I’m no biz school whiz kid, but I’ve got enough advanced formal education under my belt to know most of it’s not going to help you in the real world.
If, like me, one of your guilty pleasures is watching the Donald Trump “Apprentice” show, you’re aware that the game is on between street savvy and book smarts in the culture. I don’t really feel the two groups on that show are good representations — they’re too young, mostly, and I think the producers picked people they knew would generate ego-driven drama (the stuff that boosts ratings). But the whole concept is intriguing enough to keep talking about, anyway.
I’ve always said I could turn a near-illerate street-wise salesman into a killer copywriter faster than I could someone with a Ph.D in English Literature… because the hard part is waking up your Inner Salesman, not learning how to cross t’s and dot i’s and conjugate transitional verbs.
I’ve also discovered that this kind of choice seldom comes up in my teaching duties. The vast majority of people who come to me for advice are entrepreneurs. The Ph.D’s and the Business Majors are attracted by the corporate structure of the mainstream marketing world, where bullshit and attitude can actually get you promoted. Entrepreneurs are often (like me) the sort who wither in tightly-controlled chains of command.
Working for the Man sucks, basically. Unless you enjoy it, in which case I don’t have a lot to say to you. Go for it, dude. Enjoy the nonsense and the back-stabbing and your sterile corner office.
Of course, while we entrepreneurs smugly tout our independence, integrity and real-world approach to Operation MoneySuck… the corporations are where the really, really, really big money is. Halbert and I often lament the sad fact that — while we know exactly how to sell a ton of any kind of car GM cares to offer — we will NEVER get the big multi-gazillion-dollar contract. Because we don’t have fancy offices, and we can’t talk the kind of Power Point happy talk the Madison Avenue suits spew.
Corporations don’t trust freelancers, because they don’t trust truly effective tactics. They like it nice and safe, and they like rigged games where they can’t lose. So they pump money into politicans for pork barrel consideration. And keep their marketing on a tight leash.
I’m thinking about all of this after reading about Carly Fiorina’s outster at Hewlett-Packard. She was all bluster and fancy presentation, and her one “big idea” as CEO was to merge with another company. To create “synergy”. And the board of directors let her do it. They are enthralled by words like synergy. Sounds edgy.
Oooooooh. I get all tingly just thinking about synergy.
Of course the merger sank HP’s stock (and the big winner will probably be Apple, since the merger also swallowed up one of their more savvy competitors and left a gaping hole in the market). And Carly was humiliated. With a $21-million goodbye package.
She’d better be friggin’ humiliated. Cuz that’s the only thing stockholders have to enjoy. Barron’s still rates HP as a “no buy”. It’s a wounded duck, because for 6 years the company was run by a CEO who was clueless about selling stuff.
Anyway, here’s the lesson for us entrepreneurs: It’s all about the point of diminishing returns. You can earn a million bucks without much extra help at all these days on the Web, with some decent marketing and basic “job it out” know-how. But something happens when you start bringing in the big bucks. I’ve seen it so often, I’m starting to think it’s a given.
You get the urge to become more “respectable”. You hire an assisstant. Get a nice office somewhere. Hire more staff. Take on a partner. Branch out with new projects in every direction. Invest in wild, “fresh” directions, cuz you got de magic touch.
One day you discover you own a warehouse.
And suddenly you don’t look like an entrepreneur anymore. Worse, when you crunch the numbers at the end of the year, you aren’t earning as much as you did when it was just you and the dog at the kitchen table making it work.
Think of it this way: If you take on a partner who’s 50-50 with you, you have to double your gross to earn the same. Add staff and real estate and better clothes (cuz the sweats aren’t going over big at the office anymore), and you’ve got to bring in four or five times your original income to match it for take-home.
Even worse, you now have a monster to feed every month, whether you feel like it or not. And everyone who’s had to meet a payroll knows that there are times when everyone else gets paid, while you do not. You, as the boss, are the sugar daddy to a whole new family now.
And, at some mysterious, point, you cease being an entrepreneur and transform into an appendage of The Man. (Though you probably will never have a $21-million bail-out package waiting for you, should you fail.)
So be sure you understand what’s important to you before the money starts rolling in. Because madness awaits those who are unclear on the concept. If you became an entrepreneur because of the freedom and independence, you have no business shackling yourself to a burgeoning organization that requires your total immersion 24/7.
And really… though I know it sounds stupid and cliche… the piles of money aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. There’s a point where it just gets ridiculous how much you have… and that point comes much sooner than you expect. And you’re suddenly faced with that horrible question: Are you the job, or are you a real person?
As an entrepreneur, you have total control in how that question gets answered, even if you need a little time to figure it out.
Corporations demand (and get) your soul. If you decide you’re more than the job, you gotta leave. Or get punted out.
Something to think about, as you rake it in.
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.