This is yet another unusual article under the “Business Mastery Series“, a collection of unusual articles that focuses on helping entrepreneurs answer highly fundamental questions on how to successfully manage both themselves and the businesses they run profitably.
If you are new to naijapreneur or probably haven’t been following this series, I really wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of the unusual articles previously published. So, below are the links to them, the smart thing to do, if I were you would be to read them first, before coming back to finish reading this.
How to be your own boss
As the day goes by, more people are realizing that the allure of a secure employment is just a fantasy; one that is often short lived. The search for the next alternative which in most cases is entrepreneurship is growing rapidly. Never a time in human history has there been such a massive quest by many to be their own boss.
Recognizing this growing global trend is what inspired me to create this unusual article to help as many out there who want to embark on this unusual journey of entrepreneurship. It’s important I make this clarification; these are not all the possible FAQs on starting up a new business, there are many more. However, based on my consulting experience with clients, the ones covered here are quite fundamental and will serve as a guide to answer other likely questions you would most certainly need to answer as you progress on the entrepreneur’s journey.
FAQs About Starting up A New Business
First here are the questions at a glance on how to be your own boss;
- What kind of business should I go into?
- How Should I start; small or big?
- How Should I fund my business; use my own money or get external funding?
- How do I choose a name for my business?
- How do I differentiate my company from other competitions?
- What do I need for marketing my new business?
- Do I need to have a business plan or not?
- Do I need to have an office space or not?
- Do I need to hire employees or not?
- How do I price my products/services?
This is the third article of the business mastery series, if you’ve missed out on any, you can catch up by clicking on any of the links below.
In our previous discussion on how should entrepreneurs be profitably marketing their business, 3 elements of holistic marketing were highlighted;
- Finding profitable customers
- Keeping profitable customers
- Growing customers profitably
In this unusual article, I will be continuing our discussion from where we left off on the first element of holistic marketing –finding profitable customers.
The last time, I shared 3 fundamental marketing processes you need to undertake in finding profitable customers; market research, market segmentation and target marketing. They are fundamental because they provide the technical knowhow of finding profitable customers without which all your practical attempts to attract profitable customers for your business will be futile. In other words, they provide the technical information you need to take strategic actions.
Today, I will be sharing some strategic ways of finding profitable customers that you can practically put to use now and continually reap the rewards. Mind you, these strategic tips must be applied in line with the technical information obtained from undertaking the 3 fundamental marketing processes of market research, market segmentation and target marketing.
Lately, I have been observing the search queries [keywords] used by people to get to naijapreneur! One of the top phrases used by searchers to get to this site is this; “why become an entrepreneur?” or “why should one become an entrepreneur?”
This is an obvious indication that there are a lot of folks out there who are in search of valid reasons for becoming an entrepreneur. Luckily for them, I have written on this issue on naijapreneur precisely these two unusual articles;
However, the answers in these posts were written for entrepreneurs who were already in business and was intended to correct their erroneous perception of entrepreneurship as a money making venture only rather than a what it really is – a problem solving or value adding venture.
I didn’t write for those who were currently employees and were in search of answers whether to quit their jobs and take the leap of faith or remain stuck on the rat race. This is the essence of this unusual article, to talk about entrepreneurship from the employees’ perspective and to further encourage you who have already taken the leap of faith that you didn’t make the wrong choice.
A little word of caution, this is a long one, so brace up yourself for a long read –over 3000 words! But I assure, the patient dog will eat the fattest bone on this one. You will never regret reading it to the end and you will mostly like want to share it with a lot of people.
The Anatomy of Employment [Job]
A job is the work you do for a business owner and receive a reward in the form of salaries or wages. It has fixed schedules and a very clear description of what is expected of you. A job is also the position you own in an organization for which you are expected to fulfill certain functions in order to get paid.
The availability of a position in an organization and your consistent ability to perform certain functions are the two key factors that determine the ownership of a job. Meaning that you can own a job so long as an organization has a vacant position you can occupy and certain problems they need you to solve.
In other words, a job basically means trading your time, skills, experience, knowledge, talent, ideas, and contacts in an organization based on the requirements of the position you occupy in exchange for a financial reward known as salary or wages.
