“Forget medical school or law school,” writes Bill Aulet in a recent WSJ article on entrepreneurship (Teaching Entrepreneurship Is in the Startup Phase.) Note: You may need a subscription to view the linked article – but it’s in the Wall Street Journal. My father sent this to me the other day and somehow it struck a cord in me…
I was meeting with a friend, former employee, and entrepreneur as few weeks ago while doing business in Florida. He shared with me the following progression…
1. Get a job and work hard. This is the common goal of most students planning to attend college. Once they graduate, they’ll assemble a resume, and go out to sell themselves to someone willing to take on an entry level employee. From there it’s a hard climb upward.
2. Manage the employees. Once the job is “secured”, its time to move up into management. Managers make more and do less of the heavy lifting – however, don’t underestimate the stress of managing people. The biggest problem here is that middle managers often leave behind the skills that actually lead to profits, taking on the day to day paperwork. If they don’t make the executive level cut, they may find themselves on the street without a viable skill set to land another job. Middle managers are a dime a dozen – I know from experience.
3. Own your own job – this is code for working for yourself. Most of the “companies” people start are actually one-person independent contractor type companies – people working for themselves. They are the key person or only person in that business. From there a good business will grow, requiring more people (and therefore creating more jobs), and allowing that business owner to move up – less of the work, and more of the oversight. This is a good position to be in.
4. Owning the company – or many companies, but doing less or none of the actual work. The top end of this progression comes only to a few entrepreneurs who figure out how to create passive income or a business that can be largely run without that person being there every day. A great example would be something offered or sold online…orders come in while you’re sleeping and a fulfillment house or staff ships it out.
While most will start at number 1, the above mentioned article indicates that more and more students are realizing that number 1 & 2 are very time consuming, often unfulfilling, and don’t naturally lead to 3 and 4. With this in mind, universities are working on programs to help students get to 3 & 4 sooner, or right out of school. The problem, as spelled out in the article, is – there is no formula for starting a business. At least there isn’t a proven method. Only about 4% will make it to 10 years, so spending 100K on a degree to help you understand the path might end up being a wasted investment. After all, how many professors really know how to start a business? And if they did, would they still be teaching at the University. In fact, if they are really passionate about entrepreneurship, would they still work within the confines of educational bureaucracy? Unlikely.
My recommendation is to seek out as many entrepreneurs as possible and spend some time with them. Each one has their own story – and each one will have a different take on where to start. If there was ever a good time to be thinking about starting a business – this is it. Corporate life is hard, unfriendly to the family, and politically charged. The idea of commuting to work every day, being required to attend hours of meaningless meetings, and being asked to take the smallest salary possible in order to increase company profits just isn’t that interesting any more. Especially when there really is no security in working for a large company.
© 2013, David Stelzl