You can’t leverage what you don’t have

By , The Solo-CEO: Content Marketing Strategist

Solo-E Certified Solo Entrepreneur Expert

Terri Zwierzynski - The Solo-CEO: Content Marketing Strategist

"I’m starting my own business. I don’t have any money — I need income right away. Can you help me?"


This scenario is all too common, and a bit sad. There are all sorts of get-rich-quick schemes out there that lull us into thinking it is possible to make ridiculous amounts of money right away, with miniscule investment, working just a few hours a day.

It just ain’t so.

Terri’s theory of business startups: You can start a business with no money investment, and get to profitability in a matter of years. Or you can start a business with a reasonable investment, and get to profitability in a matter of months.

In other words, you can choose to leverage your time into money. Or you can choose to leverage your money into time. Neither is right or wrong…it’s a choice. Both can result in a healthy, sustainable business.

What is curious, though, is those that start with both a reasonable investment (money), and a willingness to work their butts off (time), and it still takes years to get to profitability. Huh? <disclaimer: I fall into this category and am just now figuring it out!>

Here’s where I think we go wrong. Being naturally conservative, we want to have enough money to make it to profitability. And so we ration out the funds, and coming from a generation of do-it-yourself-er’s, we scramble trying to learn and do everything ourselves. This of course slows us down, not just because we are trying to perform tasks that don’t come naturally to us (bookkeeping, for example), but also because being faced with a task you dislike is one of the most excellent excuses for procrastination. And suddenly we are leveraging neither our time nor our money.

So how do we get back on track? I can share my experience. When Solo-E finally hired three Virtual Assistants, I know my view on my work changed. I was suddenly free of details and repetitive work that had been dragging me down. I had more time to do my "genius work". I was having more fun, and getting more done! And the business started progressing more quickly.

In my experience one of the biggest impediments to getting help, especially virtual help, is not being able to see how it will work. Monica Ross, my virtual bookkeeper for the past 5 months, offers a wonderful free class to orient you to virtual bookkeeping, with no obligation (tell her I sent you!). Or, if you feel ready to jump right in, you could purchase 10 hours of a VA’s time. Experiment with working virtually, try on the working relationship, and see if it might work for you.

Go for it — you won’t regret it!

Terri Zwierzynski, MBA (UNC-Chapel Hill) became a corporate refugee in 2001, after 15 years of servitude employment. After her initial shock at being unemployed, she vowed to “never work for an idiot again!” and decided to be her own boss (and try to live up to that vow!) She launched in 2003 to provide a quality selection of online resources for building a Solo Entrepreneur business, from hand-picked, proven, truly Expert coaches, consultants, trainers and implementers - mentors she personally trusts.

© Copyright 2006 Terri Zwierzynski
3 comments on “You can’t leverage what you don’t have
  1. Jeff Morrow says:


    You and I go a long way back! You know some of…okay…MANY of the hang ups I experienced with starting my own business…you helped coach me through them. For that I can’t thank you enough. You’re a wonderful coach and a great person to know…because of your insights and…well…becuase you are you…and I really REALLY like that.

    I would like to share one of my latest experiences with a program that appeared to me to be a get rich quick thing…but has turned out to be not only incredible for my wealth building strategy but has turned my health around as well. What is one without the other?

    Aside from talking about the business and the products, I wanted to talk about a way to get involved with self employment on a very low budget. And…the most significant reason for wanting to talk about it here is that it is an incredible way to learn A GREAT deal about what it takes to be an entrepreneur in a “test the waters” kind of way…without losing your shirt doing it…um…and without hitting all the emotional potholes along the way.

    Yes…I am talking about a network oriented business…but…I don’t want to pitch it here. I would however like to talk about what it has done to just explode my knowledge, energy and whole approach to running my own business.

    What a trip it’s been! Am I rich yet…no…but an extra $20K for the effort I’ve put into it holds FAR more potential than I was getting to in JAKStar.

    Permission to speak candidly on the topic???

    Jeff in Virginia

  2. Terri Z says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the compliment! And truth be told, you’ve also done a lot to coach me through the ups and downs of business.

    You’ve gone both routes…starting from scratch and going the networking marketing route…I would definitely be interested in hearing more about how you found the experiences to be different. What are the pros and cons of each? Do you think a certain personality type, or skill set, is better suited to one or the other??

  3. Bob says:

    Normally the literature in entrepreneur focused publications and websites is about the reasons to leave your job, not reasons to have a job. However, it is important to point out to aspiring entrepreneurs that the road to being a successful business owner is littered with the failures of those who did not quite understand what entrepreneurship is about. Being your own boss, while ideal, is not for everyone.

    Many of us are meant to be employees, not business owners. This fact is supported by the reality that surrounds us on a daily basis. Look around you. How many people do you know who own a business versus those who simply work for someone else. Notwithstanding the many conspiracy theories about teaching people to be servants rather than leaders, the current employment paradigm is really fueled by the many benefits of being a worker.