As a result, every employee is a seller of time, skills, experience, knowledge, talent, ideas, and contacts while an employer is the buyer of all these things.
Time, skills, experience, knowledge, talent, ideas, and contacts are the value an employee brings to an organization for which the employer agrees to pay a certain amount of money in return for the right to own and use these things however he/she pleases. A job therefore, is a functional position employees are paid to occupy for a specified period of time.
A job is a risky thing to own
There’s an age long saying that goes like this; “there’s always two sides to every story”. The same is true for every concept ever conceived by man. There are several sides to every idea, concept, theory or thing in life; what really differs is not the concept, idea, theory or thing itself, but ‘how’ we humans perceive or see them.
What really changes, is how we think about these things; the individual subjective meanings we attribute to them. And as it’s been scientifically proven, we humans see and interpret things from our own angle, that is, from our own side of the story.
Rarely do we try to understand and view things from the other side of the story; that is, looking at things from the other person’s perspective. A much clearer understanding is often gained when we try to see the whole angles or sides to a thing. Only then can we accurately make the right decisions and take the right actions.
So what has this got to do with the issue of becoming an entrepreneur?
In every organization, there are basically two parties involved;
- Workers [employees] and
- Owners [employers].
A job [functional position] is what every employee owns in an organization, assets are what every employer owns in an organization.
Everything in an organization, including the workers is an asset to the employer. And with every asset owned by an employer, comes a certain cost of maintenance. This cost of maintaining an asset is regarded as a liability.
An asset is anything that is capable of making you earn money [generate income] and a liability is anything that is capable of making you spend money [extract income].
To employees, a job is a source of income [asset] because it brings money into their pocket. To an employer, an employee is both a source of income [asset] and an expense [liability]. How?
A worker is only an asset so long as he/she is still capable of generating income for the business by consistently performing certain functions; remember our definition of a job? But always a liability in that money goes out of the business in the form of salaries and wages [cost of maintaining assets] paid out to workers regularly.
These are the two sides to the story of employment; the employees’ side and the employers’ side. What every employee regards as an asset [generates money] to them is what every employer regards as a liability [extracts money].
The very same money employees regard as income is what employers regard as expenses. If you were to ask every accountant this question; “on what side is salary and wages categorized in the financial report of every organization?” They would gladly tell you that it falls under the operating expenses column of the profit and loss account.
The really funny thing is that neither the employees nor the money paid out as salaries or wages to them are regarded or treated as assets in the financial records of a business or organization.
The balance sheet is the only financial statement that describes the overall assets and liabilities of a business or organization. But guess what? There’s no record of employees and the money paid out to them. Why? Because the income employees earn is the cost employers bear as a result of using the employees as assets for generating money for the business.
Both the employees and the money paid out to them are regarded as cost of operation and are written off as such in the profit and loss account of every business or organization. I honestly wish there’s an easier or less harsh way to put this, but I am sorry for what I am about to say next.
As an employee, you are an expense [liability] to the organization you work for!
Truth is bitter!
Believe me, there’s absolutely no easier way to put this than I just did. It didn’t feel good too when I realized this bitter truth. For crying out loud, as an employee, you’re being used as an income generating tool. Meaning you are very, very expendable – they can do without you.
Because you are only as good as the money you make the company or your employer. They can willingly get rid of you whenever they wish or think you are no longer valuable and only they can determine how valuable you are or not on the job.
There you are!
Why do you think it’s always easy for employers to lay off employees at the slightest economic down turn? Because they want to cut down on operating expenses and unfortunately for the employees, they are top on the list of operating expenses.
So when push comes to shove, and every employer is faced with the harsh realities of survival, the workers are the very first point of call when it comes to the reduction of operating expenses in every organization.
Whether it is a profit making organization [business] or not for profit organization [social], salaries and wages paid to employees is always an expense. It’s because of this singular reason that has made a job a risky thing to own.
Because in the end, what you think you own and call an asset because it brings you money is what the very person [employer] who controls how much money your so called asset [job] generates for you, considers otherwise.
To them, they own you [asset] and because you are a source through which money is extracted from them [liability], they can decide to let go of you whenever they feel they can no longer put up with your cost of maintenance – expenses!
