Scott Gerber, a Gen Y entrepreneur, has written a useful book for budding business owners of his generation called "Never Get a Real Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke." Thirty-something cubicle dwellers who are thinking of sticking it to the Man will get a good deal of enthusiastic advice from Gerber, who has built several businesses -- not all of them successful.
In fact, it's his past failures and what he's learned from them, which he is very frank about in the book, that make Gerber a source of wisdom. He mentions often an early start-up of his, a media production company which he refers to as "the company that shalt not be named." It was a monumental, egotistical failure in every respect. It had a selling proposition that is classic (classically awful):
Company X is the premier one-stop-shop venture management company, with a primary concentration on media-based start-up enterprises. Our mission is to combine multichannel marketing, creative media, and innovative technology to offer start-up enterprises exciting, inventive consumer solutions...." I can't bear to quote any more of it.
Now, here's part of the positioning statement for one of his current ventures, Sizzle It!, which creates promotional videos called "sizzle reels" for marketers:
Sizzle It! produces and edits sizzle reels, which are 3-to-5-minute promotional and demo videos that combine video, graphics, photos, audio and messaging to offer viewers a fast-paced, stylized overview of a product, service, or brand. Sizzles reels are produced for, or incorporated into, B-to-B sales presentations, product demonstrations, training videos, online media campaigns..." There's a lot more very specific and compelling description. Scott can be taught!
And he teaches his target audience of people like himself who have lived, if not with a silver spoon in their mouths, certainly with a full spoon nonetheless. He aims his book at the Gen Y'ers who have gone to college (implicitly on their parents' dime) and expect something from the world as a reward. And these days, it's not coming so easy. His book, he notes, aims to save them from (God forbid) having to move back with their parents after college.
Gerber spends the first chunk of the book beating his reader about the head for being a slothful ingrate who needs a swift kick in the ass. (And if I had a dollar for every time he uses the word "ass" in this book, I could buy...something that costs around twenty bucks.) His view is that "real" jobs...how would Scott put it...suck! They offer you a false sense of security, overwork and underpay you, don't reward you for excellence, and slowly kill your entrepreneurial ambitions. Yeah! Take this job and sh......Wait a second, though. Don't the people who work for Gerber and other entrepreneurs have "regular jobs"? If everyone was an entrepreneur, who would work at Google and Facebook?
Despite some of this overreaching, Gerber offers some really good tips for potential Gen Y entrepreneurs, including:
- Do things on a shoe-strap (because, he quips, a boot is too expensive): buy refurbished and used anything, whenever you can, when you do a start-up. Likewise, you can find a cheap solution to starting a website and getting administrative help. Conserve your cash.
- Don't spend time writing old-school business plans. Take the three months that start-up Baby Boomer entrepreneurs spent writing business plans in the Eighties and instead, start your business already! (Not that Gerber doesn't want you to have a plan; but he advocates a very streamlined, specific plan and has some excellent advice on how to write it.)
- Make your start-up look big even when it's only you. It's the difference between John Doe Realty (sounds small) and the Doe Realty Group (sounds big). Same one guy, different impression.
- Watch out for partners bearing gifts. These days, lots of entrepreneurs form partnerships to get products and companies launched. But partnerships can be a minefield if you choose poorly.
- Use technology to short-cut almost everything: Gerber has a lot of lists of web resources for outsourcing anything that doesn't have to be done in house. Some you will know, but others will be new and worth checking out.
Gerber's conclusion may remind you of the book by Andy Grove (founder of Intel), "Only the Paranoid Survive: the last chapter is called "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid." Of what? Of "letting others dictate what you should be afraid of...of waking up at 50 and realizing that your career has been nothing more than a patchwork of dead-end 'real' jobs...Of never having failed." Spoiler alert, here's the last sentence to put some more fear into you: "Reading time is now over. You've got lots to do -- and you're already behind."