Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Employment Vs. Entrepreneurship

Sleeping in late, working when you feel like it, less stress. These are not characteristics of entrepreneurship however, they can be common misconceptions about the self-employed lifestyle. 

And while entrepreneurship does have perks like being your own boss, it also requires a certain personality type. 

You have to be organized, self motivated, focused, disciplined and determined to make it! You also have to be able to sacrifice luxuries and any notion of disposable income in the formative years of your business.

As a matter of fact, on a recent trip, I had a very candid conversation with a friend of mine; a former entrepreneur who has recently found happiness in the corporate world. And we couldn’t help but chuckle at the motivations for our distinctive paths--she (professional woman) vs me (entrepreneur).

Professional Woman
-Entrepreneurship provided a lot of creativity but it consumed a lot of creative energy too. How so? There was the creativity of bootstrapping a business budget, exploring various advertising revenues in addition to religiously growing a consumer base.
-A steady salary, 401k and health benefits are nice! They sure beat waiting on money to come in then crossing your fingers that you cover costs. Oh and they sure beat hoping that you have a little left over to pay yourself.
-Working for a corporation allows you the budget to be creative. If there is a necessary expenditure to help meet the end goal, it’s covered in a synch.
-It’s nice to have a life and not work, work, work and work some more.

On the flip side, here is what I had to say regarding the benefits of entrepreneurship.

The benefits of Entrepreneurship/Self Employment
-Mobility! Hands down this is the number one reason I work for myself. I need to be able to pick up and go and bring my business with me. Most entrepreneurs would agree.
-Distaste for micromanagement, self-motivated. Nothing is more frustrating than having to wait on something or being told that vision may not work. You don’t know unless you are willing to try, trust and learn in the process. 
-Breakaway from cubicle confinement. Whether I work out of my home office, also referred to as my productivity palace, or the local coffee shop, a change in scenery leads to enhanced creativity. And that means I can think for my clients beyond the basic business boundaries. The 99% had a great blog post about this entitled, "Are You An Arm Chair Creative?"
-All the risk, all the reward. Yes, entrepreneurs forgo the initial perks of a steady salary, health benefits and 401k but if the risk you’ve made pays off, you reap all the reward! I’d rather bet 100% and yield 200% the get a 10% standard of living increase annually. How about you?

Bottom line.  Which do you prefer--employment of entrepreneurship?

What works best......You may try entrepreneurship and discover that it's not for you. (And that's ok). But if the ideas of building something from scratch and watching it grow, having geographic flexibility and having something to call your own melt your heart, then you may be fit for entrepreneurship. Of course you won't know for certain unless you try. And if all else fails, you're 401k will be waiting for you.

Got something to say? Feel free to post a comment below. Want more entrepreneurial advice and motivation? Visit http://www.facebook.com/jaclynmullenmedia

Saturday, April 7, 2012

D is for Decision Making (And Determination)

This is a catch-up post for a month long blog series called "The A to Z Challenge." D was Thursday's letter and on the Jaclyn Of All Trades blog, D stands for Decision Making (and determination to get caught up on this challenge).

I fell asleep early tonight. Long gone are the Saturday evenings where I stay out until 2:00 am and wake up sleep deprived on Sunday. These days and nights, I'm making decisions based upon what will serve my long term goals, not short-term satisfaction. 

Decisions: stay in, get at least 8 hours of sleep, drink plenty of water, workout 4-5 times per week, improve my business daily, blog, have a little fun a long the way while learning to lighten up a little. (I also decided to use my time wisely tonight since I woke up two hours after falling asleep and post this overdue blog!)

What about you? What are some of the decisions you are making for yourself? 

Personally, the thing I love about decision making is that it's an ongoing process, one we all face. So many decisions, so many outcomes. 

I "decided" to launch a business almost four years ago. I called it Momentum Marketing and Consulting because I wanted to convey a sense of urgency and speed around the work I was performing for my clients.

