Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taking Time to Realize One's Dreams

This morning, I came across this slide deck on Prashant Bekhare's blog which helped me shed some light on my journey through life and work. In essence, we work for Time, Money and Security.

  • Time: we spend time earning the money that help us achieve security. As we are working, we exchange time for money.

  • Money: we need it to achieve our dreams, whether material, intellectual, social or spiritual as they may be.

  • Security: this is the state where we can spend time and money to do whatever we've always wanted to do.
What is argued is that earning money in exchange for working time limits our ability to spend time on realizing our dreams. The next step would be to establish a royalty-based business that multiplies our virtual time, by having others spend time to earned money on our behalf, in exchange for our business knowhow and experience.

However powerful the message is, it leaves me with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, as I am striving to achieve financial independence and I have hopes that could happen some time in the future, I realize that time is our most precious asset and that one has to know when to stop spending it to earn money and security in order to use it to fullfil our dreams .

On the other hand, I cannot help thinking of the slide deck as some sort of propaganda to join the Income Royalty Organization, which seems to have goals of its own that are very unclear to me.

How does it feel to you?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Entreprise creation: from wishful thinking to really doing it!

On the second day at the "Salon de la Micro-Entreprise" I particularly appreciated Laurent Edel's talk about the transition from idea to realisation. With some humour and a lot of sensitivity, Laurent pointed out the hard questions one has to honestly ask oneself, in order to make sure we are not fooling ourselves into believing that entreprise creation is the universal answer to our problems:

  • If I sorted out my current problem or un-satisfaction, would I still want to create my entreprise or become consultant?

  • When is looking forward to creating the most acute? Is it when difficulties are piling up and we feel like we when to just give up and do something else?

Then he asked a question which is sure to surprise a number of my American friends:

  • What can you do to make sure that your endeavour will be a failure?

Laurent explained that visualizing every instance of making mistakes helps make sure that they won't happen. This is obviously counter to all positivistic theories whereby you visualize success to put yourself in the right state of mind to succeed. My take to it is that this is a tool that needs to be used with extreme caution. I recognize the value of analysing risks, which helps come up with mitigating actions, but at the same time, seeing oneself in a winning position is a powerful way to prepare for success. It may be alright to envisage situations in which we fail, as it helps ask the right questions and prevents us from fooling ourselves, to the condition that ultimately we follow up with positive thoughts that put us in a winning mindset.

Some quick search on "positive visualization" showed a lot of hype about how visualization bring to reality everything you want. That's not true however: what works is a positive mindset and then a lot a sweat and persistence to make things happen.

Finally, I retained the idea the transition does not need to be brutal and disruptive. It can come one small step at a time. Asking ourselves: what small actions did I accomplish today that demonstrate that I am progressing toward my goal is helpful to get a positive feeling from our progress.

Laurent's presentation was very popular, to the point that a lot of people were denied access to the conference room for security reasons. The story does not say whether there were more dreamers in room than in the group of persons who could not attend his talk...

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Portage salarial or umbrella companies": risk free entrepreneurship*

The next session I attended at the "Salon de la Micro-Entreprise" in Paris on October 9th was sponsored by, a portage company which basically offers to employ people who aspire to create their own business, but are not quite ready to do it on their own.

Main services provided by "Portage companies":

  • Employee status, with public and private health insurance and means of contributing to a pension scheme.

  • Compensation is based on business contracts that the employee-entrepreneur lands, which corresponds to a net pay of about 50% of contract money (after deduction of the portage company charges (10%) and the health insurance and pension deduction (40%). Please note that the net pay is before tax, as in France, tax are due one year after income was earned.
  • Professional insurance and judiciary protection
  • Invoicing and accounting services
  • Network of entrepreneurs and potential clients
  • Portage seems to be an appealing proposition to intellectual workers who would like to start a business of their own, test a new idea, product or service, while minimizing risks. They are still considered as employees, which in France, ensures maximum protection in case their business is not as successuf as anticipated.

From what I've seen the main domains of application are strategy, human resources, training and information services.

What's in it for potential clients?

Well, companies looking to offer them one-off missions that require specific skills, can do so with the assurance that they will get a highly qualified consultant, backed by the portage companies' reputation, at a very competitive cost.

Alternatives for them would be to 1) hire a person either temporarilly or permanently with all the overhead of the recruiting process or 2) call upon a temp company (of the like of Manpower) at a high cost.

Who are these "umbrella companies" in France?

There were a number of portage companies present at the "salon", in addition to Freelance .com (formerly and Valor Consultants). Others present were:

Public services (part of Départments' Chambers of Commerce and Industry) also offer structures to host and help would be consultants. It's very well worth checking with your local administration, if you live in France.

What personal insights did I gain from this presentation?

The formula looks vey appealing to rapidly gain knowledge about how consultants operate and to help get a network of people (competitors and potential client). It seems like a good way to validate a project and speed up getting to a profitable situation. So my plan is to investigate further by contacting several of these companies, probably towards beginning of next year.

* I could not find a suitable translation for the French expression "portage salarial". I'd appreciate any clue... Update: thanks for the tip. I'll adopt "umbrella company" as a translation.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Salon de la Micro-Entreprise" Paris - Oct 9th - Day 1

The "salon" was pack full of company stands and featured a good number of conferences that were to the point and very stimulating.

The day started with a talk by Catherine Pompei on "Consulting: how to develop a successful business", based on the book she co-wrote "Consultants: how to land your first contracts". According to Catherine, there are 3 type of consulting missions:

  • Expertise
  • Those requiring a specific domain know how
  • Outsourced resource, which independent consultant rarely take

I found this classification useful as it made me realise that I aspire to be an expert consultant. My expertise is in social network analysis and business analysis to help companies fully leverage the potential of the tacit knowlede they don't know they have.

The other re-inforcing thought that I got from her talk was that success lies in how a consultant nurtures their network and particularly their clients. A successful consultant gives first with no propect of immediate return. It is a great way to establish a genuine atmosphere of cooperation and trust. In fact, it is a way of life. You cannot fake it. You have to feel the imperative of acting in such a way for your own well being.

Finally, Catherine had a nice image to emphasize two essential qualities of a successful consultant: a consultant has to embrace the strategy of the elephant's toe allied with the agility of the kangooroo. The meaning of this is that it's best to establish commercial relationships with a client in measured steps, so that the commitment does not seems too important upfront that it would trigger a negative response. At the same time, flexibility and adaptability are paramount to ensure that the consultant's contribution will fullfill the client's expectations in the best way.

I bought Ms Pompei's book so I could get a deeper understanding of the steps that I need to take to land my first contract.

I attended a couple more conferences that day that I will describe later.