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Do you think you were born to jockey a desk? I hope not. Most business owners dream of starting a business for freedom and flexibility. But hey, stuff happens and we lose track of work-life balance. Whether we get inundated with work or fear taking action in the first place, our actions don’t align with our dreams. Fortunately, you can get the life you’ve always wanted and future-proof your business at the same time. It all starts with taking action.
Picture it now: the life you’ve always wanted. Maybe you’re living on the coast of Maine on a yacht, sipping a margarita on the beach, or simply enjoying the day at home with your family. But wait, what’s that? A big wave of responsibility, crashing down and ruining that boat, margarita, or Jimmy’s baseball game.
Everybody wants to create a successful startup, but that shouldn’t be your only goal as an entrepreneur. I mean, is your goal to make as much money as you can until you die? Hopefully not. Most entrepreneurs create their businesses because they want freedom and flexibility.
But 60+ hour work weeks ruin work-life balance. It doesn’t matter if you’re working for yourself or someone else at that point: if you don’t have mastery over your time, you aren’t living the life you want. Period.
You’re a human who runs a business, which means you’ve got a life outside of who you are as an entrepreneur. Isn’t it time to make your business work for your life instead of the other way around?
Quiet Light Brokerage chatted about this pressing issue with Scott Voelker, a reformed “Amazon guy” and author of the new book, The Take Action Effect. Scott’s cracked the code on creating a business that’s authentic to your priorities.
Like most entrepreneurs, Scott didn’t set out to be an author, podcaster, or eCommerce maven. He got his start in his family’s construction business when he was just 21 years old. Scott thought he would inherit the business, but after a business partner embezzled from the company, Scott saw that wasn’t a viable business plan. “I wanted to create a business that would allow me to have flexibility and freedom,” he says.
So, what now?
Scott’s wife, Lisa, encouraged him to ditch the construction job and create their own startup. “My wife said, ‘Maybe we should start a photography business,” Scott says.
Figuring he had nothing to lose, Scott left his job and started a photography business with his wife. Was photography his passion? No, but he was passionate about having more work-life balance, especially after working over 60 hours a week for years.
Scott liked what he saw! He and his wife were able to take their kids to school in the morning. They had a life outside of work and a prosperous business. In other words, Scott found his “beach:” he had independence, worked when he wanted, and had work-life balance.
The business bug bit Scott and he was hooked. Scott’s been growing startups for over 18 years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
And guess what? This guy just has a high school diploma—no fancy Harvard business degree. At first, Scott felt intimidated by this; he felt like everyone else was smarter because of their degree.
But after starting a business and creating the life of his dreams, Scott feels like he nailed it. Especially when he sees his old classmates working long hours at jobs they hate. So, if a former contractor with just a high school diploma can make things happen, so can you. Here’s how he did it.
Scott’s book is based on the idea of the “take action effect.” He argues that you aren’t just starting a business as an entrepreneur. You’re building a business that’s both future-proof and respectful of your time outside of work. And isn’t that the dream? “I just love building businesses,” Scott adds.
The “take action effect” is about taking much-needed steps forward, even if you aren’t sure you’re going to succeed. It’s about doing it anyway, and growing from how things shake out.
Scott argues that the only way to get results is to, y’know, do things.
We live in a world where one-third of all US adults think about starting a business. Just a small fraction of that number actually build a startup. That’s because so few people take action on their dreams. The result? Working for someone else in a job that doesn’t give a flying flip about your son’s soccer game.
What’s Your Pivot Point?
So why do some people say, “Enough!” and start their own business? Scott says everyone has these pivot points in their life. For him, it was when his wife suggested starting a photography business. “My wife was my take action moment,” Scott says.
Everyone has moments in life where you feel forced to make a decision. It’s a hard pill to swallow because it’s scary, but it’s better than the alternative. Scott was sick to death of his job at the family business. If he didn’t take action now, he’d be stuck in an unhealthy job with zero work-life balance.
Did Scott know how to do photography? Nope! And this was before digital photography, too, so it was all about the film, baby. But Scott hated the idea of giving up his freedom so much that he took action: he stayed up late learning how to do Photoshop while running their studio during the day.
Here’s where it gets interesting, though: Scott wasn’t content with photography. As new pivot points emerged in his life (and as they do in everyone’s life), he realized that real freedom was online. It was time to adjust his business plan and forge onward.
Moving It All Online
In “The Take Action Effect,” Scott talks about how everything we learn has meaning. Even though he didn’t love photography, it was a brick and mortar business. In those early days, he learned how to get folks physically in the door, which is a real feat.
Scott wasn’t passionate about his photography startup, but he argues that you don’t have to be passionate to do something well. You just have to want your freedom enough to make everything fall into place.