    The top five reasons to have a job instead of trying to be your own boss are: Low financial risk, health and wellness benefits, bigger earnings, lower stress, and free training.

    Low Financial Risk

    Having your own business is filled with risk and uncertainty. Even small operations must have some seed money to get started, and the risk of never recovering the investment is high. If you read any number of business publications you can easily corroborate the fact that most new businesses fail. Even if a young company makes it past the first year, the chances that it will go under within 5 years are great. By contrast, employees rarely invest any money into the firms that employ them. Of course, there may be some type of educational requirement (degree, certificate, etc), but such investments are more along the lines of self-improvement than a direct financial contribution to an employer.

    An argument can be made about the vulnerability that workers have to being laid off. Employees certainly have a latent risk of being let go at any point in time, but the same is true for any business owner. If an entrepreneur loses a big account, the entire company can go under. Additionally, changes in market conditions, technology, and shifts in customer preferences can easily erode the viability of any business. In a sense, we are all employees. The only difference is whether the orders come form inside the organization or form the market place.

    In the event of a lay off, the worker can virtually go to any company where his or her skills are needed. As long as employees have transferable skills, they will always find a job. Of course, the hardship, frustration, and time that it takes to find the best possible job should not be minimized. It takes hard work and persistence to get a good job. However, it is possible to make ends meet with almost any job. The same is not true for a business. If your company goes under and you lose your money and that of your investors, it can take significantly longer and an incredible amount of effort to start again.

    Health And Wellness Benefits

    Many employees will readily take less pay in exchange for top-level benefits. It is no secret that taking care of your health and responding to an illness is very expensive. As a worker, your employer may pay a sizable portion of your benefits so you can afford to have some type of insurance coverage. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, may not carry any insurance in order to keep costs down.

    A sole proprietor, even if covered by insurance, can also run into difficulties if stricken by an illness. With no one to tend to the company, the business will suffer loses that may be hard to recover. In other words, small companies depend greatly on the well being of their owners. This is not the case with employees. For most workers, a health matter is covered not only by insurance, but also paid time off. In many instances, the employee’s job is even guaranteed for a certain period of time.

    Aside from health care, many companies also offer a host of free benefits designed to keep employees happy. Examples are daycare, tuition reimbursement, transportation subsidies, discounts on goods and services, and many others.

    Bigger Earnings

    Unlike Bill Gates, and many other super wealthy entrepreneurs, most business owners make as much money as an employee. Let’s take for example, an employee making $60,000/year. How hard does an entrepreneur need to work to make $60,000? More often than not, business owners have to work very hard to make the equivalent to a $60,000 salary and don’t get the ancillary benefits that employees do.

    Most workers also make the same salary whether they work all day, or hardly contribute to the organization. It’s important to point out that mediocrity and laziness should not be tolerated in the workplace, but let’s not fool ourselves. Low caliber employees are everywhere and they get paid the same as top performers. Only in careers where individual accomplishment is tied to one’s earnings is it possible to weed out bad employees. An entrepreneur may be best served by being a top-performing employee in an arena that rewards results (i.e. sales), rather than take on all the risk of owning a company.

    Lower Stress

    A reality for entrepreneurs is the close relationship that their business and their personal lives share. Ownership of a business is a 24/7 endeavor that requires unwavering focus on the success of the company. While some people may thrive on the ambiguous and demanding nature of business ownership, not everyone can handle that level of intensity. Most employees have the luxury of leaving their job at their place of work, and can easily separate off duty activities from their job.

    Even for employees who hate their jobs and wish their day ended 30 seconds after clocking in, the prospect of going through the day on “autopilot” is very attractive. Entrepreneurs, on the contrary, must always be alert to the needs of the company. Would you rather have to worry about your business while on vacation (Assuming the business allowed you to go anywhere), or would completely forgetting what you do for a living seem more appealing?

    Most employees care about their work and will do their best while on duty, but they are not defined by their job. For workers, an occupation simply represents a source of income and an activity to fill the time between weekends and vacations, nothing more.

    Free Training

    Even after having read the above reasons to get a job instead of starting a company, some folks may decide that entrepreneurship is still the way to go. This section is for you.

    Jobs are great places to get free training. By working at an established company and getting involved in as many projects as possible, a future entrepreneur can easily get a lot of real world experience. While it can be argued that experience is not necessary to start a business, it makes more sense to learn how things work on someone else’s time and money than your own.

    Schools unfortunately teach students about commerce in a very general, academic fashion. Even with many institutions using business cases to illustrate important lessons, the overall question of how to make money in the real world is answered esoterically. Therefore, the best step for prospective entrepreneurs is to get the details form their employers. We are of course not talking about copying trade secrets or any other unethical behavior, but rather the fact that it is easier to learn by being directly involved in business transactions than by reading about them.

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