What are you working for, a job or a business?
I can almost hear you screaming out these words right now in your thought; “but employees also make employers money [asset], in fact, without the employees, employers can’t do business.”
Very true, quite true indeed. But here’s the real truth; the estimation of the value you bring as an employee to an organization is best evaluated by the owner. And if the owner says, “Hey Tom, your services are no longer needed in this organization; therefore, you are hereby fired!”
There’s little or nothing anyone can do about that, the highest you would get is a fair compensation for the dismissal. And if the organization pays out any form of gratuity or pension, the better for you. Besides that, nothing else counts. You are fired, is you are fired. Nothing more, nothing less.
So if I were you, rather than argue about your perceived right as an asset in the eyes of an employer, I would begin to take my financial future more seriously than banking on one job which obviously will never be my own. The earlier you come to terms with this reality, the better for you and everyone you love.
The outcome of your financial future is not in the hands of your employer, neither is it in the hands of the government. Your financial future is in your hands, decide today what you want it to be. I have written this unusual article to help you confront the bitter truth of your financial future and challenge you to take up the responsibility of putting an end to financial struggle in your life.
As it is increasingly becoming obvious, most especially since after the global economic meltdown, everyone is getting to face the often avoided truth that there’s no such thing as job security. The only security is the one you build, own and control yourself – a business. Counting on a job to make you financially secure is an illusion that you need to wake up from fast!
Why it pays to work on a business rather than a job
A job is short term solution to a lifelong problem. Staking all your life on it will be a fatal mistake. The problem [financial struggle] will continually outpace the solution [paycheck] you are proffering. This is because a job was never created to solve your financial problems for life. It was designed to make you needy [dependent] for life. It was designed to pacify [make less painful] the problem of lack of money but never to nullify [abolish] it.
As long as the job remains, the trick is to make your financial problems less obvious. But once the job stops, that same old problem of lack of money which was never actually solved suddenly resurfaces again. Why? Because all a job does is to shift your focus from the problem [financial struggle] to the paycheck [temporary cure for lack of money].
For as long as the paycheck keeps coming, your problem of lack of money appears to be over.
But is it really over?
What you never stop to ask yourself is this; “who is actually making the problem of lack of money less painful, me or my boss?” If you ever come to this realization, then maybe you’ll stop feeling secure about an uncertain job. The feeling of being secure can only come from what you have a direct control over.
How can you feel secure about a job your boss directly controls? How can you feel secure when you are not in charge? How can you call a job yours when someone else designed the position you currently occupy? How can you feel secure or safe about a company you work for?
The very notion of “a job” negates the essence of security. Remember, a job is only a functional position you are being paid to occupy for a specified period of time.
It always has an expiration date. Security can only come from being in control and you can only control what you own. Unfortunately, in all my short stay on earth, I’ve never come across a job that is owned. What I’ve seen so far are job positions that were created for people to occupy.
Just because you fill the position doesn’t make you the owner and since you’re not the owner, you can be replaced. Why? Because a job you call your own is only yours to own temporarily as long as the boss says so.
Owning a Job VS owning a Business
A job was created to be “worked in” [physical engagement] and not to be “worked on” [mental engagement]. A job is like a car; you’ve got to be in it before you can drive it. Your physical engagement will always be a requirement.
There’s no other way to having a job than to “work in” one. You can never be free from what you “work in” [job], you can only be free from what you “work on” [business]. The former [job] requires all your time, while the later requires some of your time.
You do a job, but you build a business. You engage in a job, but you create a business. You are inside one doing all the work [job], but on top of the other calling all the shots [business].
A job requires your presence to make money; a business depends on asset to generate money. A job gives you money [active income]; a business makes you wealth [passive income]. The difference is TIME.
A job takes your time and gives you money, but a business frees your time and still gives you money. In a job, your time, skills, experience, knowledge, talent, ideas, and contacts is being exchanged for money; the more money you make, the less time you have. And time is an irreplaceable resource, once used it can never be replaced.
Eventually, you would run out of time because there’s a universal constraint placed on every human–AGE.
