I read a lot of business books compared to my co-workers and colleagues. I recently read How to Make Millions With Your Ideas: An Entrepreneur’s Guide (1997) by Dan Kennedy. The business examples were a little outdated, and there might be an edition that has more “information age” relevance, but the concepts behind the book are very sound. I found one sentence that gave me a lot of “food for thought” about my business career as an entrepreneur.
“If someone else has control over your destiny, if someone else can change the economics of your business, alter our marketing rights, impede your creativity, sell the parent company, or otherwise unexpectedly interfere in your business, you don’t really have your own business.”
I don’t have any astounding successes, but I do have a lot of little successes that keep me going. I had to think back to the days when I used to bet the farm and lose. I had no idea of what an entrepreneur is and no idea of how to manage risk.
In my first “business”, I was a credit card distributor for a company out of St. Louis, Missouri. I followed their distributor marketing plan, never made a sale and went broke.
In my second “business,” I was a distributor for a personal care products company with a network marketing framework. I was constantly reminded not to make any outrageous claims and then proof of income. This was very easy because I didn’t have any income about which to boast (which should have been a red flag).
I got involved in becoming a professional waiter/bartender and someone at one of the first restaurants I worked in told me that I was in business for myself there. Then I worked in a few restaurants in which the owner failed to execute or to market well. I went broke because the restaurant owner didn’t know what he was doing.
In my third “business,” I finally built a “real business,” or so I thought. My business partner thought he was my boss, and I thought he was my business partner. There’s no need to wonder how this arrangement turned out. I did not have control over my marketing or my financing of projects, which cost me dearly.
The last time I “bought into” a business, I started to learn this lesson’s importance. I was following their marketing plan and wasn’t making any money. I wasn’t going broke, but I wasn’t making any money. I was becoming frustrated by the lack of results I had and by the rules of marketing that were more restrictions than guidelines. I heard about social media, and how it was changing the face of marketing and I was trying a new lead generation technique with a web site I built. Then I had to get the web site approved by their marketing department. After a long list of changes and improvements, I got their permission to market the site for six months.
Then it came time to renew the company’s permission for my web site. I didn’t make a single change to the web site. Then, there came a long list of changes that I had to make to continue operating my web site. I complied, made the changes and then resubmitted the site for review. There came another long list of changes. I complied and resubmitted the site for review. Then another reviewing person wanted me to change the web site back to the way it was. I sent an email to confirm the requests, and the answer was a vague “Do what we tell you to do or you can’t have the web site” type answer. I quickly concluded that they didn’t want me to have the web site or control of my marketing. I quickly got out of that business.
The moral of this story: If your object is to create wealth, then “the best equity is exclusivity.” You can get rich with distributorships, dealerships and franchises (buying into someone else’s business concept), but it is extremely difficult. If they are financing your business, you are not the owner anymore; they are. You are a manager. If someone else controls the marketing rules for your business, you’re not the owner; you’re a sales rep. It certainly is not be the worst place to be in the world, but at least you’ll know you aren’t the business owner anymore. It also can impede your creativity and can limit your opportunities for growth as an entrepreneur to work someone else’s game plan.