Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Got Myself a Plan (or two)

Hello there! If you’re one of the hundreds who dropped by last week, welcome back. I figured that title (“How to Make a Million Dollars”) would lure people in, but I wasn’t expecting such a response. Obviously people are interested in finance, so I think I’ll stick with the topic, for this week at least. And it’ll have to be from my limited personal experience. I’m a writer, not a financial expert. If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t be a writer.

That said, I stand by both the plans I proposed last week. They will work, eventually. You can get a million dollars by persuading a million individuals to each give you a dollar, or by producing a million items to sell for a dollar each. Your success will hinge on the quality of your product, customer demand, and how hard you’re willing to work. You won’t get the million all at once, but with luck and good timing along with the other requirements mentioned, I’ll bet you can earn yourself a comfortable living.

Though maybe not at writing. That’s tricky to make a living at. Most of the time you’ll find yourself waiting for weeks for word from publishers, and the word might be “no”. If it’s a story or article, you get a one-time payment (sometimes on acceptance, but sometimes on publication, which can be another year or two). If it’s a book, you might get an advance. E-books, the wave of the future, don’t pay advances. Either way, royalty payments are usually sent out quarterly, sometimes monthly, occasionally twice a year. That’s assuming your book sold enough to earn you royalties. I once got a royalty payment of three pennies. No kidding. They sent me three pennies in an envelope. The stamp cost more than the payment. Oh, and while you’re waiting for your money, the bills keep showing up in your mailbox with depressing regularity. Hope you held onto your day job.

If you want to make a million faster than that, you’ll probably be better off choosing a different product. If I could bake, I’d do cookies or cupcakes or muffins or something along those lines. Nobody’s going to turn down a cupcake, and you can whip up a couple of dozen of those in an afternoon. Some places are already selling muffins at a dollar a pop. Just find a million people hungry for your product and you’re in business.

True life example: local (Lancaster, PA) businesswoman Anne Beiler. She made her millions with pretzels—the soft pretzel, to be specific. Ever heard of the Auntie Anne’s franchise? That’s her. She’s rich now, but she wasn’t when she started out. She built the foundations of her fortune at a farmer’s market in Downingtown, selling one pretzel at a time. Her efforts paid off handsomely: she sold her company a couple years back for several million dollars. Think about that next time you’re smearing mustard on a pretzel.

Here’s what she did right. She took a popular regional treat (the Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel) and, if you’ll pardon the pun, put her own twist on it. Food, especially portable snack food, tends to go over big with shoppers. Beiler experimented with flavors like garlic and cinnamon, and set up shop in a venue with plenty of hungry foot traffic. Her product caught on with the buying public, and she was on her way.

Now at this point she could have stuck with the farmer’s market stand or opened her own pretzel shop and continued as a one-woman operation and maybe done all right. Instead she took a chance and opted to franchise. Auntie Anne’s pretzel stands started popping up all over the place, with other people making the pretzels according to her recipe.

Beiler got out of the kitchen and stepped into the CEO’s office. That’s another decision you may find yourself faced with. How big of a business do you want? Do you want to do it all yourself, or farm some or all of the tasks out to others while you supervise?

No matter how big or small your operation becomes, it all comes down to following one of the two plans: you either find a million people willing to give you a dollar for something, or create a million products and charge a dollar apiece. Or $5, or $10, or whatever the market’s willing to bear. I’m just using the dollar as an example. How many people you can get to hand over those dollars will determine how fast your million mounts up.

That’s the bad news. No matter how you choose to make your million, at some point it’s going to require selling. Life is all about selling: selling a product, selling your services, selling yourself to a potential employer. If you hate the thought of sales, too bad. You want to be rich? You’re now a salesperson. Like it or don’t, it’s the only game in town.

Right now, I’m not very good at it. Those hundreds of page views we got last week? I don’t think I made any sales. I won’t know for sure until the quarterly royalties come in. Looks like I need to work harder on my sales and marketing techniques. Or maybe I’ll go bake muffins. If that takes off, I can write a cookbook. Wishing you huge profits …


Savanna Kougar said...