Remember the two key factors that determine the ownership of a job –availability of a position in an organization and your consistent ability to perform certain functions. Well I have got news for you; age is the barrier to them both.
The older we grow, the less we can physically do. The less we can physically do, the less functional positions we will be needed by employers to occupy.
Ultimately, as we age we lose our capacity to physically perform. Life has been designed in such a way that there’s an opposite relationship between age and our capacity to perform. As age goes up, our capacity to perform comes down.
This implies that there’s a deadline on our working years; much like an expiration date when despite our increasing needs, the ability to work would have diminished. The reality of this fact of life poses a rather disturbing question to you; “how long will your earned income serve you when your working years are over?”
I am sure you’ve never thought of asking yourself that question. Don’t wait till that time to find out, it would be too late then; now is the best time to start. START NOW!
Are you saying being an Employee is bad?
There is nothing bad with being an employee per se. At some point or the other in our adult lives we would be engaged in some form of employment or the other. But here is the truth, a job or being employed is a transition. Meaning, it’s not the end, but only a means to an end.
What is bad is holding on to employment as the solution to the long term problem of financial struggle. What is bad is thinking that a job is all you need to be financially free or secured. The inherent danger of employment is being caught in the rat race for life.
It is when you begin to view your job as the way out of your financial struggle that makes employment bad. Having a job isn’t bad, betting all your financial future on it is what is bad. Having a job isn’t bad, thinking it’s all you need to be wealthy is what is bad. Why? Because as you’ve seen so far, a job is a short term solution [paycheck] to a long term problem [financial struggle].
You cannot solve a permanent problem with a temporary solution. That you are employed in a job right now is good, forgetting to do anything on your own that will guarantee your financial future apart from your job is what is bad. As you work, always bear it in mind that a job is only temporary and therefore you must begin to plan on how to start your own business.
Never let the illusion of a paycheck distract your vision of a financially free future. You can start a part time business that will help you build assets [wealth] while you are still working for a paycheck [money].
Don’t get carried away by the temporary thrill of working for money that you forget to start building a business that will guarantee perpetual wealth. Money is too short a solution to solve a long term problem of financial struggle. Wealth and not money, is the lasting solution to financial struggle!
If you got this far, thumbs up to you!
So what do you think of my anatomy of employment? Did you find it useful, enlightening or disturbing?
To the entrepreneurs reading this, do you honestly feel becoming an entrepreneur was the best decision of your entire life? Do you have any regrets?
To you employee reading this, do you honestly feel this way about employment?
Kindly share your thoughts and comments below.
One Last Thing!
Please retweet on twitter, share and like this post on facebook, linkedin and google+. If it made a difference on you, it will on others too!
This is the second article of a new series, I have tagged it “Business Mastery Series”. Throughout this series, I will be
addressing some key issues that are pertinent to your success in business as an entrepreneur.
If you missed out on the first article, you can read it here;
Marketing is a core business function; to a large extent the success of your business is dependent on it. But from personal observations, not many entrepreneurs go about their marketing as they ought to. If at all they do, they don’t approach it holistically and so end up leaving so many stones unturned.
They tend to focus more on the selling part of marketing and overlook the other vital parts that naturally make selling unnecessary. The truth is this, if you approach marketing holistically, you will find out that you don’t need to ‘sell’; your products/services will naturally sell themselves.
There is an unusual way to marketing –the holistic way.
To attain the significant level of success you desire in your business, marketing must be seen as one whole concept involving several key activities that must be carried out by everyone in your business beginning with you the entrepreneur. In other words, when it comes to marketing, no one is to be exempted!
Do you know why some businesses achieve more than their counterparts? Do you know why no two businesses are ever
the same? Do you know why certain businesses behave in a certain way that sets them apart from others?
The secret is found in their DNA.
In biology, the DNA which stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid contains the genetic instructions for every living organism. The DNA determines what kind of life is the organism being formed to live. In essence, the DNA contains the programming language [source code] for the organism. Suppose organisms were some hardware, the DNA would be the software. Meaning, it is what basically determines how the hardware functions. Without a DNA, organisms are bound to malfunction.
What Is The DNA Of Your Business?
