Are You Destined To Be An Entrepreneur?
Most millennials prefer to run their business or operate their trading account from Long Island all while staring outside the window, observing the beautiful, mid-afternoon sun.
But the reality is that not everyone can afford such a view.
Most people have grown out of the idea of going to college or getting a 9-to-5 job unlike their parents, who preferred stability and a decent retirement pension above everything else.
Today’s generation doesn’t want to wait. We want to build things. We want to build them now. We want a million dollars. Some just don’t care how!
The options are unlimited and while trading your Robinhood account for the rest of your life does sound like a dream come true, realize that a bulk of those stocks are actually stakes in a company, which employs real people like you and me to run their business on a day-to-day basis. During the Great Depression, the thought of gaining a million dollars on Wall Street drew in a mad crowd that was to be devasted by the huge losses, many of which were never recovered during their lifetime.
Financial independence is important and solely relying on a paycheque might not be a smart idea in today’s day and age.
Escaping the 9-to-5 to avoid the hassle of having a boss, a meager salary, or being a subordinate aren’t viable excuses. Rather one should do a thorough analysis of their current state of affairs prior to submitting that “resignation letter”.
There are people who love their 9-to-5 job. They go to work, spend a solid eight hours minding their own business, and take pride in the fact that their contribution enables their firm to grow bigger, every, single day. They enjoy the “zero ownership” aspect in lieu of spending time doing whatever they love without any liability.
I’ve experienced the startup hustle, the corporate environment, the rigorous 19-hour shifts in investment banking, and now I am engaged in academia toiling away towards a Ph.D. whilst managing investments on the side.
The first half of my early twenties were spent coming back from failed startups, a Red Bull addiction, and labeling myself as an “investor” while all I was doing was speculating.
The unlikely success of selling out one of my firms at a time when I was $50,000 in debt really changed my perspective about money management and gave my career a new trajectory. I started working for myself from that day onward, but I had kept some form of corporate affiliation be it in academia or the asset management industry.
One of the things I realized was that one needs money for two things: luxury and survival.
If you happen to live in an expensive city where the CPI is too high, then chances are, you are not saving any significant sum whatsoever. And if you aren’t saving any money, you are not being able to set aside any sum for investing purposes.
Be it active or passive, but investing is the only way an “average Joe” can rise to the top. Selling stakes in a successful business is another, but nine out of ten startups fail.
Once they do fail, the VCs and debtholders also lose out on their initial investments and the entrepreneur has a hard time convincing the other investors for his next set of “ideas”.
I eventually settled for what I have now: a 9–to-3 pm job five days a week where I get to discuss and talk about the things I love, and my side business is maintained over the phone whereby I execute the trades for my clients from my laptop which is affiliated with a registered broker. Besides that, I have my own investment portfolio whereby I strictly maintain a “buy and hold” approach unless things start going haywire.
This implies that I am not another cog in the machine for the cut-throat corporate world.
I have the luxury to make an independent choice, every single morning, as to whether or not I should continue to hustle in my regular day job. I don’t do it for the money, but because I love to encourage the youth.
Developing the notion of hating your day job is easy.
Transitioning into a career you love is the challenging part.
In his book, “Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant” by Robert Kiyosaki, he goes onto mention that if an individual plans to escape the 9-to-5 hustle, he/she either needs to transition into the “B” (Business owner) quadrant or the “I” (Investor) quadrant. The other two options (Employee and Self Employed) do not generate any significant returns unless the individual’s self-employed business really takes off. He emphasized the need to make your “money work for you” which is only possible in the “B” or “I” quadrants.
If you have made up your mind about transitioning into unchartered territory, then these are the steps that might help you to make the most of it.
Solve a problem. Try and be helpful.
Most founders and entrepreneurs start off their journey to resolve an issue that has bugged them for decades.
It could be an issue that a close family member complained about or something that they want to change in the society that surrounds them. Unconventional thinking is what truly differentiates a successful entrepreneur from an unsuccessful one. They don’t abide by the system and usually don’t get through school using conventional ways. Most challenge the status quo and don’t train themselves to be an “employee”, which is what the education system is designed for.
It has taken me ten years to realize this simple phenomenon. Without solving a need, nobody will pay you a dime. The act of being helpful enables one to determine and identify potential market opportunities for tapping into the future.
Start by resolving an issue, consult others who might have the same problem, and do it for free initially. Once you build your reputation as an “expert” start charging for your services. The genuinely interested customers will stay and will also prove to be your first “marketing team”. “Word of mouth” is the best form of marketing there is.
Find a way to make $1.
When you start out expect to work for $0 an hour.
No one will pay you a dime unless you have helped out at least a thousand people. It could be less, but this phase will help you build resilience, understand the concept of “bootstrapping” and will potentially give you an idea of how you can manage your burn rate.
Once the validation starts rolling in, the $1 of revenue will bump up to $10, $100, and so on.
No amount of publicity, newsletter distribution, or any kind of Facebook marketing can help you escape this phase. This is a phase we all must go through.
Create a newsletter.
Once you know your interest, you need others to know about your interest, and the only way to market it yourself is through a “newsletter”. Content creation and marketing are key aspects when it comes to raising brand awareness.
“It is how you find people. Period.”
Most of my current mentors have been introduced to me by other former colleagues or mentors through content. Be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium, or their personal blog/ company website, their content is what drew me towards them. A simple message such as “I loved that video” or “that blogpost really conveyed the message” oftentimes turn into a meaningful conversation.
If you’re not creating content through whatever means possible you are blocking yourself from being exposed to a global audience who might find your product/service attractive.
Hire a capable sales team
A capable sales team will do all the hard work for you. It’s a tough ask to manage a startup or a business all by yourself. A capable sales team who understands consumer psychology and knows how to treat the customers fairly will bring in a set of loyal customers who will stick by your brand for life.
Ditch the savings account and start investing
“No one ever got rich by saving money”. The saying is true. If you simply save your money, the effects of inflation and a low-interest rate regime will destroy it’s worth in real terms. The trick is to invest your money and let it work for you.
Whether it’s your personal funds or funds from your company, investing in lucrative assets such as stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, real estate, REITs or any other asset for that matter will do you a whole lot of service than cash sitting in a savings account. For some, the dividend paycheques and rental income will be more than enough to compensate a year’s worth of earnings if they invest all of the VC money into such instruments but that’s a topic for another day.
The notion of a 9-to-5 may be conventional, but it isn’t a bad thing when you start out. You need money to make money, and the only way to get such funds is through your “active” income sources.
Having a realistic outlook on your current income and savings is crucial in deciding whether you should move forward or not. The decision shouldn’t come from a mutual hatred for your current boss or company culture.
If you have set aside a reasonable amount of savings and a wonderful business idea that might help out a million people, then hop on and navigate the waters.
Beware of the sharks who pretend to be helpful VCs and cofounders and invest your time and energy in building your company’s culture, its people, and your product and you could potentially be that “one out of the ten” possible businesses that “don’t fail” after five years.