Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Entrepreneur’s Commencement Address – 10 years after graduation

July 17th 2010 is my 10 year high school reunion. Ten years ago I was asked to give a speech at my high school graduation. Recently I’ve read a few blogs by entrepeneurs providing advice to recent graduates…  That got me thinking about what I’ve learned a decade after high school and what I’d say if giventhe opportunity today… And this time I don’t have to deal with the principal censoring me… 🙂

Ten years ago, my speech focused on the powers of the mind and positive thinking. Topics I’ve reviewed in my blog in several instances and, though those lessons are still paramount, my new speech offers a bit more “practicality”. After writing out my suggestions, I noticed I’ve written blogs to explain most points in more detail so follow the links for more clarification.

Keep in mind that a blog is much different than a speech. A blog can be read, reread, reviewed, and linked to additional information. A speech is heard only once. If given a speech I’d simply focus on 9, 11, and 13 and tell a memorable story to illustrate each…

  1. Develop good habits – We are all creatures of habit. Our eating habits, work-out habits, reading habits, education habits, relationship habits, drinking habits etc. etc. etc. ultimately form who we are. Your habits will control you. If you develop bad habits you will be fighting them for years to come.
  2. Never stop learning – Read. Attend seminars. Ask questions of your grandparents and parents and those better than you. Write and expose your thoughts to criticism. You are what you know. The difference between you and your millionaire neighbor is that he knows something you don’t and he’s taken action to do something you haven’t. Learn what he knows and then do what he does. This lesson is applicable for all professions.
  3. Always spend less than you make – This sounds simple. And it is. So do it. You don’t need ANYTHING that you can’t afford. To that I’ll add, never take out debt to pay for a toy (i.e. motorcycle, atv, jet-ski), vacation, or non-essential. In other words, ONLY take out debt for real estate, your college education, and, if you have to, your primary mode of transportation. Pay cash for everything else.
  4. Save, save, save – Now I’m bordering on preaching but Americans seem to have a serious issues with financial discipline. Get into the regular habit of saving at least 10% of your paycheck. Setup an automatic transfer to savings. When you get a raise, increase the percent you save and keep the same standard of living until you can live for 6 months entirely on your savings. Then invest.
  5. Attend every wedding you’re invited to – In the last few years I’ve attended weddings in Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana, New York, and Wisconsin. I’ve spent literally thousands of dollars travelling to these weddings and the only weddings I regret are the ones I missed in Florida and Nevada. If a friend thinks you’re important enough to invite to their wedding, you need to attend.
  6. If you’re not happy, do something else – At 10 years after High School and 5 years after college it amazes me how many of my friends wake up to jobs they hate. Promise yourself, at whatever cost, that will not be you. And if it becomes you, which is almost inevitable at some point, you’ll do everything you can to change it.
  7. Network! – Your #1 goal with attending college should be to network with as many people as possible. That includes classmates, professors, alumni and just about anyone else you bump into. Actively search out and befriend influential people. It will help you get a job, find investors, find great investments, and it’s a lot of fun. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know“, is as true now as it ever has been.
  8. Never lose touch with your friends – In the world of email, IM, texting and Facebook, there’s simply no excuse. Keep in touch with your friends. It makes the journey a lot more fun.
  9. Live today – tomorrow is never guaranteed – At every high school commencement you can stand there and say, in 10 years some of you will no longer be with us. In 10 years, some of your parents, or grandparents, or friends, or family will no longer be with us. You’re not guaranteed a 10 year reunion and your not guaranteed to have the same friends and family to celebrate with. In the words of James Dean – “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
  10. Serve God and others – TODAY! – The World Bank defines poverty as having less than $1.25 per day to spend on living expenses and they estimate more than 1.4 billion people fall below that bar. No matter where you are or what you’re doing there are people less fortunate than you in this world. While you’re at college, while you’re working through your first job and paying down debt, you’re still blessed. Don’t wait to volunteer when you have enough time. Don’t wait to donate to charity when you have more money. Give to others today and you’ll always be the better person for it.
  11. Set goals – And put them in Do x Be = Have context. According to a Yale study from 1953, the 3% of graduates who had written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97% of classmates years after graduation.
  12. Believe in yourself – Because chances are, at times, you’ll be the only one doing so. Be confident and fearless.
  13. Take a risk – I used to travel a lot for work. Maybe 40,000 to 50,000 air miles per year and another 20,000 miles on the ground. On a flight one night, on my way home from California, it hit me. My whole life and the “success” that people had seen in it was perfectly planned. In 25 years of life, as far as I could tell, I had never taken a single risk. It was a hollow and scary feeling to think that I was limiting myself to only taking on the challenges I knew that I could accomplish. Never give yourself the opportunity to look back and say that to yourself. Learn to fail. As the book, How We Decide, by Jonah Leher points out, our minds are designed to learn more from many failures than from a few successes.
  14. Skip class when you have more educational things to do – In the words of Mark Twain, “Never let school get in the way of your education.” When you’re negotiating for a job, never forget to get as much paid vacation as possible. I always attended class unless I had something going on where I’d learn more. Sometimes that lesson was that it’s more important to go motorcycle riding with my friends than listen to a professor talk about things I could read in the book. 😉 For some reason, that’s a lesson I’ve never forgot.

