Tough Job Market? Try the “E” Word
- Friday, September 18, 2009
There's always the old "half full" versus "half empty" way of looking at a glass of water. In fact, over 90 percent of US workers have jobs. But if you're one of the millions of Americans who is unemployed or underemployed, such analogies go only so far.
So let's talk about the real world. For you, the solution might be the "E" word: Entrepreneurship. Many of America's greatest companies were started because someone couldn't get a job anywhere else. As a matter of fact, my own dislike for working for anyone else led me to begin a company in the 1970's that eventually grew into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. First things first. Let's talk about how you might turn today's unemployment into your golden opportunity. There are several important things on this "to do" list:
1. Find something that you are good at, and hopefully passionate about. Remember Solomon's directive, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). If you are a computer guru, why not start a business tutoring old geeks like me on how to use the things? If you're a musician—give lessons. If you like gardening—start a landscape business. There are all sorts of creative ways to make a buck. I know of one fellow who kisses his wife on the forehead about 10 o'clock a couple of nights a week and goes out to clean a small office building. He's making an extra $500-$1,000 per month. And, if he wishes, he could eventually grow his little part-time venture into an industrial maintenance business complete with a roster of clients and a great income stream.
2. Get smart. Familiarize yourself with local, state, and other regulations. Work within the law. You might think about tapping into the resources of organizations like Junior Achievement and the Small Business Administration for ideas and advice. Also, keep good records. Be sure to document every legitimate expense—you'll be dollars ahead at tax time.
3. Don't pay for the privilege of working. Too often young entrepreneurs spend money simply to make money. The truth is, if you already had some money you probably wouldn't even be doing this. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to buy a lot of equipment to get started. Borrow stuff. Rent equipment. Tell your clients the truth—you're just getting started. Maybe they'll loan you their garden gear to work in their yards. One of the best decisions I made in the early days of our business was to avoid buying equipment until we had enough business to more than pay for it. Also, when you do start buying stuff—buy used equipment! It's almost always a better plan to purchase gently used equipment for 20 to 50 percent of the cost of new gear.
4. Find and promote your differential advantage. For instance, if you're not the largest and most experienced company in the market—don't claim that you are. Tell the truth. Admit that you're young and new. But promise to go the extra mile. Offer a money-back guarantee. Price your goods and services below your higher overhead, more established competitors.
5. Be your own PR firm. Ray Kroc , founder of McDonalds, was fond of saying that the key to success was, "Early to bed and early to rise. Then advertise, advertise, advertise!" Even though you won't have a multi- million dollar ad budget, you can put you name on your car, have business cards printed, design a brochure, or put up a great website.
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