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Millionaires Don’t Have Jobs

The world’s richest people tend to be entrepreneurs or people who founded their own empires. Ben Tutty discovers that millionaires don’t have real jobs – they make their own.

5 October 2021

Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos. What do these people all have in common except for being outrageously wealthy?

They’re jobless.

Most of the world’s most successful people don’t have traditional nine to five employment – they’re business owners, inventors, and entrepreneurs. They’re proof that starting your own thing can have limitless benefits.

But what are the risks? And how can you turn your ideas into a profitable business?

Who needs a job?

In some ways, being an employee is great.

For one, you can be fairly certain you’ll receive the same salary every month and you probably won’t lose your job out of the blue. That explains why there’s only one self-employed worker in New Zealand for every six employees. It’s consistent.

Security and reliability are essential, but can also encourage people to stay in jobs that make them unhappy – ones they don’t grow from, and don’t reach their full potential in.

A certain super-investor you might know, Warren Buffett, reckons it’s not worth wasting your life on a job you don’t enjoy.

“There comes the time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning.”

Buffett’s got a good point, but of course there’s a bit more to it than simply finding something you love to do. That ‘something’ needs to pay your bills too.

An idea and a side hustle

Angus Browne, founder of Arepa, one of New Zealand’s fastest-selling health drinks, realised he needed to make a change when he saw the negative impacts his current job selling energy drinks was having on the world.

“I remember dropping an order off at a dairy and straight after, I saw this little girl walk out with a 710 ml can of the stuff. At that moment I thought what the hell am I doing?”

The idea that helped him transition to being a business owner was simple: create a healthy drink that improved cognitive function without exacerbating anxiety like some caffeinated drinks tend to. The idea may have been simple, but the execution? Not so much.

“It took seven years of chipping away to make it happen. I was working late nights and weekends on top of a fulltime job to build the business,” Browne says.

“When I finally got there, the transition to fulltime self-employment was liberating – I was finally doing what I wanted to.”

Since then, Arepa’s signed a multi-million-dollar deal with Coles to distribute in Australia, hired the world’s leading neuroscientist, and grown exponentially – even during a global pandemic.

It’s fair to say that Browne isn’t going back to selling energy drinks any time soon.

So, you want to start a business?

You’ve read this far, which means you’ve probably thought about quitting your job like Browne did, and starting your own business.

Here are some tips from people who’ve already done it.

Your Guide to Starting a Business

Don’t quit your day job (yet)

In their early days, most businesses lose money. That’s a fact. So, it’s unwise to expect to make a living from yours right away. Keep your day job and work on your business after hours, on weekends and during holidays. That way, you can keep feeding yourself and paying rent while slowly building your business up to the level where you can go fulltime.

Browne nailed this part of the process – he used up all his annual leave and worked nights, weekends, and holidays for seven years before transitioning. No one said it was easy!

Start with a problem and a solution

The best businesses fix real problems that people have. They make life easier. So instead of starting with a product or a service, start with a problem and make a product or service that solves it. Build your business around that solution.

Wear many hats, but know your limits

At the beginning, most business owners do almost everything within their business from marketing and public relations to sales and product development. Learn as much as you can in the early days so that you can wear multiple hats – but always know your limits. Read books, go to seminars, consult the people who know their stuff. If you need help from an expert, recognise that and ask for it. Build a network so you can always ask for help when you need it.

Combine passion and wisdom

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, that’ll drive you forward. But knowledge and wisdom will tell you which direction you should go in. Do something you love and care about but do the research to make sure what you’re doing can really work. People won’t buy something they don’t love – even if you do.

Think about your exit plan

When you start or buy a business, you should be thinking right away about how you’ll exit. The key, says Steve Smith, chief executive of ABC Business Sales, is to make sure the business can operate on autopilot.

“It’s all about getting systems, employees and contracts in place so that the business can continue to operate, even if you leave. That way, when a potential buyer looks under the hood, they’ll see value.”

Chris Pescott, the founder, and chairman of Perceptive, one of New Zealand’s leading customer insight agencies put this idea into practice when he sold his company to Clemenger Group.

“My plan was really quite simple. I always wanted Perceptive to be attractive enough that someone in the marketing industry would want
to buy us.”

Pescott told JUNO he made so much money from the deal that his children and grandchildren probably wouldn’t need to work if they didn’t want to. But, unsurprisingly, he still shows up at the office.

“I could go live on a beach and never work again, but there’s only so much money you can spend.

“I just think you’ve got to have a purpose and I think my purpose has always been to make Perceptive a great company.”

At the end of the day, self-employment can be a gateway to some good stuff. Freedom, money, meaning – and all it takes is a good idea, great advice, a little luck, and a lot of hard work.

Because millionaires don’t have jobs – they make their own.

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