Investing in Your Own Business

Yesterday, I urged you to resolve to increase your family income by between 10% and 25% this year. The way you are going to do that is by developing a financially valuable skill — selling, marketing, or profit producing. That resolution, by the way, applies even if you are employed by your own company. Having your own business is a good thing — but unless you make yourself more valuable to it each year, there will come a time when your business will outgrow you.

So, whether you work for yourself or someone else, you are going to make more money this year by helping that business become more profitable. Today, we are going to make an entirely separate resolution. Today, we are going to focus on the business’s income, not your own.

Today, you are going to promise to do one of two things: Increase the profits of the business you own. Start a business and make it profitable. Having your own business is not the only way to get rich, but it is — far and away — the most reliable way. And it’s also the way that most wealthy people got that way. Many people I know are hoping to make up for all the money they’ve lost in the stock market by investing in speculative stocks, commodity futures, options, etc. I can certainly see the allure of such big-money games, but that’s not something I feel comfortable doing.

There is just too much about investing in that way that I just don’t understand. But I do understand starting your own little business and learning how it operates from the bottom up. I do understand that every year millions of people all over the world strike out with little ventures of their own — and that some of those people, hundreds of thousands of them, are successful. I am bold enough to think that I understand a good deal about starting small businesses, having started hundreds of them in my time. And I tell you in regular ETR messages everything I know about being successful in little entrepreneurial ventures.

If you listen to what I tell you, follow the advice of the guest contributors that I include, and make it a point to keep yourself informed and educated, I have to believe you will come out a big winner. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of small businesses you could start this year. With the advent of the Internet market, there is virtually nothing you like to do that can’t be turned into a business. ETR and AWAI have about a dozen programs that I can recommend to you.

There are hundreds more available through universities and other home-study businesses. Whatever it is that you think you might like to do, I want you to promise yourself, today, that this will be the year you get your side business started. Most small businesses fail. That’s because most people go into businesses they know nothing about. If you follow our advice and get into a business only after you’ve studied it closely and even “practiced” it as an employee or consultant, your chances of success will increase exponentially. My success rate in business is probably 80% to 90% these days.

The main reason is not that I know so much more than I used to (although I do) but that I’m much more reluctant to get into something I don’t understand. To make this year the year you are successful in starting a profitable business (or making the business you have already started more profitable than ever), resolve to be the smartest person you know about the business you are in. Being the smartest person you know about the business you are in — it’s a bold objective, but it is possible.

Here is how to do that:

1. Read the business press voraciously but efficiently. You don’t need to spend more than 30 minutes a day — but you should spend at least that amount of time and you should be very selective about your reading. You’ll want to focus on books, articles, and essays that pertain to your industry — primarily the “how-to” pieces. Give preference to authors who’ve done it themselves as opposed to academics and/or journalists.

2. Supplement your reading by going to seminars and attending conferences. Person-to-person contact is invaluable.

3. Take meaningful correspondence courses. When you find a good home-study program that pertains to your field, don’t hesitate to invest some time and money in it.

4. Seek the advice of experts. Write personal notes. Send e-mails. Call for interviews.

5. Study the competition, especially the growing companies. If a competitor is doing well, you can assume he knows at least one important thing about your business that you don’t. Do whatever it takes to learn his secret.

6. Network. The more people you know, the better chance you will have to find someone to solve every one of your problems. A big network is also a steady source of opportunity.

7. Be generous with your colleagues and your competitors. When people learn that they do well whenever they work with you, they will become more willing to come to you with opportunities. There is no limit to the number of new businesses the Internet, with its worldwide reach, can absorb.

If you have a product or service that is needed or simply wanted, you can be successful — and you will be successful if you commit yourself to learning. Make yourself a promise to devote a good part of your time this year to creating and/or developing a second stream of income. Allocate learning time every week. Develop a three-page business plan. Make at least one new contact every month — and use that contact to build your business.

No matter what type of side business you decide to start, assign to it a specific financial target each year and reach that target by figuring out how much you have to accomplish every month to get there. Break those monthly targets down to weekly objectives and the weekly objectives down to daily tasks. Get going. Choose a business you like. Learn everything you can about it. Have fun with it. And make some money. Monday, we’ll create a New Year’s resolution for your stock-and-bond portfolio.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]