If I could sum these 14 points up in a single sentence it would be simply, figure out a way to do what you love with the people you love and everything else will take care of itself.

Lucky for you, my speech is much shorter than it was 10 years ago. These are a few of the important lessons I’ve learned. God-willing, in another 10 years, I’ll be able to review my thoughts again.

To your life-success, Bryan

The old fashioned way to make $1,000,000 per year…

Let’s face it, few of us are going to come up with a business model to rival Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Tom Anderson (Myspace), or Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google). Even fewer of us, given that brilliant idea, have the resources, connections, and outright talent to make our first business a multi-billion dollar enterprise over night. Yes it’s possible. However so is winning the lottery, getting attacked by a shark, and getting struck by lightning. The old fashioned way of creating an income of $1,000,000 per year is a bit different. The most common path requires you to own your own business. So your goal should obviously be to own your own business. That million bucks per year will be nice, however the true blessing of being a business owner is control over your most valuable asset – your time.

Now let’s clarify our goals by answering a few questions:

  1. How much money do you want to make?
  2. How much time do you want to spend working once your business is done?
  3. How much time are you willing to spend building a business?

1. How much money do you want to make? Let’s say you want to make a million dollars per year. That’s over $83,000 per month, $19,230 per week, and $2740 per day. Would that satisfy you? If not, add your number in here. It helps to figure out and visualize EXACTLY how you’re going to spend your $2740 per day. The mind doesn’t know the difference between dreams and reality so start conditioning your mind now for that lifestyle and it’ll be a lot easier to get there.

Now that you have a target, here’s how you’re going to get it. Become a master at business and start searching for great businesses to buy and grow. If you want a million dollars, all you need to do is own a business that does $5 million in sales per year with a net profit of 20%. Twenty percent of $5 million is $1 million. Or find a business that does $10 million in sales with a net profit of 10%. Ten percent of $10 million is again $1 million.  I wouldn’t look for a business that can’t accomplish at least a 10% net profit.

2. How much time do you want to spend working once the business is done? – Some people like to work and there’s nothing wrong with that. I work extremely hard right now, but it’s not because I have an unhealthy infatuation with it. If I had a trust fund I’m sure I’d be investing in businesses but I’d also be traveling, racing, engineering, and spending a lot less time working… Eventually I’d like to work less than 10 hours a week without ever coming into the office. How about you? If you’re going to buy a business and be the service leader, sales leader, and customer service representative then you’re never going to get out from under it. The only things that can truly be done remotely are marketing and communications…  If you’re an owner taking on more then marketing and communication with your leaders then either plan to delegate or find another business. The other option is to sell your business once completed and live off of interest or rental properties

3. How much time are you willing spend to build a business? Let’s face it, if you want to make a million dollars per year, it will probably take a bit longer than if you’re happy with $100,000. So if you’ve educated yourself, have some money saved up, have some decent connections, and already know how to negotiate, you can probably be making $100,000 per year within 2-3 years. Less if you’re really good. To turn that into a million per year will probably take another 5-7. Michael Masterson even wrote a book called Seven Years to Seven Figures: The Fast-Track Plan to Becoming a Millionaire which is worth a read. Realistically if you can do what you want with $10,000 per month, then why keep on working to make that $80,000 per month? Do you really need that much to enjoy life? If so, go for it.

There’s really only one trick to this… If you HATE business then forget about it. You’ll never be an expert at something you hate and obviously to achieve these goals you have to become an expert. If you only kinda like business then go for it. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll enjoy it when you start making regular deposits into your bank account. 🙂  Keep in mind, the business building doesn’t have to be your life – it’s just a means to an end if that’s what you want it to be. Determine what you want right now, though, before you get started!

Now that you have your clearly defined plan, you need to put it into action. Sell your PS3 and X-box, get rid of your television, and get to work. If you aren’t willing to make the sacrifices that provide you with the knowledge you need to make this goal a reality it’ll never happen anyway. The old fashioned way isn’t easy. It’s real work but with a real payoff. In my mind I’d rather work 80 hours per week when I’m in my 20’s so I can have some freedom later in life then work 40 hours per week for the next 40 years and have “nice” stuff all along the way. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice, then just stop now and enjoy your 40 years in the work force. That doesn’t make you better or worse then me – just different. Granted, in my first 9 months at the businesses I’ve purchased I’ve spent over a month out of the office on trips. Some were business trips and some were vacation. I worked during all of them with the help of some technology, however I also had a lot of freedom to do other things. So, though I work really hard when I’m in town, I haven’t exactly given up my youth for the promise of a bright future. Life’s too short for all that. I have more freedom and time to enjoy life now then I have ever had while working for someone else.

Just today when I was coaching 1st and 2nd graders basketball, Andrew walked up to me and said “Coach, you should get a job like my dad.” “Oh really who does he work for?” “I don’t know but he can work whenever he wants he just has to let his boss know.” “Wow, that’s awesome Andrew, but I don’t have a boss.” His eyes got real big like only a 7 year old’s can – “So you can work whenever you want?” Laughing, I responded simply, “Sure.”  A 7 year old understands the greatest part of being your own boss is your freedom – do you?

To your success, Bryan