Downsizing and layoffs are coming to a town or neighborhood near you if they haven’t already ravaged your town and neighborhood like a tsunami. As I write this, people still continue to lose their jobs every month. And many of those jobs are not coming back. So what do you do? Are you on the list? You don't have control over your employer’s plan. But you can have some control over how you fit into those plans – there or elsewhere.
Let’s look at some of the most common options you might have to find career security and protect yourself from income loss or even increase your income.
One of the best career security options is, of course, to become a small business owner. You can start a small business on the side while you have your job, and that can increase and eventually replace your income. It’s really the best answer from a wealth-building standpoint to become a business owner. Why? Because business owners have control, and they also have many tax deductions advantages. You can utilize tax deductions for your car, your phone bill, and even part of your mortgage. Talk to your accountant. You’re already spending this money anyway, why not get tax benefits as a result of your business!
It does take a certain kind of person to be an entrepreneur or even just a business owner. Not everybody is built to own and run a business. To find out if you’re built for it, and to get a solid foundation on how a business should be operated, I recommend the Nightingale-Conant program called The E-Myth Seminar by Michael Gerber. He’s going to teach you the principles that guarantee ongoing success to companies that follow the business plans of places like McDonalds, Fed Ex and Dominos Pizza. While you may not be as big as those companies (at least not yet), you’ll learn that the key to a successful business is having systems that manage the business for you so you don't have to have your hands on the controls every minute.
A properly designed business should allow you to take a vacation without any loss of income. The systems should manage your employees so they’re successful and profitable and can operate the business in your absence. Whether you’re there or not, it’s making you money.
So, do you think you might have a business of your own in your future? Well, when it comes to deciding what kind of business to start, I usually suggest people choose a business where the work they’ll be doing is something they’ll enjoy every day. If your work is a joy, it won’t feel like work. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do it better and with a better attitude. This will motivate your employees and your customers, and you’ll be successful.
But liking what you do is not the sole requirement for selecting a business. You also have to choose a business that has a chance of making you enough money to live on and to build your wealth. I advise you to look at the entrepreneurial websites or magazines at your favorite bookstore or supermarket. There are several good ones like Entrepreneur magazine for example. And there are many great business startup books in the bookstores as well.
Do your homework first. Do a lot of reading. Do a lot of studying. Ask a lot of questions. Get online. Look for business startups and search for terms like, ‘entrepreneur’ or ‘new business’ or ‘start a business’, and you’ll find a lot of information. Become an expert before you try to actually do the business.
To find a business that you could build on the side so you can keep your job until the last possible moment is probably the best way to start. Because nothing kills a new business faster than the owner having to take money out of it before it’s able to support paying wages. In the early stage, the best thing you can do with profits it to pour them back into building the business.
Now if the idea of starting a business with employees, offices, products and selling makes you kind of dizzy, you might want to consider a less dramatic option than having your own business. And that’s self-employment or free agency. Now a lot of people who are self-employed say, “Oh, I have my own business.” But that’s really not what self-employment is. Self-employment is not being an owner as much as it’s being a job owner. This might be the graphic artist, writer, or consultant that freelances for a lot of different clients. You’re not so much a business owner as you are a job owner. You own your own job.
This doesn’t fit the business model of making you money whether or not you’re working, which a true business with employees could. With the self-employment or free agency model, you’ve got to be working to be making money. You’re essentially trading your time for dollars. It’s just like a job. If you don’t work, you don’t make any money.
But it can be more satisfying than a job from a sense of ownership and accomplishment standpoint. And if you have enough customers or clients, it can be more secure than a job because you’re not depending on whether one person likes you or likes your work, but many. It’s almost like a mutual fund of jobs. You won’t have the ignorant boss to put up with, but you’ll likely end up with some pretty unlovable customers. You just have to learn to put up with that kind of thing. You generally have to be an expert, by the way, to do this kind of business or income option. Because now you have to have your expertise to sell.