The only trouble was, I had no plan. I had no competitive market analysis. I had no help and I certainly had no idea how to make money. I can admit, I decided that as long as I covered my costs, I was in good shape which, in hindsight, was total business brain fail and that’s a tough pill to swallow!

But what I did learn from that particular decision was so valuable, which is why I am bringing up this topic here. I am frequently approached for advice on decision making especially as it pertains to business.

How do I build my online presence?
How do I make the most of a minimal budget?
How do I make money?
How do I determine who my customers are?

And my answer is that decision making in any facet of your life requires research in a couple of different capacities.

First, for decision making regarding a business, look into the industry you want to have a business in. Who are your competitors? What are their offerings? What are their prices?

This research isn’t a matter of replicating any of the above-mentioned things. It’s a matter of evaluating them to see what choices there are for the consumers. 

Next, decide on an initial budget for yourself. How much money are you working with? What are your top three most pressing needs? As an example, do you need a website? If so, those costs may be graphic design, website hosting and a copy writer. The same process can apply if you are deciding on a new workout routine or to even take a trip. Your budget is critical so clarify it.

Perhaps you can invest in a mastermind or collective group to get input and decision making advice from a diverse array of people.

Most importantly, you want to develop a plan. 

Are you writing a pros and cons list? 

Ultimately, when will you stop paralysis of analysis and move forward with a decision? 

Hold yourself accountable and write these things down on a piece of paper. I’m not saying your plan or approach won’t evolve but the more honest and clear you can be with yourself, the better your decision making process will be in the present and the future.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is Being Competitive A Good Characteristic Or A Bad One

C is not for confession (although I am about to share something rather personal here). Here goes: I am a reality TV junkie.

Real Housewives of every city, The Voice, Celebrity Apprentice, Shark Tank. I’m not sure if it’s the crazy theatrics of the characters or the way the producers interweave adrenaline-fueled plot lines, but something has me hooked.

And all this reality TV watching isn’t a complete time drain, I actually do pick up a lot of helpful business insight from Shark Tank. Even Celebrity Apprentice shows me the type of leader I never want to be: unorganized, unfocused, narcicisstic.

No matter how different each of the shows I mentioned above may be from one another, there is a common element that they all share: competition! Who is the best, most dominant, most talented, smartest, wealthiest, most successful individual crossing the finish line first......everytime. 

And I must say, I have turned the other away from competition the vast majority of my adult life. The only person I have ever been interested in competing with is myself and that's hard enough thanks to my inner critic. She keeps me moving on to the next, bigger, better challenge constantly. 

So I have to ask, is being competitive a good characteristic or a bad one?

One could argue that the greatest athletes of time are competitive but they are also team players. True? False? 

And if we didn’t have competition in business or blogging, what would be the motivation to provide better service, better content and to stand out from the crowd?

I asked and I hope you answer because I’m having a "competition conflict." On the one hand, I want to be as successful as my life will permit, I want to win awards and be in the best shape of my life with a profitable business, loving relationship and gorgeous residence. Could it be that a lack of competitive nature is thwarting that?

On the other hand, I want to be happy and fulfilled, and grateful for all that I have in this very moment. And if you agree, I'd love to know how you think we can utilize competition to be a benefit, and not a detriment to those objectives. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

What Were You Born To Do?

 This is the second post for a month-long, alphabet inspired blog post series entitled “The A to Z Challenge.”
B is For Born: What Were You Born To Do 
“How did you become a watchmaker,” I asked my grandfather nearly three or four years ago. I was curious how someone from his generation, without having technical school or college at his disposal, pursued a profession that would eventually allow him to immigrate to 4 different countries, own two different businesses and fulfill the American Dream.

“My father owned a convenience store in Costanza, Romania,” he told me in his thick Armenian accent. “He was able to observe some of his most successful customers.” As it had turned out, it actually wasn’t a customer that ended up influencing my great-grandfather with regard to his son’s future profession; it was a neighbor.