Your business is also an organism and needs a DNA to efficiently and effectively function. The DNA of a business determines what kind of a company it will be, the basis of its operations and its outcomes. It gives the broad picture of what the business will look like, what will guide its actions and what type of goals it will seek to achieve. They represent the soul of the business, what enables the company to function as a unique living entity.
Of all the resources available to mankind, time is the only resource that is given to all equally. We all have been allotted the same number of hours in a day –24 hours; everything else rests entirely on how we choose to use it.
What I choose to do with my time will determine the outcome of my life. If my life turns out well, it means I used my time well. Your time and your life are inextricably linked, what you do with one will be the direct outcome of the other.
As entrepreneurs, we are not excluded from the burden of time; rather, we bear more of this burden. As people who take on risk in order to make change happen, entrepreneurs are held more accountable for the use of their time.
Because humanity relies on entrepreneurs for the provision of goods and services that can improve the quality of life, the burden of time is heavier on the shoulders of entrepreneurs. We cannot afford to be lazy as entrepreneurs with the use of our time!
So here’s the million dollar question; how should entrepreneurs be spending their time?
In this unusual article, I will be sharing 5 high impact activities that successful entrepreneurs spend their time on. I call them the 5C’s of effective time management for entrepreneurs. Don’t just read this and keep it to yourself, help someone else out there by sharing this article on twitter, facebook, linkedin and google+.
The 5C’s Of Effective Time Management For Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur, here are 5 highly productive ways to be spending your time;
The first use of your time as an entrepreneur is for creation. The very word entrepreneur describes a person who undertakes risk for the purpose of creating something worthwhile. Entrepreneurs make ideas happen. That’s who they are, that’s why they exist and that’s what makes them different.
The day you cease to create is the day you start becoming irrelevant as an entrepreneur. Your purpose as an entrepreneur is the creation of unique and useful products or services that helps humanity solve their everyday problems cheaper, faster or better. If you don’t create, you’ve failed mankind as an entrepreneur!
How often should entrepreneurs create?
Creation is not something you schedule or plan to do; creation is something that gets done through you. So you must always remain in the creative process daily. How? By inventing play. How do you invent play? By searching for better ways and ideas for improving on what you currently do. In the invention of play, you must be willing to make mistakes, don’t be deterred, keep on playing with ideas for improvement.
Never stop asking; how can we serve humanity better? The more of this question you ask, the more ideas for improvement you’ll come up with and when these ideas flow through you, you must never hesitate to act on them however foolish they might seem.
The second use of your time as an entrepreneur is for consumption. What should you be consuming as an entrepreneur? Knowledge, ideas, thoughts and experiences. After creation comes re-creation – the refilling of used up energies. Every act of creation is emptying yourself into something else greater than you.
Creation is bringing ideas to life; you cannot bring something to life without giving up something in the process. Creativity is simply using up existing energy or resources for the production of more.
Consuming is how you sharpen yourself as an entrepreneur. It is time spent on personal development. As entrepreneurs, to do more we must be prepared to give up more and as we give up more it becomes naturally expedient that we take in more. You’ve heard of the saying; “you can’t give what you don’t have”.
Your time after creation must be spent learning, thinking and observing. All three are essential to your success as an entrepreneur. If you learn more, you will ultimately do more. If you think more, you’ll ultimately come up with more ideas for improvement. And if you observe more, you’ll ultimately discover more opportunities to exploit.
How often should entrepreneurs consume?
Every single day.
You must become an incurable learner, thinker and observer. You must keep on developing your natural talents, skills as well as business competencies. You must be open and aware to your environment, trends and your personal experiences, including your mistakes. They are all different forms of feedback that you must consume in order to produce more.
Read great books, blogs, magazines and reports; get a coach or mentor; listen to great tapes and watch informative videos. Whatever it takes, always strive to be better today than you were yesterday. The moment you think you’ve known it all, seen it all and have it all, and stop consuming, before long, you would have lost your capacity to create. As an entrepreneur, your cup is never full or empty; it must always be half-empty or half-full. You are never fully done, so keep on keeping on. The path of an entrepreneur is a never ending one!
