Some of you probably looked at the title of this post and thought that by clicking on it you would be led to one of those sites that tries to sell you on some earth-shattering business opportunity. Or maybe one of those full-page ads where you keep scrolling down for about twenty minutes, reading various fonts of different size and color that proclaim great and exciting things, only to get to the end and find out that you have to “Click here” to learn more. Or a video that seems to go on forever with no real leads or answers and, to make matters worse, doesn’t allow you to skip ahead to get to the point.
In any case, many people living in a capitalist society where one of the greatest privileges is the ability for literally anybody to be able own a business don’t realize the other incredible opportunity that already exists. They want to become entrepreneurs and to experience the excitement and satisfaction that results from owning a business, so they go through all the hoops to get one started. A few succeed, most fail, but in the meantime a select few businesses separate from the pack to eventually become the Apples and the Amazons, the Ultas and the Under Armours’ of this world. And especially those who have failed look upon the successes with perhaps admiration, perhaps envy or even hatred, and wonder if they can ever enjoy success like that someday.
And then there are the people who, due to debt, tight finances, disability, lack of business acumen or ‘smarts’ – whatever the case may be – wish they could own a business but they just can’t or it hasn’t worked for them. So they have given up and continue with their day-to-day existence of working for another entrepreneur to earn their income.
Robert Kiyosaki discussed in this book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, the idea of leveraging. It is the idea of having your money work for you instead of simply you working for money. Now please don’t pass this off as an endorsement of or infomercial for this author or his book; it is only referenced as a source of explaining the idea of leveraging in an understandable manner. However, many businesspeople don’t even understand this concept. They start a business in the hopes that it will offer more benefits than being an employee only to find that the success of their business depends largely, if not solely, on their being there most or all of the time. In other words, if they go down then so does their business. And so many of them feel ‘married’ to their business and trapped with no way out.
The idea of leveraging became popularized with the creation of the franchise, of which Ray Kroc was the originator as he took the original McDonald’s restaurant, created a successful business model, and then cloned it into the tens of thousands of McDonald’s locations that now span the globe. By having several locations, if one burned down or if a particular area suffered an economic downturn, then there would be only a minor dip in Mr. Kroc’s income because there were still several other restaurants to keep his income rolling in.
Maybe you’ve read to this point and are now wondering, ‘What’s the point?’ Just what is this “other incredible opportunity” that was mentioned in the second paragraph? Is it leveraging? Is it franchising?
To avoid becoming one of those full-page ads without an answer at the bottom, the opportunity is this: to become part-owner of somebody else’s business.
Now before the explanation is given, please remain open-minded and resist any fears or concerns that leap to mind or any stories of Uncle Ned “losing his shirt” and just be objective. Don’t close the page or close your mind. Here goes. Our capitalist system not only allows literally anybody to own a business, but it allows non-business people to become part-owners of other businesses by buying shares or ‘pieces’ of those businesses through the (drumroll please) ….. stock market.
If you’ve continued reading past the mention of the dreaded phrase “stock market”, then congratulations: what you read next could possibly change your financial situation for the better over the long term with far less risk than owning your own business.
To a lot of people, the stock market has meant only losing money. Instead of viewing it as a way to become a part-owner of the most successful businesses in history it is viewed by those who don’t understand how it works as a slot-machine. Some perspective is needed at this point by way of a scenario.
Suppose you already own a small business. Maybe you rent space in a mall in the form of a store or kiosk. Maybe you sell your wares at local trade fairs and community halls by setting up a table. Maybe all of the above. Perhaps you’re really cutting-edge and have also set up an online store and have a payment system on your tablet or smartphone. Your Facebook page is getting new followers and driving your on-location and online sales to new highs. You’re doing everything right according to current small-business trends. Maybe you want to do some or all of the above but haven’t gotten started yet.
After several months, perhaps several years, you finally feel as though your product is gaining traction but one day you notice that sales of your product are dropping off fast. You’re in your store or kiosk or at your table and you muster the courage to ask a few potential customers who have chosen not to buy your product why this is and they respond by telling you that they’ve found a better/cheaper product on Amazon or Esty or eBay.
Even though starting a business has never been easier it seems as though the competition has never been stronger. Amazon is chewing up and spitting out the traditional brick-and-mortar retailers; they’re just now dipping their toes into automotive parts and disrupting yet another industry. People everywhere are copying ideas. So you decide, after much anguish, that it’s just not working out for you – better to cut your losses now than to invest more time and, worse, money into this venture, this product that you thought would become your full-time income and your retirement plan but which has suddenly become more popular to buy elsewhere.
Whatever the scenario, starting a business is easy but success is immensely difficult. The point is not to discourage you but for you to realize that there is a lot of sweat-equity and brilliant planning – and luck – involved in rising from the masses and becoming even a fraction of what the Apples and the Amazons and Ultas and the Under Armours’ have become. By all means, start a business and pursue your dreams if you’re insistent but some of you reading this can relate to having your dreams crushed. What next?
Regardless of your past business experience or your aspirations to own one, perhaps consider the opportunity mentioned above: consider becoming a part-owner of some of the best businesses out there. Maybe do this along with owning your own business or instead of owning your own business.
This is where the concept of leveraging comes in and can change your situation forever. If you start to buy shares in several successful companies, maybe $500 worth at a time, then you have become part owner in businesses run by the most brilliant financial minds on the planet. If you can’t compete with Amazon (stock ticker symbol AMZN) then why not put some of your money into its stock instead or with any other company listed on a stock exchange whose products or services that you and millions of other people use every day? Why not Shopify (ticker symbol SHOP), the company that is hands-down the leader in helping entrepreneurs world-wide set up e-commerce sites and is incidentally now partnered with Amazon? Don’t let share prices scare you; companies like this are still just getting started!
Once you have a ‘basket’ of at least a dozen companies in which you have part ownership – which is what owning shares of stock in a company actually is – then a bad day/month/year experienced by one or a few of them won’t hurt your nest egg, especially if the others continue to rise. You may go through periods when things are boring or where you’re at a net loss, but holding these businesses and being patient with them for several years – just like you would with your own business – will eventually give you more winners than losers if you choose wisely.
Choosing companies that also pay a sustainable and regular dividend also means that, several years down the road, you can stop re-investing these dividends into buying more shares of that company and start to pay yourself. An additional source of income, one source per stock owned, to your company and/or government pension. This is one of the most practical examples of leveraging in action, of having money work for you when you can longer – or no longer want to – work for money.
Here are some practical tips that don’t involve clicking a button for more info:
- Get your financial house in order. If you’re in debt then maybe some advice from Dave Ramsey might help. If not in debt then start setting aside 10 percent of your net income toward stock purchases.
- Get advice. More people are going the way of researching their own stocks to own instead of going through a financial advisor at a brokerage or a bank in order to avoid extra fees or indifferent attitudes. Whatever the case, do your own research nevertheless: The Motley Fool (Fool.com and/or Fool.ca) provides very solid, objective advice that ignores market hype and hysteria, for example, and focuses on the long term where the real returns on an investment are to be had (not in day-trading or other short-term trading but rather in real investing). Warren Buffett’s ideas form the core of the Fool philosophy.
- Set up a trading account. This allows you to deposit and/or transfer money that you can buy shares of companies with. Your stocks can be held in regular investing accounts and/or tax-free and retirement accounts. E*Trade and Fidelity are examples of popular trading platforms in the U.S. and RBC Direct Investing and TD Waterhouse are popular in Canada but as with company stocks, do your own research about fees per stock trade, fees for depositing/withdrawing money, etc.
- Learn how the stock market works. Again, The Motley Fool sites mentioned above are incredible resources about not just companies and industries but also about how the market works. Don’t dump your money into something you don’t understand or you will surely lose money. “Will” and “surely” are certainties if you’re not educated about how the market works.
- Buy your first stock … and then don’t sell it for a LONNNGGG time. Three-to-five years is the recommended minimum. Your short-term money belongs in a bank account or under your bed or in a guaranteed investment. Anyhow, it’s best to start with companies that you’re familiar with and whose products/services you’re addicted to. Many people are addicted to Apple gadgets, Starbucks drinks, shopping on Amazon, buying Ulta cosmetics, and swiping their MasterCard. These companies are examples of cash-gushing machines so one of these would be a brilliant place to start.
There you have it, practical ideas to become part-owner in the world’s most successful businesses without actually starting your own business! No need to “click here” to learn more. However, endless resources are at your fingertips, on this site and elsewhere, so click on those to be educated, and you MUST be educated or else – as with owning your own business – you will surely lose money. So happy hunting and choose wisely!
One last thing: be sure to click the Follow button near the top of this page. Also, if you’re a brand-new stock investor – or still thinking about it – then I highly recommend starting with my 5-part Stock Starter Series. To new beginnings!