Another option, if you’d like to stay where you are currently working, is to be an intra-preneur. Intra-preneur is the label that a lot of people use for someone who creates a business model within an existing business. Intra-preneurs create essentially a sub-business that could be spun off into a separate business, but isn’t. They present it to ownership as an internal opportunity. They propose themselves as management for this new unit, and they try to get a piece of the internal profits. Now this is usually not as profitable as being the soul owner, but it is more secure because you’ve got somebody else who’s making sure you get a paycheck every week.
These are ways you could go on your own and create your own income stream with your own business or your own free agency. If that’s not a route you want to take, then you can secure and even increase your income within the job you already have by becoming indispensable. And that’s critical in these times when a lot of employers are having to cut jobs. When tight times come, employers lay people off from the bottom up. The bottom includes the least productive, least known, most easily lived without employees. For ultimate career security, you want to focus your energy on becoming the last person they’d ever let go.
How do you do it? Well, first you want to know as much as you can about your company’s business. Not just about your job or department. Check out the company’s website, find out what their mission is. Learn where their income comes from. Read their annual report. Know what the business’ challenges are. Know what the company believes to be their biggest opportunities. And then concentrate on making your immediate boss or supervisor successful.
No matter if you get along with your immediate supervisor or not, you’re trying to become indispensable. You’re trying to become a superstar within your business. And the best way to do that is to concentrate on making your immediate boss or supervisor successful.
First of all, everyone will notice your loyalty. Because you’re going to help your boss succeed, he or she will remember who helped them move up. They may even recommend you for other opportunities within the company. You might even go so far as to ask your boss for more frequent reviews than required, so your employee file gets nice and fat with a lot of good stuff about you.
Another good thing you can do is find a mentor. Your immediate supervisor may be this person. But if they’re not, look for an experienced veteran within the company. You want somebody with a great attitude and not a complainer. It helps if this person is higher than you on the organization chart so they can advance your name for promotion when opportunities come up.
Here’s another key, look for turmoil. Volatility creates opportunities in a business. So be flexible and willing to move to a different area of responsibility if necessary to take care of some of this volatility and solve problems. If you see opportunities that aren’t being pursued, make suggestions for pursuing them and be willing to be tasked with their accomplishment.
Now sometimes it costs money to make money, but you’ve got to make more than it costs. So if you’re going to go in with an idea, let me give you some advice that one of my bosses, a business owner that I worked for, I managed one of his units. And he told me one time, he said, “John, I’ll be happy to spend a dollar if you’ll show me how it will make me $2.” If you keep that idea in mind, that the spent money has to make more money than it costs, and you take that in with your ideas, you know, here’s what I think it’ll cost, but I see that we can make this much if we do that and it’s profitable, they’re going to love your idea.
Finally, think customer, customer, customer, because the customer is everyone’s boss.
If you want to stay employed or you want to excel as an employee in these fast changing times, it’s critical that you stay current in whatever your specialty or industry happens to be. You know, in the last century when the railroads transitioned from coal fired engines to diesel-fired engines, the coal firemen became obsolete. But this change did not happen overnight. These people could have invested some time and effort into becoming good at something that wasn’t going out of date. But a lot of them hung on. In fact, the unions tried for years to mandate that they had to keep coal-firemen on the diesel trains. But that was crazy, and eventually the jobs were gone and these people were outside looking in. You want to stay current.
For example, I became a certified web master. Now why would I want to become a certified web master? It gives me current, marketable skills that I kind of enjoy and they compliment skills I already possess. All of this worked for me and enhanced my business acumen. But I actually had to go to school and take classes and learn all about how the web works and IP addresses and all the technology behind it to become a certified web master. So find something that you’d like and become current, become an expert at it and that will help you not only maintain your employment, but increase your job potential and increase your income.
Dinosaurs are the first to be let go when the belt gets tightened in the business. Don’t be a dinosaur. But don’t lose sight of your priorities. Don’t ever lose what money can’t buy just to get what money can buy. And never lose sight of what you’re working for.