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The Era of the Unintentional Entrepreneur: An Interview with Kevin Reeth of Outright.com (Part 3)

The Era of the Unintentional Entrepreneur: An Interview with Kevin Reeth of Outright.com (Part 3)

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    This is the third and final installment of my interview with Kevin Reeth of Outright.com (See Part 1 and Part 2). In this part of the interview, I talk to Kevin about the new organization he’s helped create, Unintentional Entrepreneur, which is currently holding events around the country to help provide newcomers to the world of entrepreneurship with the tools and skills they need to get started and build a successful business.

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      Dustin Wax (DW): Where did the idea for Unintentional Entrepreneur come from?

      Kevin Reeth
        Kevin Reeth (KR):

        We were doing a promotion with Newtwork Solutions, giving away free websites for businesses, and we thought, there’s gotta be more that we can do than just running this promotion. It could be providing help and guidance ourselves, but also connecting folks with other entrepreneurs.

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        We learned an awful lot actually watching what Chris Hutchins did at Laid-Off Camp. I was up at the first Laid-Off Camp and it was something that kind of grew organically and went nationwide. Chris organized several of the initial ones and then they started to spring up and other people who were passionate about this picked it up and ran with it.

        DW: What kind of support is out there already for beginning entrepreneurs?

        KR: There’s a ton of support but it’s all over the place. You can start with local Small Business Administration and SCORE offices around the country. Meetups have also become a very interesting form of support for these folks, where they’ve done a good job of getting people in certain disciplines together. And there are the older, formal networking groups: professional associations, things like that.

        But a lot of it, the really good support, tends to be smaller and more organic. We see this a lot with our customers who sell on Etsy and eBay. They’ve got very active communities where people share stories about what they’re trying to do. They like to get together and they share knowledge, and it’s not just the practical tips and tricks but it’s also the motivation and the inspiration and what keeps them going – the emotional connection that’s important as well.

        DW: What do you think is missing from these existing sources of support? What is your role here?

        KR: With Unintentional Entrepreneur, the focus really is on those folks who may find themselves in this position but they’re not quite prepared. There’s a pretty significant education component, just in terms of what it means to be self-employed. Just the fact that you now have to pay both social security and Medicare is one of those “You’ve got to be kidding me” moments.

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        We really wanted to be able to get those basic discussions going, and introduce people to other folks who are maybe a few months ahead of them. If you’re a brand new entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily want to get advice from somebody who’s already made 10 million dollars, because they probably don’t remember what it was like when you’re trying to get that first or second customer. You want to talk to someone who is a few months ahead of you, who’s figured a few things out. That’s really the charter of this initiative: get those people who aren’t quite prepared and help them get a little bit more prepared.

        DW: I know you’re still sort of feeling out what you’re doing, but what is the short term goal? Are you hoping to produce local user groups, or are you planning to build this around special events, or what?

        KR: The immediate goal is just to generate awareness about this. We don’t have a very clear end game for it. If I had to say what I think an awesome ultimate goal would be, would be if these events spawn groups of committed folks or multiple groups that build up their own networks. But honestly the best thing that could come out of this are a bunch of people who feel empowered to go off and make a go of it on their own and start generating successful businesses. And start interacting with each other themselves.

        DW: You just had your first event [at the end of July; there have been more since then]. How did that go?

        KR: It went great! There was a very good mixture of people who are evaluating, should I do it, should I not, should I keep looking for a job? And there were some people who had the idea that they did want to make the leap and were wondering if now might be the right time. We had good attendance, we had great energy from the group, a good cross-section, and we also learned a lot about what people are looking for.

        Because this was our first event we were very much using it as a sounding board to help figure out what people are looking for, how can we improve this, what kind of resources? So we’re at the very beginning of those conversations. But the fact that we’re having those conversations and people are engaging is very encouraging.

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        DW: Tell me about the event, what exactly was it? What do you do?

        KR: We had people come in, we did half an hour of meet-and-greet, have some pizza and soda and beers, and just kind of socialize and share stories. Then we had three speakers. I actually kicked off the initial one, which was basically “Let’s get the least sexy stuff out of the way, here’s all the stuff you have to do according to the IRS if you’re self-employed.” I gave pretty much an overview of all the compliance stuff, all the tracking and reporting and bookkeeping and taxes and tax tips and things to think about, and then we moved into more of business stuff.

        The second presentation was about going out and getting some business: Building a personal brand, letting people know what you’re trying to do, getting online and getting a presence. And then we capped it off with Lorna Li who spoke more specifically on online marketing – how to use the technology to increase leads, how to take advantage of the Internet to maximize your impact from an inbound sales and lead generation perspective.

        Those went pretty well, but we got some good feedback from folks in terms of other places where they might like some help and so we’re going to modify that.

        DW: One thing that really interests me in general is how at one level in business, everything’s about competition, but at the personal level, there’s this kind of cooperation, a kind of “sharing-ness”. You see these big companies in cut-throat competition but you get a bunch of bloggers or a bunch of developers in a room , and they all just want to help each other out. It’s kind of fascinating.

        KR: That’s absolutely true, especially of small business owners. Because very few of them actually do compete directly. They love to just learn from each other and seek to help each other out, and they seek advice from others, and so that organic and community-based nature wins out. For example, we’re in downtown Campbell, and you see the local merchants here, out on the street, talking to each other and swapping stories. There is this great sense of camaraderie – they know that they’re in this together, they all share similar goals and challenges and so they share and learn from each other.

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        With Unintentional Entrepreneur, too, there’s almost a little bit of the little guy vs. big corporate America, especially if you just left corporate America. To be out there with other self-employed people is empowering! And it’s also a replacement for your social interaction, because it can be lonely – you don’t have your office mates, you don’t have the big crew of people that you could rely on. You’re out there and it’s pretty much you and maybe a couple of other people you interact with, some customers and vendors, so there’s also that social element to this.

        DW: How will you know if Unintentional Entrepreneur is successful? What’s your best-case scendario?

        KR: For us the ultimate great outcome is that the people who come to these events find that they can be successful, that if they’re good at it and they love it and they stick with it, they’re never going to have to rely on somebody else to give them a job again!

        The first round of Unintentional Entrepreneur events appears to be over, but Kevin told me they’re already planning a new series of events, so stay tuned for an event near you – or contact the folks at Unintentional Entrepreneur and see about organizing an event in your own community! Be sure, too, to join the Unintentional Entrepreneur LinkedIn group to stay up-to-date on the latest news.

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        Last Updated on October 22, 2020

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

        Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

        When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

        Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

        What Makes People Poor Listeners?

        Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

        1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

        Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

        Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

        It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

        2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

        This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

        Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

        3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

        It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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        I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

        If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

        4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

        While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

        To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

        My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

        Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

        Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

        How To Be a Better Listener

        For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

        1. Pay Attention

        A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

        According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

        As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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        I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

        2. Use Positive Body Language

        You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

        A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

        People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

        But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

        According to Alan Gurney,[2]

        “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

        Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

        3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

        I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

        Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

        Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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        Be polite and wait your turn!

        4. Ask Questions

        Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

        5. Just Listen

        This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

        I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

        I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

        6. Remember and Follow Up

        Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

        For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

        According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

        It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

        7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

        If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

        Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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        Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

        Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

        NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

        1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
        2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

        8. Maintain Eye Contact

        When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

        Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

        By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

        Final Thoughts

        Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

        You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

        And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

        More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
        [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
        [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
        [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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