My grandfather continued, “We had a very wealthy, Jewish neighbor in Romania, He was a jeweler. And so, my father asked if my brother and I could apprentice under him. The next day, we did.”

My grandfather’s future had been determined by one simple plea, by one simple request that could have easily been turned down! I found myself in awe of both my great-grandfather and the neighbor. What if my great-grandfather had never asked him to mentor his sons? What if, out of fear of the unknown, my grandfather turned down the opportunity to apprentice?

And what if these very things stand true for both your future and for mine? 
What things am I talking about? 
The act of asking, the act of believing and the act of being open to learning something new.

Ultimately I can say my grandfather was fortunate enough to do what he was born to do which extended so far beyond watchmaking. As an entrepreneur, he worked side by side with my grandmother reinforcing his strong value in family first. He was born to be a businessman, born to be a loving, faithful husband. He was born to be a father and a grandfather. He was born to let me place pink curlers in his hair and to teach me how to ride a bike. As of lately, he was born to be my honorary chairman of the board.

Today, on his 89th birthday, my grandfather was born in to the next life. I watched him go, I said goodbye and in the 45 minutes that I held his hand and listened to his breathing finally stop, a new me was born. One that will no longer bury my talents and passions below the surface, one that will not sell myself short out of the need to financially support myself, one that will lighten up and enjoy the journey without stressing that I can't get there fast enough.

And so I ask you; are you doing what you think you were born to do?  And if not, what are you going to do about it?

Ask. Believe. Be willing to learn something new. 

Hope that will help you as much as it’s helping me. Go out there and make your mark because one day, you will take your last breath and we should all be so lucky to have that happen on our 89th birthday. 

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Advice; Are You Following Your Own?

I know it may sound like a silly question but how often does is it ring true. Are you following your own advice?

Why ask? Recently I interviewed a friend in HR regarding workplace delegation and integrating additional staff. I had pages upon pages of notes with really sound tips! I had so much information that I was able to create a blog post article and share it with the Twitterverse. But a funny thing happened. The very friend I interviewed tweeted me back with a message of thanks followed by a confession of clarity: “Perhaps I should take my own advice.”

I quickly echoed the same sentiments to myself. I have managed a staff of twenty before, I have hired and also fired employees. So, why was it so hard for me to follow my own advice and past experiences regarding building a team?

Haven't you ever noticed how a friend, co-worker or family member comes to us with a challenge and we objectively point out the actions they need to handle it in a matter of minutes? Ok, some scenarios may actually take a few hours to remedy but the point is we (from the outside) see clear, we see cause and effect; we see creative resolution.

Of course, when the tables are turned and we happen to be the ones in the “advice-seeking seat”, it’s hard for us to step back and apply the same approach to our challenges. For some reason, be it subconscious or just a matter of habit, we doubt our own guidance!

Instinctively we come up with a conclusion right away but then, the inner dialog kicks in. “No," we say to ourselves, "that couldn’t be right. Let’s see what Johnny says, what Cathy says, what Oprah says.” (I will admit, Oprah’s advice is usually pretty spot on!)

This can be said for business, exercise, relationships, eating right, following our goals. Then, we go on to collect so many opinions and perspectives that we either come back to our original conclusion or apply a hodge-podge solution derived from everyone else's ideas. But everyone else isn't you, they offer their perspectives based upon their experiences which may or may not fit your scenario.

Sometimes, the very source and problem solver we need lies within.

Inspired by recent events (and the A to Z blog challenge), I write about advice today because I’m a self-help, new age, self-educated junkie! And while I love my Tony Robbins mp3’s and entrepreneurial workshops and inspirational books, I want to remind us (yes, me+you) again that sometimes the very source and problem solver we need lies within.

What areas are you currently seeking advice in? I'll share mine if you share yours, I would love to hear from you!

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