important factor to consider is lifestyle suitability.
Is your lifestyle supportive of entering into the highly unpredictable world of the entrepreneur? This depends partially on your level of risk tolerance. This is determined by the sum total of your internal risk tolerance plus your external risk tolerance. Your internal risk tolerance is how you feel on the inside. How much can you take? The external risk tolerance is the amount of risk you can allow in your life that loved-ones can morally and ethically endure. How will they feel about it? Will their well-being be jeopardized if you stepped out and focused on your entrepreneurial goals? What would be the worst case scenario for them? Is there enough financial buffer to support them or are you lacking in this area, now barely making ends meet?
If everything that I’ve said so far looks acceptable to you, then do you have the money now or can you raise the money you need for your business? Do you have the experience and education to allow you to thrive instead of dive? As you can see, there is much to consider before you decide anything. A word to the caution – if you seem overwhelmed by just thinking about and considering all these preliminary questions I’ve just posed to you; are you truly cut out to be an entrepreneur? Lying to yourself will get you into trouble, more trouble than you can ever imagine. You must be brutally honest with yourself and if you’re not suited for the entrepreneurial life, then you’re better off not taking the first step towards it. It is certainly not for everyone, in fact, it is for very few people, the exception and not the rule.
There are ways that you can become wealthy or well-off other than entrepreneurship. In fact, if you do a financial analysis on it, unless you enter into a niche business with a strong competitive advantage that will last for many years, you are better off financially choosing other career paths.
Some people highly prioritize money; some are all about quality of life and doing what you love to do, even if it pays less. You have to step inside your own mind and decide what is truly most important to you in your own life. This line of mental dialogue, so far, has probably created more questions in your mind than it has produced answers. If so, that is OK. I want you to think, ponder, soul search, and consider these broad choices and areas I have mentioned so far. I will tell you what I know and what I truly believe.
What kind of lifestyle do you want to have 5 or 10 years from now? Do you want more time with your friends and family or is the sense of importance associated with business ownership a higher priority? I ask this question because many people don’t realize that when you start a business, it often ends up owning you, instead of you owning it. Some businesses become liken unto a black hole for time; it sucks it all in and you never see it again.
I have seen many successful businesses consume their respective owner’s life. The feel-good idea of you being in charge because you started your own business quickly disappears, filed away in the file folder where fantasies are kept, and rightfully so! If working 70, 80, or even up to 100 hours a week bothers you; then you should seriously consider not traveling down the entrepreneurial path of starting a business and growing it into a large enterprise. If you are weary of this idea of long hours and being enslaved to a business – don’t do it! This long-day enslavement will end up being what you hate, and shouldn’t you do what you love?
I’m not trying to be high and mighty here; I’m being straightforward. I would rather deliver the truth and save you from a horrible personal and financial fiasco. Your time is valuable, as time is something that once spent, you can never get back. The more often you can make more right choices, more often than the wrong choices; the further you will be along the road of life, whatever road you choose.
Examine yourself carefully. Look at your family life and make sure you don’t ruin it over a business venture. You can and will often lose your marriage and possibly your kids in the nasty wake of a bad business failure. Realize that a large percentage of new start-up businesses do indeed fail, and if you want different results, you must thoroughly examine, plan, prepare, fund, and effectively execute a well-planned strategy in a unique and excellent business that has a strong competitive advantage.
In Crafting and Executing Strategy – The Quest for competitive advantage, Thompson (2012) found, “Without a strategy that leads to competitive advantage, a company risks being outcompeted by stronger rivals and locked into mediocre financial performance” (p. 9). If you are pontificating on starting a run-of-the-mill coffee shop, restaurant, laundry matt, laundry service, corner store, or any such business that has no competitive advantage within a hyper competitive market, forget about it! Save yourself the time, aggravation, money, and most of all, your relationship with your spouse and kids. For it to be worth the risk, it has to be an especially awesome and unique business, which has a strong competitive advantage that is sustainable across time. By strong I mean a competitive advantage that your competitors cannot easily and/or quickly duplicate.
Here’s another factor to consider. With only a few exceptions, the job world often times doesn’t look highly upon the self-employed. When Human Resource managers consider people for job openings, they see “entrepreneurial” as “trash-can-neurial”, when hiring for non-sales jobs. This means that your resume’ has a direct path to the trash can without as much as a passing thought. HR managers hate job hoppers, serial entrepreneurs, and start-up junkies! They see you as a huge risk of company training dollars. They see you leaving at the drop of a hat for not liking being told what to do, or to start your own gig again. Some exceptions are: consulting firms, universities hiring college professors who desire entrepreneurial experience, and other start-ups.
Consider this hypothetical scenario for a moment. Larry and Sue are married, have 3 kids, a mortgage, and two car payments. Larry feels strapped, and rightfully so, there is more month than there is money. Larry is not making enough at his job and Sue tells him that they are running a $500 deficit each month, and they can only sustain this negative cash flow for another 3 months before their credit cards are totally maxed out. Larry gets the paper and meticulously searches through the classifieds and several online job search engines. He finds nothing. A month and a half goes by of fruitless searching and Sue reminds him they’ve got a month and a half left to find a solution to their money problems or face Bankruptcy and losing their home.
Subsequently, Larry stops by the bookstore on the way home in search of answers. He pours through the shelves, crouching down low until his knees can barely straighten out when he stands 20 minutes later. He searches the middle row, nothing. He starts his scan of the top rack in the business section and his eyes fly past and then returns to a book about starting your own flea market business.
