Entrepreneurs: Having a job vs. owning a business

Here’s a question worth pondering:  Do you work for yourself, or does your business work for you?  There’s a major difference between the two.  Allow me to explain.

Many entrepreneurs set out to create a business but get derailed somewhere along the way and wind up with a job.  They get stuck trading their own time for money.  Lori Grenier – of Shark Tank fame – aptly noted that “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”  Ouch.  If you love freedom, working for yourself is far more appealing than working for “the man”.  But if you’re not careful, you might just miss out on the very freedom you were originally seeking.  If your business wouldn’t survive if you stepped away for an extended period of time, then it’s not a business after all.  It’s merely a job.  It could be a high-paying job, but it may not provide the freedom you’re pursuing after all.

I’m guilty of this in my own business.  I’m hesitant to give up control over certain elements of my book enterprise, and this has certainly limited the growth of my company.  In 2017, my wife and I plan to switch gears and outsource as much of our business as possible.  Our end goal is to stop physically sourcing books on our own, and instead rely on partnerships, technology, and hired help to grow our top (and more importantly, bottom) line.  We plan to continue sourcing books on our travel adventures, since it funds our trips and allows us to save money on taxes thanks to business expenses and deductions.  But we’ll be sourcing on our own terms, rather than regularly hitting thrift stores and library sales to put food on the table.

Here’s our road map for creating a business instead of a job:

Phase 1 – Start Up.
Phase 2 – Scale Up.
Phase 3 – Step Back.

Phase 1 – It’s important to jump into the start-up phase quickly.  Far too many business plans are abandoned before they ever see the light of day.  Why not test your business model on a small scale without investing too much time or money, until you settle on a profitable strategy to pursue further?  It’s the concept of “ready, fire, aim” instead of being crippled by “paralysis by analysis” and never getting started in the first place.  We started our book business with a simple “100 book weekly challenge”, which was the catalyst that proved the Amazon FBA model could work for us.  There are other articles on this blog – and many other exceptional blogs and YouTube channels out there – that explain in detail the start-up process as it relates to selling books online.  In this post, we’re going to focus more on what to do AFTER your business has crossed the starting line.

Phase 2 – Once you have proven the initial business concept, it’s time to see if the idea is scalable.  For example, if you can find 100 books in a week and earn x dollars of profit, can you find a way to snag 200 books a week and earn twice the profit?  What about 500 books per week, or perhaps 5,000?  At what point will you run into limitations?  Will you run out of hours in the day, capital to invest in more inventory, or sources to find books?  Will you bump up against your inventory storage limits?  As you encounter these limitations, you must find creative ways to solve these problems to keep growing your business.  Rinse and repeat until you have achieved your goals.

Speaking of goals, one concept that is rarely addressed is the power of enough.  Too often we are focused on growing and scaling our businesses with no clear end goal in mind.  Sadly, the quest for more is an insatiable one.  If you don’t have specific goals for your business, how will you know when you’ve attained them?  How will you define success?  If your goal is to earn a few extra grand each year to help pay off debt, save for college, or go on a dream vacation, then STOP scaling when you have achieved that level of profitability.  If your goal is to quit your day job and replace your current income, then STOP building your business when you reach your goal.  At this point, consider switching your mindset from one of growth to one of maintenance.  It requires a significant investment of time up front to scale your business, but once your business is “big enough”, seek out ways to extract time from your business rather than extracting more dollars. Your time is the most valuable asset you have, and it is a non-renewable resource.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have more time than more money.  Proceed accordingly!

Don’t get me wrong here – growth isn’t bad and money isn’t evil.  But if you lack clear goals you will struggle to ever be fully satisfied with your business success.  You can always re-negotiate your goals with yourself, and establish new targets.  Once you have achieved enough, however, focus on ways to remove yourself from your business.

Phase 3 – As outlined above, the ability to step back from your business is what separates those who can work ON their business from those who work FOR their business.  Can you outsource pieces of your business and still earn a profit?  If so, you can effectively buy time for yourself while simultaneously establishing residual income.  Not a bad trade-off!  In order to step back, you must be willing to give up some level of control in your business.  For many people, this is easier said than done.

One point worth clarifying here: I’m not talking about merely increasing efficiency.  For example, you could save time by investing in software to help you list books more quickly.  That time savings will certainly be helpful in scaling your business, but your business would still be dependent on YOU to continue growing.  I’m talking about hiring a prep company or an employee to list your books for you so you can remove yourself entirely from the equation.  Efficiency is great, but outsourcing is better – if your goal is to build a business instead of creating a job for yourself.

Alright, it’s time to step down from my soapbox.  But I do hope you’ll take the message of “enough” to heart!

soap box

So where do we go from here?  This post focused mostly on theory and strategy, but we’ll dive deeper into practical tactics for scaling your business over the next few weeks.  Check back often as we take a closer look at online arbitrage, hiring scouts, and selecting a prep company.

Do you have other ideas related to scaling your book business?  Comment below to get the discussion started!

Related Posts