No man is an island and one is too small a number to achieve greatness. The third use of your time as an entrepreneur is for collaboration. Because you cannot do it all by yourself, you must always be on the lookout for worthy vision partners to synergize with. Collaboration is the use of your time for networking and forming of strategic alliances.
As an entrepreneur, you cannot afford to be a jack of all trade and master of none. You need others to make ideas happen. Trying to go it all by yourself will only lead you to the deadliest business trap ever. So a good use of your time must be spent looking for other like minds to team up with and make great things happen.
Join trade associations or professional associations, attend industry building events, form strategic partnerships with other companies and build a global support team through the help of the internet via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Behance, and others.
Don’t waste your valuable time on the internet visiting one site or another; make use of that time to build strategic relationships with someone, a company, or group of individuals. To get to your dream, you need people way smarter than you in other areas. Spend your time finding, initiating and cultivating a win-win relationship with them.
How often should entrepreneurs collaborate?
As often as possible.
Always be on the lookout for potential vision partners. That’s what I call them –vision partners. If you have a vision, then you would need some partners for the fulfillment of that vision. I try not to use the term business partner, because it is not just about business, it’s about the dream or vision.
Collaboration is about how you can both promote one another’s causes. If money brought you together, trust me, money will easily drive you apart. But if it’s an idea, vision or dream bigger that what the both of you can achieve individually, then you’ve found yourself a worthy vision partner!
The fourth use of your time as an entrepreneur is for communication. Your ideas won’t speak for themselves; your products won’t speak for themselves neither will your vision. The first customer of your business is you the entrepreneur, are you happy with what you’ve created? Do you believe in what you’ve created? Can you bet your life on what you’ve created?
If yes, then a good use of your time must be spent spreading that idea, product, service, vision or dream. You must become the chief evangelist of what you’ve created. You must get out there and spread the word. Your time must be spent talking about whatever it is you do and how it is beneficial to the world. If you don’t, no one else will.
Communicating is the use of your time as an entrepreneur for marketing. You must become the spokesperson of your ideas, products, services, visions or dreams. The legendary Steve Jobs of Apple was exceptionally good at this. He literally made a festival out of everyone of Apple’s product launch. He put his money where his mouth is. He was a huge fan of his own creations and he never missed an opportunity to tell the world how great he thought of them.
How often should entrepreneurs communicate?
All of the time.
The world doesn’t care about your ideas, products, services, visions or dreams; they’ve got theirs to worry about. So you’ve got to make them care by showing them how much you care about them. The more of a big deal you make about your ideas, products, services, visions or dreams, the more confidence you give to the world to buy into your ideas, products, services, visions or dreams. And if they are as good as you claim, a trial will convince them.
The fifth use of your time as an entrepreneur is for controlling. After all is said and done, nothing no matter how great can continue to function without adequate attention. Every creation needs to be tended to properly. The whole of your time spent on the four previous highly productive activities would have been a complete waste if you overlook this last one.
Entrepreneurs make ideas happen and then build a business or businesses around those ideas. To ensure that what they have built lasts, entrepreneurs would have to spend their time keeping things in order.
Controlling is the use of your time as an entrepreneur for managing your business. You certainly don’t want things to fall apart in your business, controlling is how you ensure things go according to plan. It is the use of your time to create an organizational culture, and design an operational structure built around core business processes or systems of how your business can run successfully over a long period of time with or without your physical involvement.
If you don’t ensure what you created as an entrepreneur is built to last, then of all you’ve done, you would have only succeeded in failing mankind. As entrepreneurs, we can’t live forever, but what we spend our lives creating should stand the test of time. Steve Jobs is dead, but his legacy to the world Apple Inc. lives on.
How often should entrepreneurs control?
All the time.
You should always be on the lookout for lapses in your business and fix them. You should always look for more efficient ways to systemize work such that anyone can perform routine tasks successfully. You must always keep creating better ways of organizing work into processes and assigning capable people to supervise their performance. Control is a management function; and so it calls for a day-to-day use of your time as an entrepreneur.
How do you spend your time as an entrepreneur?
What other highly productive use of an entrepreneur’s time would you recommend?
Kindly share your views about these questions in the comment section below. Thanks, and don’t forget to share this unusual article with others, use any of the icons below.