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Monday, May 18, 2015

Startups: When To Start Your Own Business

One key to effective advocacy is an openness to new avenues to the truth. Some great legal victories have come from simply having winning facts. 

In that light, it helps to be willing to challenge the existing economic and cultural paradigms that push, compel and coerce people into corporate conformity while deterring, discouraging and even punishing innovation, risk-taking and individuality.

In the first of an ongoing series, we will explore the clues that will help you realize you must go off on your own if you ever want to be in true control of your life, your career and your reputation, realize your potential and have a sense of fulfillment that does not require that you chase the affirmation, approval or permission of others.

People are going to call you selfish, self-centered and greedy. You will learn to call yourself...a success.

The easiest barrier you'll have to overcome is presented in the form of the question: When MUST you go off on your own?

The simplest and shortest answer is that working for someone else is not the road to success, to financial security, to happiness or even to preserving your own reputation. It is the road to surrendering control over your future to a greater force, one more powerful and one entirely unconcerned with your welfare. It is essentially a "road to serfdom" on which you will perpetually be at the mercy of someone else who stands to gain through your pain.

Now, wait a minute, you're thinking, isn't employee life, working for a big and stable company, that's all I've ever heard, that's what my classmates and neighbors are doing, they seem to be doing well.

My counter: Yes, they seem to be doing well. But look deeper.

Popular culture glorifies life as an employee. That's because the lifestyle helps provide and placate an easily controllable work force and source of "consumers." It also reduces ambition, so the successful have less competition. (That, my friends, is just part of making it to the top: Take the path of least resistance.)  But most employees are terribly mediocre. Even worse, most are bored in life, and wake up on Monday in a can't-wait-for-Friday mode, in an even wider circle-of-hell known as can't-wait-for-retirement mode.

Imagine that, spending 80% of your life hoping it goes by quicker!

So the best way to explain why you always must plan to become an entrepreneur, a sole proprietor, a small business owner, is to understand that being an employee provides you with very little upside, but all the downsides that one can have in this economy.

What's the upside? There is job security, provided you define it properly. Yes, odds are you'll have your job tomorrow, and the next week, and so on. The odds are also true that a certain meteorite will miss Earth next year. We think. You get the point. 

But that job security is an illusion. There is no guaranteed future employment. (Not in the United States. Maybe in certain European countries where labor laws make it tough to fire anyone, but the flip side is that companies are scared to hire anyone they can't fire, so the youth unemployment rate is often 25%!) Worse, it is an illusion based entirely on your trust in the benevolence of the employer, and hope that the employer won't break the law, or go out of business, or relocate your job to an emerging Third World market.

As an employee you are feeding only off the plate set out for you by an employer. You're just a puppy in Corporate World. And guess what? There are many puppies. Some are bigger than others. Very few are special. Most will sell their own mothers to a new owner to get an inside track at the next plate. What do you think they'd do to you? These other puppies are your competition, and there are more puppies every day. 

Oh, but I'm doing well, I'm liked, I'm getting promoted, you say. True, and good for you. For now. For you are always at risk of having someone undermine you, kneecap you, rifle through your files, steal your ideas and badmouth you. 

There is a huge cost to living and working in this environment. While working at your primary, "stated" job may be exhausting, having to work at your "real" job of keeping your stated job is no less exhausting, plus it is just as essential. The office is not the frat house, it is not your home away from home. It is where you go to make money, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing past the length of your nose. 

Information and relationships are critical to your survival. You must keep them as yours. 
While you work for someone else, your developed creations are "works made for hire" and are the legal property of someone else. Ditto with your rolodex. Keep your thoughts, ideas and dreams -- and your private life -- at home and in your head. Your "book of business" can be -- and trust me, it is -- seized without even a moment's notice. You are always at risk of being fired. In fact, the more you have produced, the more someone might want to steal it. After all, the quickest way to build that book of business is not to develop it organically, but to take it from a former colleague. Unless you have strong relationships outside your employer, your career and lifestyle are in permanent, imminent danger of catastrophic change from a voracious office competitor.

Even if you manage to survive and keep your job for the time being, in a hostile work environment you are subject to all sorts of harassment. Some is obvious. The worst kinds are the ones you cannot see, hear or feel. This clandestine harassment originates not with an "animus" against a particular "protected class," but rather out of a desire by someone to eliminate their competition. It increases as you become more successful, because your success (personally as well as professionally) breeds envy and makes you an ever-growing target. Watch. Your. Back.

Oh, but there are labor laws, anti-discrimination laws, and human resources. They'll protect me, you think. Oh, sure they will. Human resources? Ever wonder why those departments are called that? It's because you are a fossil fuel. You are exhaustible, fungible...and non-renewable. And HR is always keeping tabs on you in order to have a better case for firing you "for cause." You didn't think those magnetic pass cards tracking your movements, those passwords on your office computers and Blackberry, all were for your protection, did you?

But being an employee means I have benefits, you think. Yes, you have benefits. But those benefits are only as good as the intent of the insurer or custodian to abide by their contracts. Wait until you hear the words, "coverage denied." Or worse, when your custodian dips into your retirement account, and funds deducted from your paycheck take six months to appear in a supposedly-sacrosanct retirement account. 

Being a puppy employee means you're in a stinking kennel, immersed in filth, and surrounded by co-workers barking, annoying co-workers, many infected with tapeworm or other psychological disorders. And unless you become an owner...That. Is. Your. Future. 

The very worst thing about this reality of being an employee, as long as you are a Human Resource, a Means of Production, is not that I have described your worst-case scenario.

No, the worst thing is that if you remain employed and have present income, I have described your best case scenario.

Now do you get the picture?

In the next installment of this series, I will describe the eternal hell of so-called high-achieving employees and what they must constantly do just to keep their jobs. 

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