Can You Create Your Own Business? (Pam Slim Book Review)

Become your own boss and enjoy life as you want to. Image from user jay j wilkie on Flickr.
Become your own boss and enjoy life as you want to. Image from user jay j wilkie on Flickr.

Your alarm clock goes off at 7:15 in the morning. You begrudingly swat at it to turn it off. An hour later, you’re in your car and on the way to a job you’ve done for way too long. You get to work, stare at your computer for a few hours, and dream about living in Costa Rica until the clock hits 5 pm. Is this really the way you wanted to live? Do you really want to do this for the next 20 to 30 years? Your eight-year-old self would be so upset you’re stuck in a cubicle all day and not off exploring space  or saving the world from bad guys!

Pam Slim is a lifestyle coach who helps people quit their 9-5 and create your own dream company. Her book, Escape From Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur is a wonderful breakdown of the steps involved in quitting a job and creating a business (think Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, but with more detailed steps as to how to actually create your muse).

What’s the benefit of creating your own company? Well, for you, my fellow friends, it leaves you more time to sarge on your own schedule. In essence, you get to do things as you want to do them, without having to answer to all your crazy boss’ requests (how many more times can you hear you need to finish another competitive analysis by Thursday?).

Now, in full disclosure, this isn’t a cure-all book. A lot of you have the dream of walking up to your boss, telling him to jump off a tall building, and then, all of the sudden you’re sitting on the beaches of Costa Rica raking in passive income from your cat product business. Well, time for a rude awakening: Creating a business as Pam outlines takes effort. A lot of effort. As Pam says in the intro, creating a company is, “not all glamour” and is, “a labor of intense love and sweat and patience.”

However, while many of you may have the dream of creating a business, very few of you will actually do it. Why? Because a lot of you are nervous (which is totally normal!). There’s a fear of losing everything, or as Pam mentions, “living in a van down by the river.”  The first step Pam outlines is taming the wonderful beast of fear. How do we calm this fear? Pam offers a wonderful strategy: treat the fear as a pet lizard. Acknowledge it, be present in it, and become aware that you’re afraid (again, it’s only natural). In fact, Pam spends an entire chapter on breaking out of the mental cage of fear with some pretty useful exercises. As Pam says, “uncertainty is powerful and liberating!”

Unsurprisingly, however, there are risks of running your own business, which Pam goes over in detail in chapter five. Some keys to remember:

  • Always pay attention to your life purpose and business goals, and re-evaluate regularly so you don’t waste time on unnecessary things (the business-savvy readers know this as preventing “scope creep”).
  • Remember that passion is the ingredient to success, so if you’re working on something you’re not passionate about, think of something else!
  • Get very, very focused with your idea — research and then research again to determine the who, what, how, why of your business and customers.
  • As I briefly mentioned above, running a business takes work; you’re probably not going to successfully create a six-figure passive income business in the matter of a few weeks. Patience is a virtue!

It’s very, very important to remember that passion always doesn’t equate to success, however. As noted in chapter six of the book, an intense passion for something isn’t always a viable business plan. I have an intense passion for napping and laying on the beach. Could I make a business out of that? Probably not. It is OK, however, to initially fail as you determine which of your passions would make a good business. As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. In this same chapter, Pam also discusses how to shift from a vague business idea to a concrete goal (and how to sell to clients!).

While you scale your business up, it’s likely you’re going to need some help. As Pam points out, there’s no shame in seeking outside assistance, and, “you’re not weak if you need people.” She offers tips for finding mentors, recruiting your team, and growing your business into a successful group venture.

But what do you do once your business is scaled up, you have a team, and your business is a “success”? Well, you rethink your position within the company! Some of you may be familiar with Tim Ferriss (who I mentioned above), the popular life hacker who wrote a book that hinged on spending every waking hour effectively. Pam comes from the same school of thought, and offers words of wisdom on evaluating a location independent lifestyle. She also gives a great example of a successful business called Zen Habits that followed these principles.

The second half of the book really focuses on the ins-and-outs of running a successful business. Topics like, do I really need a business plan? (Hint: not necessarily, but Pam mentions that it’s vital to define your target market and niche so you know who you’re selling to.) How do I start with protoypes and samples? There are answers and exercises to dozens of in-depth, late-stage business questions. Truthfully, the later chapters are too detailed to be included in a review, and will likely only be useful when you’ve read (and completed the exercises) from the earlier chapters. However, there is very important advice that Pam mentions in chapter 15 that is relevant at the start of your business venture: take care of everything before you move into creating your own company full-steam-ahead. She gives a wonderful analogy: taking care of all the small things before you start your business is like backing up everything from your computer; it’s the best way to deal with “just in case.”

Pam Slim’s book is an excellent, detailed breakdown of what a reader can expect if they want to start their own business. Similar to Tim Ferriss’ 4HWW, it’s a look inside the life of those that want to be self-employed (which isn’t always glamorous). If you’re interested in starting your own company, I strongly recommend you read Pam’s book. After all, who wouldn’t like to live on a beach and run their own business?

QoD: Do you want to start your own business?

One Comment

  1. You seem to be in the midst of your 1st step in making your dreams a reality-lots and lots of research and patience. You’ve always had the desire, so that’s a given! The more you learn, the more you’ll realize you need to know. Uncle Jim would be a good mentor. He is a content and successful entrepreneur.

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