I'm good at baking some things... like my own chocolate chip cookie and brownie recipes. People have suggested I sell them. HOWEVER... the ingredients I use could price me out of the market. Also, having a big enough and consistent supply of said ingredients is another concern. Then, there's the health department... one complaint from a competitor, for example, and if the inspector doesn't like you, or is on the take... well, there's a disaster that will stop your million in it's track. And I have another problem. I can't make the cookies, cakes, brownies cookie-cutter the same each time. It's a personality quirk or dysfunction... whatever... and to be honest while I enjoy baking, I'm not that fond of being in the kitchen for the length of time it would take to be successful...

THUS... writing seems to be my best option.

Pat C. said...

After I posted, it occurred to me I probably wasn't clear enough. This blog makes it look like the way to riches is paved with baked goods. It can be, but it doesn't have to be. Steve Jobs didn't work in the food industry, and he seems to have done okay.

The point is, to make money you need a product, then you have to sell it. That product can be anything, including yourself and your skills and/or labor. If your route to riches is to marry a millionaire, you have to sell him on the idea of making you his wife. Which for some reason reminds me of the old Dolly Parton quote: "It takes a lot of money to make me look this cheap."

So why aren't I rich? Because I'm lazy. It takes me forever to create my chosen product. I'm going to talk about that next week.

Pat C. said...

If I was going to market a food product, it would be chocolate dinosaurs. Like Easter Bunnies, but with T. Rexes and stuff. Imagine the cream-filled or peanut butter-filled herbivorous types. You bite into their bellies and the flavorful innards ooze out. Kids would love that!

Somebody's going to see this, run with the idea, and make a million dollars, I just know it. Readers, the ball's in your court. Don't say I never gave you anything.

Savanna Kougar said...

Great Idea about the dino chocolates. Have you looked on the web to find out if someone is making these?

I just went with my own example of baking, 'cause it was topical. I know your main thing was *selling*.

Selling yourself to a millionaire reminds of an old flick with Marilyn Monroe and two other famous actresses of the time -- that I can't remember offhand -- anyhoo, they were girlfriends and that was there goal because they were all poor.

Great quote by Dolly Parton.

But yeah, if it was true that hard work makes you rich... naw, not true. Or I'd be stinking wonderfully rich, and so would my family. Obviously, it can be a component in success. But heck, I know people who haven't worked near as hard, and they made some big bucks.

Pat C. said...

Hard work will make you rich -- but, as I said in last week's post, it depends.

Yet another true-life adventure: one of my parents' friends worked for an energy company (Western Electric; I think they were regional) who promised him more money if he got a degree. He took night courses, worked his butt off, got the degree ... and they reneged. But the hard work wasn't wasted because he quit and went into business for himself. He got into selling computers right at the start of the PC boom. He made himself a pretty penny, lemme tell you. I bought the Troglodyte 1000 from him. (It was state of the art at the time. It's still working, by the way, after 25 years.)

Hard work plays a part, but so does luck and timing. My nephew would be rich right now if he hadn't been selling mortgage loans when the housing market took a nose dive. I'd still have a job if I hadn't joined a company that sent the work to India within a year of my hiring. And so forth.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, timing is part of it... I have to say, though, given my experiences, and the experiences of those I know, the picture is far more complex than hard work, timing, good education, and good luck... my sis, who graduated with a 4.0 in college is a perfect example... hard working, saved companies tons of money, reliable, and way smart... she's done okay financially... but really, she should have done far better, and gone far higher... except... well, I'll keep my opinions to myself on this one.

Pat C. said...

Because she's female? That's a whole separate blog right there, and one I don't plan to get into. I was working at a newspaper when the editor hired a female assistant editor. Then he left, and the new editor was one of these manly men who couldn't be comfortable around a woman (can't swear, they don't understand sport or guy stuff, etc.). All the hard work in the world wasn't about to change his mind (he was also an a-hole). She ended up leaving. He promptly hired a guy, who left for a better job a year later. Then the whole paper folded because, as stated, the editor was an a-hole and mismanaged the place. I wasn't even working directly with him and I lost my job too. So did almost all of the staff. Like I said, it depends on luck and timing. Mine's been spectacularly bad.

Savanna Kougar said...

In part because of her gender. But a lot of it also had to do with office politics, and she didn't play the game.

Savanna Kougar said...

To add, the picture is even more complex than that.

Pat C. said...

Oh gawd. Don't get me started on office politics. Again, that's a blog by itself.

Savanna Kougar said...

That is a blog by itself... had my share of it when I worked at a college. Actually, in one form or another at most of my jobs.