Saturday, February 28, 2009

Laid off? Time to embrace your inner fire

Yep, my good friend and a great human being officially became a statistic. Half of his office was laid off yesterday, almost suddenly. The people that were laid off were all good people, with two of them being veterans in the company.

It comes to show you, that ultimately, there is no such thing as job security. The days of working for a single company for your entire career and then retiring are long gone.

Job security is a contradiction. It is also an admission of surrender...the surrender of your freedom. Think about it, you are working in an "office" everyday. You take orders, and if you don't do what you're told, you are punished. Who would want to live life being dependent on "the man?"

Of course, I'm sure my friend is only one of the many who've gotten laid off in recent months. The economy has not being doing well at all (to use a gross understatement). However, what most people don't realize is that an economic downturn presents new opportunities, much like a booming economy. You just have to look in different places now. While the opportunities in a downturn aren't as forgiving towards "irrational exuberance" or as "sexy" as opportunities in a booming economy, they're still pretty attractive.

So, if you've been laid off, this is now your chance to take your destiny by the reins, and forge your own path as a self-employed, independent person. Besides, look on the bright side, now you can actually get some sleep. Also, now that you're laid off, you've just gained another valuable resource to start your business: Time.'ve been laid what? Well, here are some things you can do to start awakening that inner fire of entrepreneurship:

  • First, think of the things you LIKE to do. Do you have a hobby? Or perhaps a couple of interests or what not? Did you encounter something that you found really fascinating or cool?

The first step is very important. Many studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs are the ones who do what they believe in or love to do. If you're just starting a business with no goal in mind but to make money, chances are you will fail. You have to believe that your business makes a positive impact to the community, or it is something that you genuinely enjoy doing.

  • Second, take all those ideas and experiences and go sit in a dark and quiet room (try to find one). While in there, brainstorm how these thoughts can be turned into businesses, and make a nice long list for yourself. My trick is to bring my cell phone into the room so I can light it up and actually see where I'm writing :)
  • Once your list has been completed, try to talk to some people, or even try to find a partner for your entrepreneurial endeavor. In fact, you can also try to find a partner before you even do the second step of brainstorming. With other people, get their feedback on what they think. What you want to do is try to determine the initial feasibility for your idea. Remember, try not to get excited about ideas that are beyond you or your partner(s)' skillsets...unless you can easily source that expertise somewhere.
  • After you've filtered your ideas and came up with one or two solid ones, then you need to do some homework. You need to find out the following things:
  1. What is your value proposition? To do that, you need to identify the need. Is there a need (or can you create a need) that your product/service can cater to? If not, then don't bother. Remember, when you enter into an industry, you need to bring value-add, otherwise there's no reason for people to use you over others.
  2. Who is your target market? This can be a demographic or a particular characteristic of people. (e.g. females ages 18-24 or a category such as blue collar workers, etc.). This will determine HOW you will market your business.
  3. Where would you earn your money? And how much money do you REALISTICALLY think you will earn? This is very important. Although successful entrepreneurs don't start businesses for the sake of money, they do, however, know where to earn their money to be able to grow and sustain their business.
  4. Who's your competition? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  5. What is the state of the market now? (is it growing? shrinking?)
  6. Is the market dominated by a few big players? Unless your idea is revolutionary and feasible, it is usually not a good idea to enter into a very consolidated sector.
  7. Are there any imminent substitutes that could threaten your service/product?
  8. What resources do you have at your disposal as start-up capital? In these economic times, it is usually more prudent to NOT dip into your savings unless your research has been very favorable to your idea. Even in that case, you will want to seek investor funding. Given the conditions of the economy, getting credit from banks is even harder now. Not only that, most banks require new companies to sign a personal indemnity agreement which pretty much holds you personally liable for the debt, rather than your company. You will want to find an Angel Investor or Venture Capitalists. However, you must be careful, because the usual way they give you funding is by buying equity in your company. In that case, you do not want to relinquish too much control. Also, if you seek investor funding, you MUST have a formal business plan written up.
  9. Will your company have high or low overhead? The best thing to do in difficult economic times is to try to keep overhead as low as possible. Having low overhead also means you need less start-up capital, and you can achieve a faster time-to-market.
  10. What is your timeline for starting up and breaking even?
  11. What will you do with your eventual F-U money? (optional...but perhaps required for some of you ;) )
While this isn't an exhaustive list, this is a good overview of what you have to do to start up. Remember, planning is very important. Do not rush in based on emotions only. Collect the facts, then make your decision.

As a future entrepreneur, if you focus on achieving your dreams and goals, the money will come. It's the same for when you attract a potential mate. When you're focused on improving yourself and living life to the fullest, someone will come to you. Usually it's when you're activtely looking for that potential mate that you never find one. The same goes for money. If you actively look for money, you'll never get it. Money is a by-product of your own self-empowerment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just another day...

So I've been talking with people who are stressed out about their jobs. I ask them about what stresses them out, and it's usually boils down to the following reasons:

-I never have time for myself
-I don't like what I do
-I'm bored
-I don't make enough money
-I don't like the people I work with

I had a great conversation one time with a successful entrepreneur. He sat me down and shot me a piercing gaze with his dark eyes. He said, "Do you know what a job stands for?"

I was a bit nervous, but replied, "Uhh, not really." He grinned a bit and said, "Having a job stands for being Just Over Broke."

I thought about that for a while, and I completely agreed. How much different is having a job compared to being broke? In both cases, you don't have the money to do what you truly want to do in life. The only difference is, with a job, you can feed and shelter yourself and get wasted on the weekends with your friends, which puts you at just over broke.

But the key question is...why do most people put up with that? Is it because of fear? Complacency? My gut tells me that most people know the answer but they bury it and set it aside.

So I ask people, " hate your job...have you been thinking of any ideas or whatever?"

Most people at that point say "Yeah, I had some ideas floating around." So then I ask them about their ideas. Most people have great ideas, but they just can't execute on them.

"That's a great idea" I say with a smile, "You gonna do it?"

The usual replies come down to a set of disturbingly common reasons why they wouldn't:

-I don't have enough time to do it
-I'm too lazy (followed by a nervous laugh)
-I'm gonna wait and see, the economy sucks right now
-I don't think I have the ability to do it
-I can't find people who are good enough for it
-I don't have money
-I need a better idea...something revolutionary (yeah...good luck with that, just keep it simple!!)

The worst part is when you're discussing these things in a group, and you have other people who sympathize with those excuses...and give advice on top of it!!! What does the frog in the well know of the ocean?

If something's important, a person has got to take a risk and make the time for it. After all, who wants to retire and still be just over broke?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hey everyone

So...this is my first post on a blog. I held out for the longest time writing a blog, but just like that 50 cent bag of Doritos in that same old deli you pass by everyday, you eventually can't resist.

I know I'm not the only one out there who constantly thinks about how dumb it is to work for someone else. A lot of people think that running the usual rat race is the easy way, but if you think about it, it's actually harder. Think of all the late nights you work, and the incessant urge to take a steamy, 7-11 slurpy-like dump in the top drawer of your boss' desk (don't act like you never thought about THAT one...yes...that includes the ladies).

This blog is going to be about the adventures of people (yeah..including me) who want to become entrepreneurs. It will be a symphony of fire, ice, Krispy Kreme donuts and steamy dumps as we talk about our triumphs, our failures and most importantly the fun we had from the experience of it all.

Check back often...and love this blog...frequently.