The Pitfalls of Starting Your Own Business

In the recent New York Times article “Maybe It’s Time for Plan C,” lawyers, stock-brokers and IT professionals lose or quit their high-profile jobs and pursue their passions to become entrepreneurs. But they soon find that the “dream job” of owning a business includes a lot of pitfalls.

Owning your own business, according to the article, involves long hours and the added stress of being the driving force behind nearly every aspect of your self-fashioned career. According to the article, the majority of new business fail due to a lack of preparation and experience. While many of the subjects enjoy their new lines of work, the article asks readers to think long and hard before they try being their own bosses.

Starting your own business talks up a tremendous amount of time and effort. If you’re considering self-employment, here are some important executive coaching tips according to what I see as effective:

  • Identify your reasons for starting a business. There are major risks with going into business. Questioning your motives is an important executive coaching tool to help focus on what you really want. What’s important? Family? Job security? Personal freedom? How would starting your own business help you get what you really want out of life?
  • Keep your new business in balance with the rest of your life. Being your own boss may make you feel fulfilled in one area, but it can also throw off aspects in your family, spirituality and community spheres. A sudden change in your career means you’ll have devote time and effort to balancing out the rest of your life.
  • Determine your strengths and weaknesses. If businesses fail due to a lack of preparation, a good coaching technique is to list your best and worst traits and skills.
  • Talk to an entrepreneurial coach. The right executive coach can help you if you want to start your own business. They can help in a variety of areas such as how you’ll prepare and implement your ideas and plan for future growth.

Starting a business is a huge risk. As you think about what sort of business you’d launch, consider your motivations, and make sure you’re using all the resources at your disposal when you take the entrepreneurial plunge.

Have you considered self-employment? What is your experience?

JS

Could writing more concisely help your career?

A recent article in the New York Times called “Teaching to the Text Message” demonstrates the importance of writing concisely and packing a lot of information into a small space. This challenges conventional English-teaching wisdom like the research paper, but it’s a very valuable skill to get to your point quickly and with few words, as in a text message. The long form has its place, but in these times, brief and precise communication is preferable.

Usually, the most direct way of saying something is the most accurate and telling. At Full Life, we begin the initial coaching sessions by having our clients cut to the main point: “In one sentence or less, what brings you here today?”

What are some advantages to writing shorter and more concisely?

  • It’s more likely that someone will read your communication, ensuring that your main points will be comprehended and addressed.
  • You will appear more competent at expressing your thoughts if you get to the point quickly, as opposed to taking a while to get there.
  • Your points will be more clear and noticeable. Excess words bog down your writing and cause the main point to get lost in the text.
  • Your writing will be easier to follow and understand. If you go into too much detail, your readers will get lost in the nuanced particulars and may lose interest.

In the age of texting, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s becoming more and more accepted to write directly to the point. Making an effort to be concise in your writing and speaking can help your career, both in how people perceive you as well as how you engage others.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Hero: Bob Herbert

The already-reeling newspaper medium is suffering another loss: Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times. In his final column for the paper, Herbert has published a useful summary of our country’s worrisome strategic mistakes. In “Losing Our Way,” Herbert finishes an inspiring career at NYT of publishing the hard truths when other journalists are afraid to report.

The America in “Losing Our Way” reveals how greed rules as the most wealthy keep all the profits to themselves, leaving the bottom 95% to compete in a ever-more bleaker job market. Even bright young graduates are forced into careers that limit their ability to accomplish goals. Wages are too low to think about starting a family, and the future seems more uninviting every day. In times like this, peak performance in career planning is more important than ever.

How can you, or someone you know, hope to rise above these challenges and conquer the competitive job market?

  • Solidify your vision of your ideal job. Excelling is far easier when you have the passion for your work.
  • Launch an entrepreneurial endeavor. The Amplifier Blog has previously posted tips for doing this such as a guide to planning, a list of excellent resources, and some advice on keeping your plans flexible.
  • Always keep an eye on your personal brand and how potential employers might see you.
  • Be flexible with your business/career plan. Be willing to change directions when you know that is what is needed.

Bob Herbert’s final column at the New York Times is an accurate portrait of a country in crisis, but Full Life’s coaching services can inspire you to meet the heightened challenges and and compete for diminished resources.

What are your thoughts?

JS

A Malleable Personal Brand

This month’s Harvard Business Review contains an excellent article for anyone’s career development called “Reinventing Your Personal Brand.” The article discusses how you can alter others’ perceptions of your personal and professional story as it applies to your career. As you try to climb the corporate ladder guided by your ambitions and your own ideas of what you could do, you will find that people instead judge you based on your past work. Reinventing your personal brand allows you to change what others look at when assessing your prior accomplishments and perhaps see you in a more positive light.

The list of five tips that the article gives is:

  1. Define your destination – Make a plan of where you want your career to go and develop the skills necessary to get there.
  2. Leverage your points of difference – Pick out what makes you stand out and learn to use it to your advantage.
  3. Develop a narrative – Frame your previous experience in an interesting way that will make you the right choice for the job.
  4. Reintroduce yourself – In addition to making new contacts with your new brand, update your old ones on who you are becoming.

At Full Life, one of the most common services we provide is next-phase career coaching, and the above tips are a great introduction to our approach.

How will you bring your unique talents to a job? Develop your personal brand to quickly present yourself to others.

How could you re-do your personal brand?

JS

Keeping Your Business Plan Flexible

A recent article in the New York Times called “Jilted in the U.S., a Site Finds Love in India” gives an interesting perspective on entrepreneurial endeavors. When the dating site Ignighter.com started a few years ago, the idea was a dating site with a unique twist: to avoid the pressure of setting up a classic one-to-one date, the site allowed you to arrange a group date for multiple people. The idea was fresh and the site gained some popularity in the US, but plateaued and became a disappointment stateside. The founders got some good news, though, when the site’s popularity in Southern Asia, especially India, began to climb. The team has now re-focused their attention on India and is enjoying great success as a result of adjusting to the market’s unique elements.

Time and time again, entrepreneurs that are flexible with their ideas appear to be the most successful. Although the site’s focus on group dating may have been misunderstood in the United States—some consumers may have assumed on first visit that the site was aimed at swingers—its unique charm has been largely embraced by an unexpected culture. The article suggests this is largely due to aspects about dating culture in India, especially the taboo against single men and women appearing in public alone. Although their service was developed with American consumers in mind, it appealed to an entirely different nation on the other side of the globe. By embracing this, the site’s creators are enjoying success that may not have occurred had they not been flexible.

Some tips on finding your market as an entrepreneur:

  1. Look for the most enthusiastic customers you get early on. Find out what they love about your service and how they’d improve it.
  2. Pay special attention to where your best customers come from. Don’t assume they are in your own backyard. Instead they may come from another land.
  3. Weather the slow times and keep an eye open for your niche markets. Find them if they don’t find you.

Be open to surprises regarding who is your best customer. It is always a little different from what you would think.

How else can you find your ideal customer?

JS

Aspiring for One Career, Choosing Another

A recent article on AOL News called “From Aspiring Actress to Economic Leader, Duke Says It’s ‘Personal’” explores how a person can shift careers out of necessity and wind up happy. Lack of opportunity for employment can force people out of their field, but it’s not always a crisis. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to switch to a more fulfilling and rewarding career. Your old career can be your new hobby, especially if you’re struggling in a competitive and creative field like acting, music, or art.

The article’s subject Elizabeth Duke started as an aspiring actress but was forced to start working in banking in order to make a living. She began as a teller and has since worked her way up to a Governor of the Federal Reserve. This is a great example: if an individual values income over passion, it may be sensible to convert passionate careers with low income potential into hobbies while pursuing a new career path with higher income potential.

Some things to ask yourself before jumping careers:

  1. What are the opportunities in your current passionate career like?
  2. What other careers could you pursue?
  3. What are advancement opportunities in the other career like?
  4. How could your previous experiences in your passionate career contribute to a new career?
  5. In what ways could your current career be pursued as a hobby?
  6. How can you pursue your passionate career and figure out how to make money doing it?

Sometimes life deals us a difficult hand with high unemployment rates in our chosen fields. It’s up to us to turn this into an opportunity preferably still make it work or decide to move onto a new path. I find clients who face the challenge and make their passionate choice work financially gets the highest grade. Compromises are fine too, though, and are a part of smart life choices as well.

What are your thoughts?

JS

More New Resources for Entrepreneurs

Last Tuesday, the New York Times ran an article about a kitchen for rent in New York City called “A Kitchen-for-Rent Is a Lifeline for the Laid-Off.” The article explores the benefits offered by the very interesting new business: underfunded chefs and aspiring restauranteurs without access to a kitchen of their own can pay reasonable prices to use top-of-the-line facilities by the hour to either practice their skills or cook up products to sell. The kitchen facilities include just about every basic appliance needed in a modern kitchen, and is kept very clean and in good repair.

This article has three areas of interest for me: for one, it’s a great way to save money and gain experience when starting out specifically in the restaurant industry. Secondly, it’s a great example of the expanded resources available to entrepreneurs afforded by the internet and new levels of creativity. Third, it’s an excellent example of a very unique idea for a business that creatively fulfills a market need while providing an excellent service.

As an entrepreneur myself, I can attest to the merits of services similar to this one. Last week I published a blog post about young entrepreneurs creating their own jobs just out of college, making do with low bank rolls by utilizing internet resources to save money. This is another example of a resource, and proof that it’s not only young entrepreneurs that are taking advantage of the new business world’s opportunities.

Here are a few options to consider while ruminating on entrepreneurial endeavors:

  1. Are there hourly resources for me to utilize like the kitchen-for-rent? Think about a potentially expensive necessity required by your business idea and find out if there’s a cheap way to outsource the investment by renting it or only using it hourly.
  2. Consider how long you’ll have to take advantage of these resources. Will it just be temporary while you build the capital to pay for your own? Or will it by the permanent business model? I, for example, rented an hourly distinguished mailing address and meeting space in Chicago when just starting out with Full Life before moving to our current office in Lincoln Park. You should consider how long this arrangement will last early on in the process.
  3. Calculate which arrangement will be more pragmatic. If you’re planning on keeping the enterprise up for such a long time that it would save you money to, for example, put together your own kitchen, then consider that option.
  4. Don’t be afraid to adapt your plans as events transpire. If business takes off more than expected, consider flexible rental agreements so you can be flexible in how you expand over time.

These types of creative resources have made starting a business easier than ever before, and those with business ideas should re-examine choices with these possibilities in mind.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Entepreneurial Solution to Job Shortages

If you’re like millions of new college graduates, you’re having a very hard time finding a job now that you’re out of school. Unemployment is high, and competition for the few open entry-level positions is fierce. Is there a better way?

This Sunday’s New York Times article “No Jobs? Young Graduates Make There Own” explores and often-overlooked option: entrepreneurialism. More and more college graduates are starting their own entrepreneurial projects and taking advantage of specific market niches. This is made possible by the internet, which has made starting a business cheaper than ever before.

Actually, I think this is a great idea for all people having trouble finding a more conventional job. As an entrepreneur myself, I can speak to how rewarding the undertaking is if it’s managed right. Here are some of my tips to potential entrepreneurs just getting their start:

  1. Plan on something simple with high demand for your products or services in the marketplace.
  2. If you don’t have an idea already, start brainstorming with what you know.
  3. Use a shoestring budget to make the most of your limited resources. Save money wherever you can.
  4. Take advantage of all shared or open resources afforded to you, including the Young Entrepreneurial Council started by the entrepreneur at the center of the NYT article.
  5. Do as much of the work needed by your company by yourself. Use open-source software and anything free to save money. The article mentions entrepreneurs teaching themselves HTML and using free online resources so that they could design their websites themselves without hiring a web designer.
  6. Set up a professional “front’ office by using a hourly office service. This is especially useful for startups, especially since they have hourly rates for conference rooms and phone answering services. Most major cities have services like this, including New York City and Chicago.

