Thursday, March 17, 2016

Why you need more than this to be unemployed

Although the subtitle to David Thomas Roberts' Unemployable! is "How to be Successfully Unemployed Your Entire Life," it is less a how-to guide than a sermon. Roberts is preaching to the dissatisfied and the hopeful. "Now is the greatest time in history to start a business,"
he proclaims. And his implied message continues, if you are unhappy in your job you can do what I've done and end up in the top 1/10th of 1 percent of incomes in America. Ah, if it were only so.

I am writing as a SCORE counselor (a free national business counseling resource Roberts does not mention), and as such meet with aspiring entrepreneurs regularly to help them realize their ambitions. Many of them would agree with Roberts: "Success for me is the freedom to do the things I love without others controlling my time, income or schedule, and without worrying about money." Who wouldn't? Unfortunately, this book is more inspirational than useful, superficial rather than instructive.

Not that there is anything wrong with Roberts' advice. His chapter "Are You Financially Illiterate?" is astute and worth embracing. "Most Americans," he claims, "live above their means, financing their lifestyle with debt. The vast majority don't have an income problem; they have spending problem." He is sensitive to this issue because "I've gone broke—twice." When revenue dropped in his first enterprise, an air freight business, the firm could not survive. He immediately started another company and I would like to know more about both the failure and the process behind the second startup.

The chapter "Do I really Need a Business Plan?" is also right on. Roberts' first sentence: "The simple answer is 'yes.'"  SCORE counselors spend an inordinate amount of time guiding our clients through the creation of a business plan. I can only concur with the "Lessons Learned" (a feature at the end of each chapter): "A business plan helps you organize your thoughts and plans for your business. Every business should have a business play. Your business plan will likely morph over time with changing business conditions, unforeseen events and new opportunities. A formal business plan with pro forma financials is always necessary if you are borrowing money or taking investment from others into your business equity . . ."

One last example, from Roberts' rules of business: ". . . the very nanosecond you realize you have made a bad hire, end it. Nothing is more disruptive and destructive to a company than a bad hire, with the possible exception of the divorce of the owners." No question.

So the advice is solid. My criticism is that there's not enough meat on these bones. At the end of a course I teach on how to start a business, I provide students with a long list of additional sources. In addition to the "Lessons Learned," Roberts does provide a useful glossary—"accounts payable aging," "accounts receivable financing," "amortization," etc.—but no citations for further information. I am always looking for works I can suggest to prospective entrepreneurs; read Unemployable! for encouragement, embrace the nuggets of good advice, but you're going to need more than this to be successfully unemployed.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for pointing out the details. Everyone needs inspiration, but it takes some perspiration to bring a business alive.

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