Larry has no experience in this type of business, or any business for that matter. He looks at his watch and sees he must get going or Sue’s going to be angry for him running late. Feeling time pressure, he pays for the book at the checkout and heads straight home. Sue needs an explanation of why he’s so late getting home and Larry proudly produces the book, tilting it back and forth in Sue’s view, like a pot of gold just discovered on the front lawn. Sue feels desperate too. She’s the one actually handling the bills, after all. She sides with her husband and they’re about to start their new business venture.
They use up the $4,000 remaining on their credit cards to start the venture, buying inventory at a government auction to resell at the flea market, hopefully at a huge profit. They arrive at the flea market in their little truck, sporting a 5 foot by 5 foot by 4 foot deep box of olive green overalls, neatly folded and compressed, acquired at the GSA Auction. They purchased the 1,000 pairs for $4,000, putting their cost at $4 each. Surely they can sell these at a profit, they feel.
They fight the sweltering heat, buying a cheap fan along the way, and spending $25 on concession stand food and $60 on a baby sitter. These are country people passing by, but nobody is giving their overalls so much as a second look, puzzling both Larry and Sue. “Why aren’t they stopping,” She asks Larry with a look of panic. Larry answers “I don’t know”. They try this for 4 weekends and they’ve sold a whopping 5 pair of overalls not at a profit and not a break-even of $4 each, but at $1 each, as it was all the people in this market were willing to pay.
Turns out, all these folks have overalls already, and each one is brand loyal and 99% of them hate the olive green color of Larry and Sue’s inventory! They’re stuck. They have 995 overalls left and they’re at their wits-end. Sue gets an idea and has Larry stop the truck. She says she’ll be right back and walks into an Army/Navy store that carries many things and some olive green, such as ammo belts, bandoleers, and canteen straps.
She runs out to the car 5 minutes later, beaming as she explains to Larry that she just struck a deal with the store owner. He will buy their 995 remaining pair of overalls for $248.75, or 25 cents each! They take the offer out of fear they’ll get nothing otherwise, they are nearly out of groceries, after all. So far, Larry and Sue have taken in $248.75 + $5 for a total of $253.75 and spent $4,000 to make it, not counting food, mileage, and the baby sitter! A net loss of $3,746.25!
Larry follows this pattern with different items purchased at auction, one right after another, even after losing their home and filing bankruptcy. Sue stays with him, but Larry now goes back and forth between full-time business ventures, full-time jobs, and part-time jobs. His job history has changed dramatically. Now, instead of having one job for the last 10 years, 10 years later, he’s had 25 jobs and 10 businesses, averaging just 3 ½ months per job or business! He’s now become a job hopping, serial entrepreneur, and startup junkie.
Under pressure from Sue, Larry forces the entrepreneur out of him and resides to get a steady job and stay there until retirement. No more businesses, no more job hopping, and no more startups. Larry has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, but can’t land an interview now if his life depended on it. There’s no job history for him except job hopping, and serial entrepreneur ventures with startups. After 6 months, he changes his resume’ to a functional resume’ format.
Larry is unaware that recruiters and HR personnel hate, yes abhor, functional resumes, unceremoniously tossing them in the trash within the first 2 seconds of looking at it. Nobody trusts him. They don’t believe he’ll stay with a job so much that they wouldn’t dream of wasting an hours’ time on him interviewing. Larry is now even more desperate.
Sue files for divorce and disappears with the kids, secretly moving in with her long-lost Aunt 2000 miles away in Idaho. Larry has no choice but to try another venture because he’s gotten zero interviews with his job hopping, serial entrepreneur history. He has become unemployable. With all that and bad credit to boot from entrepreneurial misadventures, he is unqualified for any jobs that check his credit report.
Alone now, he is depressed to the point of suicide. His neighbor learns of this and calls the police who involuntarily commit him to a mental health institution, hauling Larry off in a straightjacket with large buckles, and matching leather straps. After 3 weeks, Larry hangs himself from a ceiling fan with an extension cord. At his funeral, relatives gather in small groups, with clustered tight whispers, each shaking their head no with disgust mumbling: “I don’t know why he couldn’t get a job. Always chasing some damn pipe dream, now look at em’.”
Do you see how you can get pigeonholed by creating a history of job hopping and serial entrepreneurship combined with bad credit? If you make it as an entrepreneur, fantastic, you need not worry about any of this.
God help you though, if you create this type of unstable job history and then try to return to the job world. It will be hell on Earth trying to get an interview, let alone getting hired, like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. The HR recruiters will look at you like you are hiding a secret identity or as if you have an undisclosed stretch of prison time! Yes, that much suspicion and more will appear in their eyes.
This will be a very difficult obstacle to overcome, even with a Bachelor’s Degree and many years of business experience: In this way, business experience really equates to “bad” experience for a potential employer and as a result, for you too. Tread carefully. You can pigeonhole yourself into becoming unemployable at a traditional job.
In order to prevent this situation, always start a business on the side while you have a steady full-time job income. Only “if” the businesses starts becoming wildly successful, two or three times your job income, should you consider jumping ship and going into your business full-time. Job hopping and going back and forth between a full-time job and a full-time business paints a negative picture in the minds of human resource decision makers, effectively burning your bridges that would lead back to a steady job. You are writing on the record of your history and character. Make sure your record shows a positive impression that includes dependability, loyalty, and trustworthiness.
“If it ain’t great, don’t set a date!”
You may purchase the Paperback here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1942651066
The Kindle Version May Be Purchased Here: