“Fireproof” – Why you should invest in your own business

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To start this post, I want to paint a picture for you. I know people this happened to  which is probably yet another reason I have found myself in entrepreneurship. For the purposes of this example, I will use an example of a pilot but this example applies to most all industries. Try to apply this to your job and I think you’ll agree with me at the end.

Imagine you are a young guy or gal who’s dream was to be a commercial pilot (back in the 80’s). It was a highly respected profession and a highly sought after career. Many pilots were selected from military programs and many men and women went though those programs as a means to an end to become a commercial pilot. These people worked their entire careers with the goal of becoming a commercial airline captain. The job paid extremely well, benefits were great, and almost always paid retirement plans. This was the ultimate goal when planning their future.

So, these people worked hard and were dedicated. They did not dabble in most of the party life as many other average Americans did. They had to stay on the straight and narrow due to the restrictive nature of FAA requirements for pilots and their medical requirements to maintain the proper ratings. They focused their whole life on that goal and did everything right. The ones that made it to the captain level made no mistakes, had perfect records, were exemplary employees, and well regarded pilots. What could go wrong?

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The game changed and external forces completely changed the face of commercial aviation. September 11, 2001 cost the airline industry billions of dollars. Pilots and other employees were laid off, lost their retirement plans, and airlines went under and as unfortunate as these events were, they had a ripple effect on the entire industry that cost thousands of people their jobs. The airline industry was hit hard again in 2007 when the US was hit with the recession. When the airlines couldn’t stay afloat, they began to layoff employees and sell off assets.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when you are an employee, even with a perfect record, when it comes down to the business losing money, you are not on the priority list. The company will put company first and you’ll be on the chopping block. You may have bought yourself some cushion based on your performance vs your colleagues but usually not much, especially in an industry where the top pilots are always good.

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But that didn’t stop them from losing everything late in their career. The retirement plans they worked for and the lifelong plan they made for themselves just disappeared almost overnight. Not only were they now out of a job, they were mostly overqualified for positions that were available. They took significant pay cuts to even keep a job.

I look at this kind of situation and one key point stands out to me. A professor during my MBA program said, “I’d rather spend 20 years building my own company rather than putting my life in the control of someone else.” If you think about it, if you work for the same company for 20-30+ years, you will eventually become a very expensive employee. In today’s world, employers can hire two, maybe even three people to do your job more efficiently and probably for less than they were paying you after 20-30 yrs. Some people think that company loyalty will keep them safe but I assure you that is a false assumption that will likely leave you empty handed and wondering what happened.

I like to refer to entrepreneurship as a fireproof profession. Obviously this makes sense but what I think of when I say fireproof is that in entrepreneurship you are investing in yourself. You are investing in your knowledge base and skillset and relying on yourself and your experiences to build your empire. You are relying on your abilities and drive and for me, that is much more valuable than a company salary.

Imagine what 20 years spent on your own business would look like. Now compare that to spending 20 years at a company. What do you have to show for what you did with that company? Some savings? Some material things? Do you really think its a wise investment of your most valuable asset?

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For me, I think it’s less risky to rely on yourself to build your sustainable lifestyle. You may believe you are doing this by earning a big salary but ask yourself if you’d be ok if they let you go TOMORROW. This is a reality you must consider and face as an option. Don’t be part of the crowd saying “it won’t happen to me” because I guarantee it can and it will.

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment and let me know!



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