The neat thing about Scott’s journey is that starting the photography business gave him time to discover a new passion: eCommerce.
eBay And Beyond
“eCommerce all started when my wife was looking for props on eBay,” Scott says. Scott’s wife, Lisa, was browsing eBay one day for props. She found a faux cedar bridge selling online for $130 but decided to shop around. To her surprise, she found a similar cedar bridge locally for just $30. Lisa and Scott loaded up their minivan full of these props, which they sold for a huge return on eBay.
This action alone paid for their kids’ tuition, by the way. I mean, this wasn’t a bona fide business plan, but it opened Scott’s eyes to the possibilities. What other stuff could he sell for a profit?
The answer came when he bought a machine to transfer 8mm film for the photography business. After reverse-engineering the machine, Scott realized it was just a fancy projector. He could buy more projectors, modify them, and sell them at a premium. And that he did! Scott made over $100,000 selling old projectors.
That was way more efficient than the photography business, folks. After these two successes, Scott was hooked on eCommerce. Although his photography startup was already very liberating, he realized there was even more opportunity online.
Okay, you might be thinking, “Of course he made all that money. But that was 18 years ago.” But Scott disagrees with the idea that it’s harder to find work-life balance in 2019. He thinks it’s about the same.
Sure, you have platforms like Shopify and Amazon that make eCommerce easier than ever. But even though the platforms may change, business doesn’t. In fact, Scott says it’s easier for today’s entrepreneurs to:
- Create a thriving business
- Scale that business into an 8-figure entity
- Exit your business for a healthy sum of cash
- Repeat the process
…than it was 20 years ago. That’s good news for anyone thinking about starting a business or selling their existing brand for a juicy profit. “I think it’s easier nowadays to build a business and exit,” Scott says.
While it’s easier to “flip” your business today, most people don’t say, “I want to create an eight-figure business.” Most entrepreneurs say, “I want to be there every morning for my kids.” They’re focusing on their beach life and work-life balance—not just the cash.
If you want to see a change in your life, it’s time to change your business plan. You can find your own beach life by getting off the 60-hour workweek crazy train and onto a platform of sanity.
Scott credits his success not just to taking action, but doing it in a smart way. For example, when things went sideways at his construction gig, he didn’t up and quit his job on the spot. He decided to build things out on the side, growing earnings before leaving his job.
Whether you work for someone else or you’re working for yourself, it’s always a good idea to scale a new business plan on the side before jumping in headfirst. But hey, I know starting a business is easier said than done. You’re working full-time and you’ve got a billion other things to handle. How do you find the time to scale a business?
“When people say they don’t have time, I don’t have sympathy for that,” Scott says. According to Scott, there’s no other way to do it but to suck it up. To illustrate, when he was 25 years old he was:
- Working 60+ hours a week.
- Managing 13 employees.
- Building a house.
- Supporting his family.
There were some nights where Scott got maybe four hours of sleep. Maybe. While that’s an extreme example, he has a point. Most of us find ways to whittle away our time on unproductive things, like Netflix and Instagram, all the while groaning about how we don’t have time to start a business.
We have the time. We just don’t want it bad enough.
To get the most out of the “take action effect,” you need to want freedom bad enough to do the work. Scott did, and that’s why he was up until 2 am learning about Photoshop, getting a few hours of sleep, and working a full day. “I wanted it so bad. And I was interested in it because I wanted it so bad,” Scott says.
The good news is that hard work pays off, right? Better work-life balance is within reach once you start making money on your side hustle. I mean, nothing comes for free in life; we all have to decide where we’re willing to put in the effort and suffer a little. What’s important is that you still need to take action; you need to do something. Because when you show up and put in the work, you reap the rewards.
For example, once the money starts coming into your business, you don’t have to hustle as hard. That’s the point where you can say sayonara to your day job, grow a profitable startup, and live how you want. “The ‘take action effect’ has a ripple effect on your life and finances as well as other people,” Scott says.
I’ve Made It! Now What?
So you’ve left your job and created a kickass business. Congrats!
The thing is, once you get into a hustle mindset, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. But when you’re your own boss, there’s little need to stay up until 2 am every day, running yourself into the ground. I mean, this is America—you’re allowed to work as long as you want.
But at a certain point, it’s time to shut the laptop. Remember why you left your job in the first place? If you want to live on a boat, spend hours on the beach every day, or drop your kids off at school every morning, you have to be willing to take a break. Connect with your “why” so you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work.
Here’s how you can get out of the hustle mindset and find work-life balance.
1. Schedule Your Downtime
It’s hard to go from “no sleep and working all the time” to “Hey, now it’s time to relax.” Downtime is such a challenge for newly-minted business owners that Scott recommends you schedule your downtime.
Because guess what? You could always do more to grow your business. Always. But you’re human and you aren’t built to work 24/7. You have to set limits at some point, and that’s why a schedule is so important.
