Tag Archives: Escape from Cubicle Nation

NYTimes Offers a Welcome Note of Small Business Reality

I was happy to discover major media dose of reality in Maybe It’s Time For Plan C in yesterday’s NYTimes.com. While it’s so much more popular to talk about entrepreneurship as a matter of passion and persistence and living the dream, I think it’s also important to recognize that failure is common, and failure can be miserable.

The Plan C in the title is a reference to Plan B as people moving out of their corporate jobs to start there own business.  Alex Williams sets the scene with the glamor of the post-recession entrepreneur:

In recent years, a wave of white-collar professionals has seized on a moribund job market, a swelling enthusiasm for all things artisanal and the growing sense that work should have meaning to cut ties with the corporate grind and chase second careers as chocolatiers, bed-and-breakfast proprietors and organic farmers.

Indeed, since the dawn of the Great Recession, more Americans have started businesses 565,000 of them a month in 2010 than at any period in the last decade and a half, according to the Kauffman Foundation, which tracks statistics on entrepreneurship in the United States.

The lures are obvious: freedom, fulfillment. The highs can be high.

And if you pause to reflect, there’s a whole lot of that new entrepreneurship going on. And I’m all in favor. I post a lot about starting your own business in this blog and elsewhere, and I’m a frequent recommender of books like Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation  or Melinda Emerson’s Become Your Own Boss ; not to mention my own book 3 Weeks to Startup . But all of those books temper the optimism with reality and planning. And that’s what Alex adds in the piece yesterday: the other side of the picture.

But career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. The dream job is a “job” as much as it is a “dream.”

Many are surprised to find the hours and work grueling.

Amen to that. I say yes to those who want to start their own business, but a careful, fully aware yes. Go into it with your eyes open. As this piece in the New York Times concludes:

Plan B, it turns out, is a lot harder than it seems.

Pam Slim’s 10 Keys to Startup Sanity

I was sorely disappointed to miss Pamela Slim’s keynote speech for the Willamette Angel Conference 10 days ago. I’m a member, but I had to be away, and had to miss it. I hear she was great. Eugene and Corvallis startups are still talking about it.

She called her talk 10 Keys to Maintain Your Sanity While Hustling Your Startup. Great title. Especially when you listen to it.

I was glad, though, to see Pam has posted it for all as a slide show with her audio. If you’re involved with a startup, or thinking about it, give yourself the luxury of Pam’s real-world advice.

Thanks Pam.

Social Media Serendipity; or, the Social in Social Media

I like serendipity. Not just because the word sounds like a refreshing drink in the shade on a hot day, but because when serendipity happens, it’s always good. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. …

So I had a great Friday: a nice drive from Eugene to Portland on a bright clear sunny early summer day, then lunch with Pamela Slim (@pamslim on twitter) and the second half of her Escape From Cubicle Nation workshop, with me included for a short guest spot on business planning. Then dinner with Pam and friends.

So what’s the serendipity here? It’s a reasonable question. It’s not like I didn’t already know Pam through telephone and email, and a lot of twitter; so I knew she does an excellent workshop. No surprise there — it was. And maybe you already take this for granted, but for me, at least, an old guy, the process of finding the real people through the blogs and tweets is a very special thrill. I’ve never been that good at cocktail parties or networking. But, through the magic of this new world, I’m meeting new people, and loving it.

So on Friday, I met Pam and several of her good friends, fellow bloggers and tweeters. We had a dinner hosted by @chrisguillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity and his wife Jolie; and I also got to know Matthew Scott of The Strategic Incubator (@MatthewRayScott on Twitter) better. Matthew is a wealth of really interesting stories, wisdom of both the real and folk variety, and business experience.

So I’m reminded that there really is a social in social media. Or at least there can be. It might start with blog posts, and tweets, but over time, as you follow people’s work and share (podcasts, phone calls, other posts), you get to know real people. And, when you meet them, they are real people.

My New Favorite Book: Escape From Cubicle Nation

You want this book: Escape from Cubicle Nation, by Pamela Slim. She’s been writing a great blog for several years, and now she’s put much of the soul of that blog into her new book, with the same name. You want it if you’re working for a company and thinking about going on your own. And you want it if you’re already on your own and thinking about working for a company. Or anywhere in between.

Pam starts with understanding how you got where you are, if you’re still in that company, and why it’s hard to jump. Her first section is “Opening Up to the Opportunities.” And she offers some seriously useful wisdom about that situation. These are just some selected quotes:

Employees who treat companies like old, loyal friends will die of heartbreak.

The larger organizations get, the greater their capacity for doing work that is not directly related to anything in the real world.

Next, “The Reality of Entrepreneurship.” Gulp. Covering how to actually do it, setting up your new business, which is also your new life. Specifically, practically, chapters on how to be self employed, marketing, business planning, your brand, and — here’s a great chapter title — “Test Often and Fail Fast: the Art of Prototypes and Samples.”

Which is great stuff, frankly, extremely valuable. And, to her credit, she leads you through all this without getting lost in it, or losing perspective on what really counts.

More quotes:

Life first, business second: If you don’t consider your life as a key part of your business model, you may find yourself outwardly successful and inwardly miserable.

I am convinced that the truly successful people, those who enjoy every part of their life and have financial stability, are very picky about where they spend their time and energy. So prune relentlessly.

Don’t trip if you don’t pick the perfect idea the first time. Really. Don’t.

Then a third section, “Make the Money Work,” faces the scary financial jump. “Look Your Finances in the Eye.” She talks about getting a clear picture of the current situation, tracking, clearing debt, reducing expenses, and — again the mix of practical tips with a broader view, suggestions like “let your fears guide you:”

Fears are not all bad! They can be a great way to ensure that your plan covers what it needs to. If you have a nagging fear about something that is not covered in your current plan, it is a good indication that you need to address it.

A fourth and final section called “Making the Leap” deals with the whole person, fears, family, what it takes to actually jump. Having been there myself, I can tell that Pam knows what she’s talking about. She offers sound real advice. For example, in this section:

Pay attention to your body. Tense muscles, stomach problems, anxiety, and trouble sleeping are all signs that you are trying too hard to control your creative impulses. Get back in touch with your body by exercising, meditating, and practicing deep breathing. This will reconnect you with your true voice that will tell you what you need to do to take care of yourself.

I don’t know if it is the same outside of the United States, but we schedule our kids like little executives. Parents frantically shuffle them between soccer, karate, and trombone lessons, play dates and extracurricular test preparation. The poor little tykes must carry electronic organizers and cell phones just to keep track of all the details of their overscheduled lives.

In short, this is a really good book about changing your life for the better. By going on your own. And making it.