The Entrepreneurial Benefits of Varied Experience

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I am a firm believer that there is an unspoken skill that exists in all successful entrepreneurs. A skill that is not spoken about in books, listed in any school career test, and never discussed without someone poking fun over the amount of jobs that you’ve worked. That unspoken skill is Varied Experience.

When I was younger, I worked at so many places I could not even begin to count today. I worked at all types of places from warehouses, fast food, casual dining, amusement parks, construction, and even the flooring business. I always wanted to start a business, so I eventually did at the age of 18. To this day, my wife makes fun of me and my first business I tried to start - a resume writing business. I followed that failure up quickly with a no-money down home buying scheme. I could never even figure out the home-buying scheme myself, but the book and the commercial made it look so easy. Accordingly, I stopped trying to start a business and I just went to work, keeping the desire in my back pocket.

I never wrote a single resume for a client, nor did I ever buy a house with no money down and rent it to people at a huge premium. These shortcuts to business don’t work. But what I did learn along the way, whether I made roast beef sandwiches, worked at an arcade, an amusement park, or unloaded a truck, was a versatile range of experience. These experiences were all unrelated, isolated, and had nothing to do with what I deal with today. But they each provided me with some type of challenge and a different type of problem that I needed to solve. Not having the internet, or really anyone to ask, I learned to fix things that I knew relatively close to nothing about. 

These varied experiences have given me the critical problem solving skills so many people lack today. During my interviews, I often ask how they solve problems that they have never encountered. Most interviewees usually just brag about their mad Googling skills, which then quickly leads to the end of the overall interview. I have hired too many Google-IT-Techs in my life that broke client networks or messed up royally, unable to solve the issue that they had created. 

You cannot Google answers to the real problem solving skills needed to run a successful business. You need to have business acumen and critical thinking skills. There is no website that has answers to your exact issue. There is no one else is in your business, city, or at your location with the exact client and financial position. Virtually every problem that you will face will be unique to yourself and the situation. If you are missing the ability to solve problems where historical answers don’t exist, you will fail.

As the more success you acquire over time grows, the smaller and smaller your world becomes. You may think that more clients and connections results in expansion, however, this is not true. The more successful you get the fewer and fewer people you can turn to for advice. There will always be professional advice, like advice from a lawyer or accountant, however, no two will ever give you the same answer. So, professional advice can be limited. You must rely on other sources. The bigger the business, the smaller and fewer options for sources. A small business with 5 employees struggling to make payroll, is far different than a larger business with 30 employees who has to make payroll and a large cash flow in the same week. Odds are the smaller business will not have access to the cash or vendor terms needed to get anywhere near that deal. So, you have to find people more successful than you with larger businesses.

I have found this issue with most local networking and service-type groups.  The people in those worlds are often very small solopreneurs of very small businesses.  The odds you will find a mentor connection there is slim.  I believe this is why most people hit a growth wall, they don’t have the right network around them to push them over the top.

Of course, there are always your ultra-successful startups that the founders just have the gift to hire right and grow to unbelievable levels.  But odds are that’s not you.  

To be successful you have to regularly face and overcome difficult problems. The kind of problems that drive you nuts. The problems that make you lay awake at night, have a few too many drinks, or make you bang your head against the wall. But when you stick it out, when your grit comes out, and you overcome the situation, you become equipped with skills that will help you in the next challenge. 

Eventually the problems that arise will seem like small potatoes, not because they are, but because you just deal with them as a way of life and they are not as big as you once thought.  You will still sleep in spite of them. You will not need to drink too much and you will not need a Band-Aid for that head.

Go get yourself some experience and solve some problems today.