And now I’m done, and back to, well … the grindstone. The first time around as an entrepreneur, I lived on less than $15,000 a year. I know what Wal-Mart soup tastes like (surprisingly, just like all other canned soup). Despite what your hairdresser tells you, the best way to grow long hair is just to not cut it. It’s free!
In Bullish: How Talking About Money Can Make You More of It, I advocated (polite) disclosure among friends. Sharing real numbers helps us all. So, separate from my emergency fund, I have $50,000. The goal is to turn it into several million dollars.
I can do this while covering my own, toned-down carrying costs, since fortunately I have a high-paying part-time job (which, in 2007, I spent more than six months of unpaid, nearly full-time grinding in order to qualify for). And obviously, I do some freelance writing.
I also should start tracking hours spent on my entrepreneurial projects. As pointed out in the famed business tome The E-Myth, many “entrepreneurs” just end up giving themselves new jobs, becoming their own horrible bosses. I don’t want to end up tying myself to some new, tedious hourly pursuit. Just as I don’t want to fritter away my cash on businesses that sound cool but don’t bring in revenue, I don’t want to fritter away my time, either. I’m not in this for an enhanced personal identity; I need to make sure my time produces a return, or else delegate or take the task off the table entirely.
Finally, a lot of my business ideas depend on my expertise as a test prep instructor, fitness-type person, and speaker. I’m also a little more than halfway through a masters in education. So, I also need to boost my own learning and skills in a few key areas, but I need to 1) make a profit on my education, and 2) learn to learn even better and faster. The latter topic will be addressed in future columns.
Finally, see Steve Pavilina’s 10 Ways to Relaxify Your Workspace. This is the little stuff a person can do when her brain is dead to intellectual tasks. I now have a standing desk. I think I lost five pounds in the first two days, and you’d be amazed at how much you reset your brain just by staring at a different wall of your house.
Knowledge is Free! The Government Wants to Help!
If you’re an entrepreneur, who’s going to be impressed by an MBA? You’re not applying for a job. As Penelope Trunk writes of wannabe entrepreneurs who go to b-school, “If they really wanted to work at a startup, why didn’t they launch one? Clearly, money was not the barrier, because they had $100,000 to burn. So it’s something else. I think they don’t start companies because they do not have any ideas. Or, in the case where a person actually does have ideas, he doesn’t believe in himself enough to give his own ideas a shot.”
If you actually want to learn something, fortunately, we live in a brave new world in which knowledge is basically free. Educators like me just exist to help curate knowledge, deliver it in a variety of pleasing flavors, and interpret it as the situation demands.
Here’s where the free knowledge is hiding (*not actually hiding):
Of course, MIT has famously put the materials for its classes online at Open Courseware. Here are the offerings from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Specifically, you might enjoy courses on Early Stage Capital, Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organization, Entrepreneurial Finance, Entrepreneurial Marketing, and Introduction to Financial and Managerial Accounting
Here’s some basic business plan information from the New York Public Library. Keep in mind that the business plan you need just for yourself doesn’t need all the speculative made-up numbers that a business plan for investors is required to have.
The New York Public Library’s Small Business Resource Center has an annual business plan competition – who knew? The deadline has passed for this year, but many other municipalities have something similar; when I ran a company in Virginia, there was all the exact same stuff, just translated into fewer languages.