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Business Basics – Finding Your Niche

This short article considers what is meant by business and provides advice on finding your own niche in the age of the Web.

What is Business?

Survival requires many inputs; food, shelter etc etc. Yet more inputs provide additional comforts of life. Humans developed division of labor as means of increasing efficiency and individual utility. Rather than everyone try to do everything themselves, we specialize in a particular function and do it for others in return for the benefit of their functions; the process is blurred somewhat by money.

Business, essentially, is the process identifying the function/niche(s) that you wish to perform, doing it (them) for other people and receiving payment (and using such payments to buy your own needs/wants). (more…)

Chefs, Actors and Leverage

What’s the difference between bus drivers, chefs and surgeons on the one hand, and football players, actors and Web site operators on the other?

The answer is leverage, or what Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to in The Black Swan as scalability. Whether, and how much, to leverage is one of the biggest decisions to face in choosing a career.

A bus driver can only drive one bus at a time; similarly a surgeon can only operate on one patient at a time. The income of both, and countless others engaged in many non-leveraged professions is proportionate to the time and effort devoted to their work. Of course there are variations within a particular trade, the more skilled the surgeon (or accountant, plumber, gardener…) the higher the unit fee that can be expected. But in all cases, once they stop doing it they stop getting paid.

In contrast, consider the case of most actors. When they’re not waiting tables or driving taxis they might be playing to a few dozen in a community hall. But a few actors get to star in movies, and for the same amount of acting get to be seen by 100s of millions, not to mention DVD sales etc. That’s the power of leverage. (more…)

Is Self-employment right for You?

The question of whether its better to be employed or to run your own business has probably occurred to most of us at some time or another. In fact both paths have advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pointers on how to decide what’s best for you.

The biggest attraction of employment has always been security. You have a contract with your employer to work for a certain rate per hour/week/month and provided you do your job to his/her satisfaction that income is guaranteed. Until relatively recently, employment meant a job for life. This is less true these days with many employed jobs operating on a fixed-term basis. Even open-ended contracts are subject to termination due to “restructuring”, “downsizing” and the like. That said, the degree of certainty of income mostly still exceeds that which comes from self-employment. (more…)

Finding Your Life’s True Vocation

Do you have a job, a career, or a vocation?

A job is something undertaken simply to put food on the table and a roof overhead. A career usually implies a skilled trade or profession reached after a significant period of training/education, often with scope for continuing progression. A vocation goes further than the above. It is the alignment of one’s efforts and achievements with their major life purpose.

In thinking of vocation examples of selfless philanthropists such as Mother Teresa and Albert Schweitzer spring to mind. Admirable though these individuals may be, finding and pursuing your vocation need not involve such extremes of sacrifice. (more…)