Tips From A Conservative Entrepreneur

Posted: February 8, 2015 by Jerry Malsh in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

jerry-malsh-2015I was a late bloomer.

It took me 37 years to finally become an entrepreneur!

When I graduated from college in ’69 (that’s 1969, not 1869), there was a recession going on and the only place that offered me a job was Sears, Roebuck in Chicago … writing catalogue copy for the automotive department–specializing in mufflers, tailpipes and tires.

Pretty glamorous, eh?

About 4 months of that grind was all I could take, so every night I cut out pictures from magazines, pasted them on the cardboard backing from my laundered shirts and typed in my headlines and copy for what I thought would be good ads.

I’d skip lunch every day to take the El into town and shop my portfolio of work to the big ad agencies.

The Leo Burnett Company, one of the best then and now, hired me.

From there I went to work for a smaller agency in Nashville, then back to Chicago for another global agency, then at last home to stay in Cincinnati with a medium-sized shop.

All that time, my creative/supervisory roles and responsibilities were increasing.

I had become an intrapreneur.

During my ten years at the Cincinnati agency, the largest of 5 offices in as many states, I had been VP/Creative Director and a shareholder.

And when, at the end of every year, as our office kept bringing in new business, making money and winning awards, at least one of the other offices would be losing business and money, thereby always reducing my bonuses, raises and shareholder value.

I finally decided that if I was going to truly benefit from my efforts, I might as well lose the training wheels, run my own show and take my own risks.

So, at age 37, I became an entrepreneur.

My only business plan for this new venture was knowing that I was going to succeed.

I picked up my first client a few days after resigning from the previous agency.

And while the word ‘entrepreneur’ conjures up swashbuckling, sexy, romantic images to many, to me it was always tough, sometimes lonely and never predictable.

Yet I still wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.

For the first few months I was a one-man band working out of my small one-bedroom apartment.

As soon as I could afford it, I hired my first employee who acted as an assistant in charge of everything else I didn’t have time to do.

Once more business came in, I took the first floor of a renovated brownstone office in OTR (before it was cool) and hired my second employee.

Next, I took the second floor and hired another two people.

The rest, as they say, is history … albeit a modest history of which I’m proud.

Tips From A Conservative Entrepreneur:

Pace yourself.  Take the long view. You’re building your future.

Work hard and play harder.  That’ll strengthen your perspective which, of course, is your edge. 

Pay your employees and your vendors before you pay yourself.

Make sure your employees feel that they work with you, not for you.

Encourage your employees to become entrepreneurs.

Start debt free, stay debt free.

Hire a few people older than you are. Learn from their wisdom.

You’re only as good as your last piece of work.

Believe in yourself, not in your press. Whether it’s good, bad or ugly, don’t be inflated or deflated by what others have to say about you. Just be who you are.

Manage your expectations.

It’s not how big you are, it’s how good you are.

Size only matters when it comes to the magnitude of your ideas.

Be boldly responsible.

Consider zero sum budgeting.


© JMalsh&Company/PureThought/2014

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