Published on February 15th, 2017 | by Jeff M.
The Three Most Important Steps To Becoming Your Own Boss
Have you ever listened to yourself on tape? Yes, I just dated myself since “young-uns” today don’t have a frigging clue what a “tape” is. Let me rephrase – have you ever listened to your own voice, recorded and played back to you? This is a new experience for me, and let me tell you, it sucks. You sound totally different in your own head than you do, apparently, to other people. After listening to the first two podcasts, though, what struck me most is that I’m doing most of the talking. (Big shock, loudmouth.) So, Jeff and I decided to let HIM dominate this episode and turn our attention to what we can all learn from his experience.
Jeff moved from a 40-hour-a-week-cog-in-corporate-machine existence to flourishing as his own boss, running his own business. Yes, that means that he now works more like 70 hours/week in order to avoid working 40, but what entrepreneur doesn’t? In this episode, we’re exploring the IWannaBeAnEntrepreneur decision making process, when to make that decision, how to balance a full time job and founding a business, the ethics surrounding doing both simultaneously, and all the logistics that go along it. Even when you have an actual life (it’s summer, man – I’m making time for the pool, potty training and podcasting. If I can do it, you can too.)
Although he denies the Grim Reaper title, Jeff has a long history of working for companies which go out of business. He’d start a new job at a promising hipster startup as their local techie (in any role from programmer to system administrator to tech support) and inadvertently establish himself as one helluva resource. Everybody leaned on Jeff for tech help in a myriad of areas and specialities. At each and every new job, he quickly became revered as the local expert. Strangely, however, that neither seemed to translate into a Director title nor a C level salary, since the companies kept tanking! Always the expert, never the boss.
Jeff spent several years like this, and it eventually occurred to him that people might pay him for his expertise! He was ready to monetize his skill set, and I don’t mean putting a Psychiatric Help 5 Cents can on his desk, charging his co-workers as they filtered in with questions. Before he started pitching his talents, though, he recognized that a jack of all trades but master of none earns less than a respected authority on one specific niche. He needed to niche-ify (ok, “specialize” but I like to make up words.) In order to become a Joomla maven (or a maven of any flavor, let’s be honest) one must self-educate. How does one go about that with a full time job, a spouse, and a mortgage? Efficiency, baby. Jeff had always gotten his work completed by noon and then spent the afternoons answering questions and attempting to look busy (he earned employee of the month recognition by becoming a looking-busy maven, but nobody was paying top dollar for that skill. Plus it looked silly listed on a resume.) He pivoted and dedicated his afternoons to becoming a Joomla specialist. On the company dime. Nothing sketchy here – he was still getting all his work done! Achieving his goal in a few short months, he began to put the word out that he was a Joomla developer for hire. Bam! Google AdWords did his dirty work for him, and potential clients began to call. Just to recap, his first two steps were (and your first two steps should be):
1) Become an expert
2) Get the word out that you’re the expert
Yes, you complete both of these steps while working full time, just like Jeff did. Here’s the tricky part – step three. You are going to have to change your mindset from being the reactive provider to being the proactive businessperson. No longer being assigned tasks by his superior and checking them off as “completed”, Jeff was now responsible for providing solutions to his clients’ problems. That’s a proactive responsibility. Jeff capitalized on his ability to listen beyond what the client was asking for. Nobody was calling him and asking for a website, even though they thought they were calling him and asking for a website. They were asking for a product, but what they were really seeking was a solution. Clients wanted any number of solutions from more exposure to ecommerce to streamlined file sharing. They wanted solutions and Jeff switched his mindset from “Yes, sir” to “Have you thought about….?” Step three:
3) Change your mindset from reactive (complete assigned tasks) to proactive (I’m a business providing solutions)
Jeff goes on to discuss one of the Never-Evers he learned early on (and it took me much longer to learn.) Not every client who approaches you is the right client for you. I know, I just told you to turn down money (shudder.) Don’t get me wrong. I like money. So does Jeff. But when we take on clients who want projects outside our niche, we have the potential to deliver less than the best, which is never good for a new businesses’ reputation.
For example, my firm shies away from reception, telemarketing, bookkeeping, and translation. We get scores of requests for this kind of work, but bottom line – we’re not very good at it. We don’t want to get involved in anything that we can’t come out of smelling like roses, so we simply turn down those assignments and are happy to refer potential clients to other providers who specialize in those areas. While it took me four years of running a business to be schooled in this particular knowledge nugget, it only took Jeff about six months. Why? Because he took a project he shouldn’t have taken, outside his niche, and ended up swallowing his pride and writing that client a big fat refund check. Ouch. Six months, however, is way less painful than four years. Jeff wins.
Come share our accomplishments, learn about entrepreneurialism, laugh at our idiotic mistakes and our Wisconsin accents (or what’s left of them.) Download, listen, and throw us an iTunes review!