Though entrepreneurialism is always a risky enterprise, now is the time to take a shot if you’re young and serious about your idea. It’s a difficult way of life, but the best if you learn to love it.

What are your thoughts?

JS

Stand Out in a Job Interview

A recent article in the New York Times called “I Asserted Myself and Got the Job” by Marat Gasiev and Patricia R. Olsen demonstrates one of the most important truths about job hunting: you need to stand out from your peers, and the best way to do this is by bringing specific insights and innovations to the interview. Ask yourself: if you were filling positions at a company, who would you be more impressed by: a candidate that answers questions simply and generally, or someone that can demonstrate experience and forethought about your industry?

HR representatives are always on the lookout for people that can bring new innovations to their field. That’s the major draw of hiring outsiders. Before you even apply to a specific job, research the company’s background and brainstorm what new ideas you can bring. As Gasiev reports doing, tailor your résumé and cover letter to each application, rather than relying on a boilerplate to suffice. The more specific, the better.

I have found that applicants who report unique ways of handling a specific job are much more interesting than someone who speaks in vague generalities. Once you have the opportunity to separate yourself from other applicants, demonstrate your familiarity and research by bringing up the innovations you would make. Be careful: you don’t want to sound arrogant, but the more specific and realistic your suggestions, the more you will stand out.

Key approaches to the job search:
1. Research the company behind every job posting before applying.
2. Customize your résumé and cover letter to fit every application you send out.
3. Brainstorm a short list of innovations relevant to your area of expertise that you could suggest the company institute at interviews.
4. At your interview, make a few key suggestions based on your research without seeming smug or arrogant.
5. As you work your way up the interview chain, demonstrate your foreknowledge early so that your interviewees recognize your familiarity with the industry.

Don’t strive for the middle of the pack. Sometimes hundreds of job-seekers apply for one opening; you need to distinguish yourself. The best way to do this is by demonstrating your competency, humility, and creativity.

Do you have any other suggestions? Please send your thoughts.

JS

Simplify and De-clutter Your Life

An exchange variously attributed to an interviewer and either John D. Rockefeller or J. Paul Getty—both astronomically wealthy oil tycoons—goes like this: A reporter asks the interviewee how much money is enough, and the response comes: “Just one dollar more.” Indeed, mankind has grown more and more materialistic and possession-motivated in the last century. A new movement resisting this notion is gathering steam, however, claiming that people might be happier once they actively limit their possessions and focus on relationships with those close to them.

An article in the New York Times called “But Will It Make You Happy?” contains an overview of the movement. Most commonly, websites that support the minimalist philosophy gauge the metrics of how simplified your life is by counting your possessions. The blog Stuck in Stuff has a number of articles about limiting what you own to 100 items, and it’s this type of site that inspires the people discussed in the NYT article. 100 items is an extreme, but we all have something to incorporate regarding simplification.

The effect of cutting off superfluous attachments is to drastically simplify your life and eventually allow you to focus on being happy. It works like this: as you limit your possessions, you need less space and less transportation to go about your everyday life. This means you spend less money on smaller apartments and transportation, which means you can work to earn money to support yourself, not your possessions.

An unhappy worker is unproductive, no matter the industry. Cutting ties to possessions and trimming fat can be a very liberating action, and can contribute to happiness. If you feel like you’re working for those around you and to support your habits, not your choices, maybe simplifying your lifestyle is a good idea.

What are your thoughts?

JS

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