On an interview earlier this week with a group of small self-employed consultants (not in IT) who were seeking my advice to grow their businesses, I was asked if I ever told a business owner to just “get a job.”
This was immediately following a long dissertation I delivered regarding the fact that there is no such thing as a “solopreneur.” That’s a label some marketer made up to make self-employed people feel better about being small.
An entrepreneur sets out to build a business that scales beyond themselves using leverage (people, systems and other people’s money). Self-employed people build a bicycle. Entrepreneurs build a car…or a plane…or an entire transportation system.
Self-employed people don’t really need to be great at systems, or hiring, or management. They don’t need to really understand finances and running the “business end” of any business. Small is easy. Small is simple. And small is typically a hell of a lot less stressful. Being an entrepreneur is a much more difficult and challenging venture to undertake, and it’s certainly NOT for everyone.
That said, my answer to her questions was no, I haven’t ever told someone to “get a job.” That’s because what you choose for yourself is exactly what you should do. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being self-employed if that’s what you consciously want to do. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with “getting a job” and working for a company, as long as that job provides the financial means and mental stimulation, culture and growth you want.
The problem comes in when a “solopreneur” has ambitions for their “business” that are beyond what that business can support. A bicycle can only carry one person well. You might be able to have a dude sit on the handlebars and another on the seat while you pedal and struggle, but a bicycle wasn’t meant to carry 3 people.
Further, a bicycle can only go so fast. Yes, you can get in “shape” and pedal smarter and faster, buy better tires, equip your bike with sleeker, lighter parts, but you can’t go 70 miles an hour for very long on a bike before you crap out.
For example, an MSP who joined one of our programs for the sole purpose of getting more clients and growing his company (HIS goals, not mine) is struggling to get any marketing systems going and he’s frustrated. “What’s the holdup?” I ask. His answer: he’s absolutely buried with technical work and doesn’t “have the time” to get marketing done. In fact, he’s afraid to do marketing or that he won’t be able to fulfill.
I say, “If you’re truly that busy with work, why don’t you hire people to help?” His answer: he can’t because he doesn’t have the money to. “Well, if you’re THAT busy, shouldn’t you be making sufficient profits to start hiring?” His response is no – he’s somehow just breaking even. So, I suggest that he hit the pause button and take a hard look at what he’s doing, assessing what’s actually profitable work, what’s not, and go about fixing that, depending on what he finds.
Maybe he needs to raise prices or maybe he needs to get more efficient. Or maybe he’s not billing clients properly (a BIG hole in the bucket I see with a LOT of smaller MSPs). Or maybe it’s a little of all of these items. After all, we don’t want to grow a tumor, so let’s get the business in a place where it can scale and you can go about focusing on marketing, sales and new client acquisition.
So, he says he’ll “look into it.” Well, what in the Sam Hill does that mean? His response to his situation – where he’s not making good money and not having fun – is to just pedal harder, longer and faster, despite the fact he’s got square wheels, broken pedals and the back brake stuck to the tire slowing him waaaaay down. In THAT situation, I wouldn’t tell him to “get a job,” but at LEAST fix the damned bicycle.
Another client of mine has a consulting business he runs from his home with no employees and one part-time virtual assistant. He makes what he feels is good money, doing work he enjoys. Is he Beverly Hills rich? Nope, not even close, but he is very happy with the practice he’s built, the money he’s making and the lifestyle he’s made for himself.
He’s frugal and won’t be living high on the hog in retirement, but he doesn’t need to take a part-time hustle as a Walmart greeter either. So, who am I, or anyone else, to shame him for that? It wouldn’t be the business I would want to build, but he’s not living my life and my goals, now, is he?
We tend to only celebrate the business owners who go BIG. Who build multimillion-dollar businesses that sell for tens of millions of dollars. And while that is my personal goal, and I do have a little envy for those who’ve crossed that goal line as I continue on my journey for the same, I wouldn’t think any less of a person if they chose a more modest lifestyle and a smaller business that allows them the chosen autonomy they desire.
So many business owners START a business with BIG goals and BIG dreams of wealth accumulation but then attempt to cling to a mindset and skill set that won’t support their ambition. THAT’S where they end up frustrated, depressed, stressed out and in ill health, making piss-poor money, hating life and getting nowhere fast. That’s no way to live.
Should they get a job? Again, not for me to say. But they should get real about their stated ambitions and willingness to do what it takes to achieve them. Either DO the work, get the necessary skills, clear out the head trash and SCALE or stay small. It’s the big ambitions with a small mindset that, as Thoreau so elegantly said, lead to a life of quiet desperation.
If you’re an MSP or IT services business owner who isn’t afraid to put in the work, and know that maybe it’ll be a little bit more challenging in the beginning but worth it to get to the other side… you need to seriously consider attending the IT Sales And Marketing Boot Camp event happening in Nashville, April 11-14, 2023.
If you just show up, you are guaranteed to get the equivalent of an MBA in marketing IT services, leadership, sales strategies, hiring, management, and IT excellence delivered in just 4 action-packed days. Plus, it’ll be one of the most exciting experiences you’ve ever had and will be helping you grow your business exponentially the day you get back.
You can click below for more information on the event: