In yesterday’s post, we discussed restaurant types you should target, along with some tactical ideas about how to sell to them. In today’s post I...
How to Work for Yourself without Going Crazy
If you are thinking about becoming an independent sales rep where you will "work for yourself" here are some tips to help.
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Many years have passed since I punched a time clock, and I’m sure the same is true for most of you reading this article. My guess is that if you are punching a clock, many of you envision eventually working for yourself. Working for yourself or “Being Your own Boss” can be exhilarating but can also be devastating. It can make your family life more fulfilling, or it can tear your family apart. It can be a source of huge financial benefits, or you can go broke. So with all these contradictions, how can you work for yourself without going crazy? In this article, I will share 6 tips on how to effectively work for yourself without going crazy.
I graduated high school on a Friday. A couple days later on a Monday morning I went down to the county clerk’s office to register the DBA for my first business. I have been racking my brain to remember the name of it; it had something to do with “Fish Tanks.” I was very proud of the logo which I drew up myself and probably looked terrible since I am not an artist. In high school I worked at a pet store where I became very close to the owner and his family. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was performing some managerial tasks and reading everything I could get my hands on about how to run a business and how to create a beautiful salt water fish tank. So my first business was a marriage of these two passions.
I had several wealthy clients at the pet store who had already been asking for my help installing a big salt water reef aquarium in their homes. I leveraged this initial group of prospects and then got references from them. Before I knew it, I had my first business which was bringing in a decent income for an 18 year old. More important than the income was the advice I received from my clients, all of whom were incredibly successful in business themselves. Looking back, I realize that much of this advice went over my head at the time. However, over the years more and more of that advice started to make sense to me as I broadened my own experience. Here are some of the tips I received early on in business that have guided me ever since.
#1 – You are never your own boss. When you “work for yourself” you are just trading in a boss at a job for your schedule and your customers which are your new bosses. Successful people are disciplined people. I have never met a millionaire who got up every morning and thought, “What should I do today?” Instead, successful people wake up each day with a purpose, drive, and a set of clear priorities that guide their time management.
#2 – When you are at work, work. When you are done with work, go home. This is one reason I have always struggled with working from a home office. There is something significant to me about driving to a place where I work, working hard while I am there, and then driving home. If you do work from home, have a certain place in your house where you go to work, and only work in that spot or room.
#3 – Build your business like a brick wall – one brick at a time. If you build your business out of mud, it will fall apart. This is the advice I have struggled with more than any other. I love to start on the next thing and conquer the next challenge, but successful business people spend enough time on something to make it into a system of procedures that can be effectively delegated before moving on. Some of you are thinking of starting your own team because you are getting bored with selling. This is a recipe for disaster. Build your portfolio into an income producing brick; put it in cement; and then start thinking about the next brick.
#4 – Embrace risk in exchange for return on investment, but eliminate / be terrified of “death line risk.” I don’t think my early mentors used the phrase “death line risk.” I got this from the Jim Collins book Great by Choice. However, my early mentors shared this with me all the time. The number one rule in business is “Don’t go out of business.” There are two ways to go out of business. First, you can run out of money. Second, you can get run out of business by the government, customers, or employees for making stupid mistakes and not having a grasp on your business. These things should terrify you to the point that you work relentlessly to avoid them. My two primary jobs as CEO of our company is to think about and communicate our direction and to make sure we don’t go out of business. I take both responsibilities very seriously.
#5 – Always keep the leverage on your side. If a client threatens to cancel, I state that although I would be glad to address the concern, I understand if he or she would like to cancel and will email a cancellation letter right now. If an employee threatens to quit, I fire him or her on the spot without exceptions. If someone in a negotiation starts holding something over my head, I back out of the negotiation. I refuse to be placed on the wrong side of the leverage. To work for yourself without going crazy, learn to understand that you make your decisions and other people make their decisions. Another person’s decision is his own business. However, any person should quickly find that his or her decision will not affect my decisions and/or sway my actions to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Do the right thing; make the right decision based on the data and advice you get from your mentors.
#6 – Victims always lose by definition. Don’t ever, ever become the victim. If someone screws you in business, blame yourself for associating with that person. If you lose a client, ask what you could have done differently, early on to prevent this. If you lose a sale, commit to continuing education to improve your sales abilities. Once you start blaming your surroundings or blaming other people, you are entering the victim zone and are about to drive yourself crazy. You will make mistakes and bad choices. Blaming someone else for these mistakes will not only drive you crazy, it will take from you a great learning opportunity. My “fish tank business” folded up after only about a year because I didn’t know how to run a business. I had a real estate business where I lost more money than it would have cost me to attend Harvard. These were my mistakes. I owned them then; I own them now. And I continue to learn from them. The key to success is not perfection. The key to success and resilience. Don’t give up; don’t give in. Just keep getting up and moving forward.
Have a great day in the field!
Read next post: 5 Types of Merchants You Should Target – Part 1 #TargetMarket