“Six o’clock at night is my cutoff now,” Scott says. That gives him time to spend the evening with his family. And, hopefully, catch up on some much-needed sleep after months of hustling. If you’re having trouble getting out of the hustle mentality, stick to a strict schedule for downtime. Hide and lock up your phone if you need to! Your work-life balance is worth it.
2. Create A Vision Board
Scott talks about taking action to build the life and business that you want. But it’s hard to build something without a blueprint, right? That’s where a vision board comes in handy.
Years ago, Scott made a vision board of what he wanted out of his life. To see what he was working towards. Sure, he daydreamed about a boat in Maine (that didn’t happen once the kids came along), but he included simple things, like drinking coffee with his wife in the morning. Thanks to his vision board, Scott’s dream of morning coffee dates with his wife came true.
By adding these specific images to his vision board, Scott knew what he needed to do to create his future. He knew his kids wouldn’t remember that Dad earned another $1 million. They would remember that he was there for them, and that’s what it means to design your life like you would a business plan.
Once you get your head right, it’s time to take a hard look at your business plan. Scott offers 3 tips to future-proof a successful business—without infringing on your work-life balance.
1. Look For Market Fit
To enjoy life outside of your business, you need a business that makes money. That’s simple enough, right? But sometimes people let passion blind their business sense. After all, if you’ve spent hours designing a product, you think it’s got to be a winner.
To design a future-proof startup, you have to start with the market. Never create a business that doesn’t have a proven market. That’s a one-way ticket to long nights and overdue bills, which you don’t want.
But Scott says it’s not enough to pick a market. Pick a sub-market that’s more niche and specialized, but that still has an engaged audience. So, if you sell fishing gear, you would niche down to bass fishing gear. You could even get more granular if you’re a huge fishing freak, selling kayak bass fishing equipment.
You want to target a market that’s:
- Designed for longevity
From there, you can build out the category for more earnings. But no, don’t dive headfirst into a business without proof of concept first. Take action, but be smart about it.
Not sure what to sell? There are plenty of tools that will help you find best-selling product ideas. Search for popular products on Amazon or use tools like Jungle Scout to see what people are buying. Always use a third-party tool to verify that there is, in fact, demand in the market for a product like yours.
2. Diversify Your Business
Scott knows folks who make an absolute killing on eCommerce—some to the tune of 6,000 units a day. There’s so much opportunity online, but there’s also a lot of risk. Do you really want to put all of your eggs in one basket?
Scott says the key to starting a business that’s future-proof is diversity. Diversify how you bring in revenue so you’re earning from several income streams. After all, platforms change over time. Diversifying helps you hedge your bets.
But what other options are there besides eCommerce platforms? Scott’s favorite options are content sites and affiliate agreements.
Build A Content Site
You’re excited to create a product and sell it online, but that costs a lot of cheddar to pull off. Product businesses can put a real strain on your startup resources if you don’t have piles of cash lying around.
Instead of going full steam ahead on a product, consider creating a content site first. “It’s not going to cost you hardly anything to set up a website,” Scott says. Content sites aren’t going to disappear any time soon; people are always going to be searching for information online, so they’re a solid business plan.
Don’t Forget Affiliates!
Speaking of content sites, there’s a very effective way to earn moolah from content without ads. Just sign up to be an Amazon affiliate! Write kickass content and add links to Amazon products within your copy. If a shopper clicks on a link and buys something, you get a modest commission, usually to the tune of 4% – 8%.
There are hardly any costs for starting a business like a content site, and you can start making money immediately. Build an understanding of your audience through content and, if you want to go the product route, use that understanding to make a better product.
3. Don’t Focus Just On Amazon
Scott used to be all-in on Amazon, and he was actually known as “the Amazon guy.” Like everyone else at the time, he was on Amazon and making good money. But then the market started to change.
More sellers entered the market, flooding it with competition. Scott didn’t like the increased risk from these competitors, as well as the risk of losing his Amazon account. Everything was too dependent on a third-party. Scott didn’t want to deal with the headaches of relying on a platform for his livelihood.
Instead, he went back to the basics and decided to diversify. If you want to future-proof your business, you can’t rely just on Amazon FBA. Instead of earning money and thinking about today, try starting a business that will scale. Design a business that you can sell and exit with the purpose of enjoying the life you’ve built. Build a business that lets you live on your own terms by getting out of the Amazon rut. “It’s all about evolving and growing,” Scott says.
Scott had this “take action moment” when he built a vision board of his ideal life. Some things on his vision board, like owning a boat in Maine, didn’t work out. But he did write down the qualities of the woman he’d like to marry—and six months later, he found her. Scott says his life wouldn’t be the same if he hadn’t envisioned how he wanted life to be outside of his business.
Life changes and business changes. If you want to see a change in your life, you have to take action. Ditch those 60-hour workweeks by hustling like crazy to grow your biz on the side. Once it’s viable, future-proof your business with a good market fit and diversification. Stop missing out on your life. Trade your FOMO for YOLO by taking the right action for your biz.
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