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The Era of the Unintentional Entrepreneur: An Interview with Kevin Reeth of Outright.com (Part 1)

The Era of the Unintentional Entrepreneur: An Interview with Kevin Reeth of Outright.com (Part 1)

The Era of the Unintentional Entrepreneur

    With a background including successful stints with Yahoo, eGroups, and Intuit, Kevin Reeth was well-prepared to strike out on his own as a co-founder and CEO of the web start-up Outright.com, a free online bookkeeping platform for small businesses and self-employed persons. In today’s economic climate, though, more and more people are finding themselves thrown into entrepreneurship without a background like Reeth’s as their companies fold or downsize leaving them to strike out on their own.

    To help these “unintentional entrepreneurs” get their feet under them, Reeth partnered with Network Solutions to form Unintentional Entrepreneur, a website and organization dedicated to helping newly self-employed workers get off on the right foot as freelancers, consultants, and small business owners. So far, Unintentional Entrepreneur has hosted free seminars in a handful of cities, with more on the way, combining formal presentations with social networking in an effort to provide the information and social environment fledgling entrepreneurs need to start building towards success.

    After I wrote about Outright.com at Freelance Switch and on my own site, The Writer’s Technology Companion, several people at Outright.com contacted me and struck up a conversation, culminating in an offer to interview Reeth about Unintentional Entrepreneur and the challenges – and rewards – facing today’s entrepreneurs, unintentional or otherwise.

    This is part 1 of a three-part series. In this section, Reeth and I discuss entrepreneurship in general. In part 2, we’ll discuss the way that technology is changing the entrepreneurial landscape, and in part 3 what Unintentional Entrepreneur is doing to help first-time self-employed workers. The interview was conducted on July 17, just after their first event in Los Angeles.

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      Dustin Wax (DW): Let’s start with a general question: What is an unintentional entrepreneur?

      Kevin Reeth
        Kevin Reeth (KR):

        An awful lot of our customers are folks who were working in corporate America and had had paying jobs for years and had lost their job last fall or early this year, had been looking for a job, and had gotten to the point where they had to figure out something to do. And now they’re starting to hang out their own shingle to see if they can earn a living that way.

        What’s interesting is, compare them to people who’ve been small business owners or self-employed for many years, who had gotten used to it. People leaving the confines of a corporate job quickly get a pretty significant wake-up call in terms of what it means to work for yourself.

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        DW: So you have the wave of people for whom entrepreneurship has become an only option, something that came onto their radar as an option not because of an internal drive to do it but because of the economy.

        KR: Yes, I think that’s exactly right. This may not have been something that they thought about, maybe they never did have that drive, maybe they weren’t maybe wired that way or maybe they’re more risk-averse. But now they have certain practical realities that are forcing them to consider new options, and entrepreneurship is one of the options they’re considering. And so, they may have never done this before and may not understand what it means to operate as a business right now.

        DW: What does it mean?

        KR: The first focus, honestly, needs to be sales. If you don’t have people paying you, nothing else matters. You’re not going to be a very successful business for long.

        Along with that, when you first get started, it’s all about networking. Your initial business is going to come through referrals, friends and family, and coworkers and associates. It’s not going to be through advertising and promotions, and not from fancy marketing stuff. By getting out there and getting connected to people, you will have opportunities present themselves.

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        And then where we tend to focus, where Outright focuses is on helping people understand that they need to prioritize their time, that time is going to be their most precious commodity. There’s a lot of stuff you can do dirt cheap or free, but one of the worst things you can do is get bogged down in the details of stuff that really doesn’t matter. Use technology where it can be most effective. Automate the stuff that doesn’t provide value, and doesn’t grow your business. Honestly, the back office stuff, the bookkeeping – we know it’s not sexy. This is not what you want to be spending your time doing. Use the technology available to automate that, so you can be out there, doing sales, servicing existing customers, getting more repeat business, not worrying about where the money is going, whether something is deductable or not, remembering to pay taxes on time.

        DW: You said that the first focus is sales. There’s a skill set involved in sales, though, that very few people have. If you’re an engineering person or computer scientist or whatever, how can you develop or sharpen those sales skills?

        KR: I think that’s actually more daunting than it has to be. People tend to think about it as, “OK, I have to go do sales, I have to sell myself.” And the secret with networking is that, if you go out there and just meet other people, you understand that all of us are in the same boat at the end of the day, all of us need help. It’s all just building relationships.Even at the big enterprise sales level, so much of sales comes down to whether people like each other, whether they get along, and whether they have a relationship. There is a bias in decision-making around purchases that goes beyond just the rational facts. So you don’t have to be the greatest salesperson in the world, you just need to be able to build relationships with people.

        DW: We’ve talked about the challenges facing new entrepreneurs, but what are some of the benefits of being an entrepreneur, especially in today’s economy?

        KR: One, I think it will become one of the most empowering experiences you can ever have. It’s one of those things where it is a personal journey for anybody who tries it. A lot of things are going to go wrong. You’re going to fail at a lot of things. But you’re going to learn an awful lot about yourself. You’re going to find out what you’re capable of, and that’s invaluable.

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        Another great thing is that you will extend your network dramatically. You are going to get to meet so many new and interesting people that no matter what the future holds, you’re going to build relationships that are going to last.

        And there’s the education component. You’re going to be forced to learn more in the first three months working for yourself than in years working for someone else. And at the end of it, you will have that knowledge, you will have that experience. It’s going to make you better not only working for yourself but if you ever go back and work for someone else, you’re going to be significantly better at it.

        These are not easy things, they’re not free, awesome things that just happen to you, you have to work for them. But the value you get out of that journey is immense.

        In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss some of the ways technology is changing today’s small business and self-employment landscape, and the tools that Reeth recommends for new entrepreneurs. See you then!

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        Last Updated on February 20, 2019

        How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

        How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

        Are you stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

        Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

        • Taking a job for the money
        • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
        • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
        • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
        • Staying in a role too long out of fear
        • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

        There are many, many other reasons why you may be feeling this way but let’s focus instead on getting unstuck.

        As in – getting promoted.

        So how to get promoted?

        I’m of the opinion that the best way to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization.

        Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrated added value?

        Let’s dive right in how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position:

        1. Be a Mentor

        When I supervised students, I used to warm them – tongue in cheek, of course – about getting really good at their job.

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        “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else?”

        This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some reality in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

        This can get you stuck.

        Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:[1]

        “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role. I bet there was a time when this job was a stretch for you, and you stepped up to the challenge and performed like a rock star. You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong “personal brand” equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call “a good problem to have”: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done “too” good of a job!”

        With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

        In Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

        Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

        Let’s say that project you do so well is hiring and training new entry level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, making hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

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        Is there anyone else on your team who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

        1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
        2. In becoming a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower then to increase their job skills.
        3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job.

        Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Be ready to explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

        2. Work on Your Mindset

        Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is well explained by Ashley Stahl in her Forbes article. Shahl talks about mindset, and says:[2]

        “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you–not the job–who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”

        In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

        Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

        Share with your supervisor that you want to be challenged and you want to move up. You are seeking more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and will develop with some additional projects and coaching.

        3. Improve Your Soft Skills

        When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills:

        An article on Levo.com suggests that more than 60 percent of employers look at soft skills when making a hiring decision.[3]

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        You can bone up on these skills and increase your chances of promotion by taking courses or seminars.

        And you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor, either. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

        Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has the position you are seeking.

        Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of her meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what her secret is! Take copious notes and then immerse yourself in the learning.

        The key here is not to copy your new mentor (think Jennifer Jason Leigh in “Single White Female.” Just kidding). Rather, you want to observe, learn and then adapt according to your strengths. And don’t forget to thank that person for their time.

        4. Develop Your Strategy

        Do you even know specifically WHY you want to be promoted anyway? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one year, five year, or ten year plan? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what?”

        Sit down and do an old-fashioned Pro and Con list. Two columns:

        Pro’s on one side, Con’s on the other.

        Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

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        Look at your lists and choose the most exciting Pro’s and the most frustrating Con’s. Do those two Pro’s make the Con’s worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want.

        The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain

        Mel Carson writes about this on Goalcast that many other authors and speakers have written about finding your professional purpose.[4]

        Here are some questions to ask yourself:

        • Why is it that you do what you do?
        • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
        • What does a great day look like?
        • What does success look like beyond the paycheck?
        • What does real success feel like for you?
        • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

        These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your Vital Work Friends over coffee.

        See, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. And you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

        Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose. And like Mastercard says, that’s Priceless.

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        Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

        Reference

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