Many people in Toronto have turned to gig economy to solve their financial woes, either full-time or as a small business on the side, or gig. Uber is one of the most popular solutions here, with most people driving customers around, while some partnered with Uber Eats to deliver food. With Uber driving, people balance their after work schedule, surge pricing and other factors to try and make a good amount of money for themselves. They set their own hours and pace so they feel like they're running their own businesses. For most, this could not be further from the truth. They are in fact running failing business ventures that are taking up the time they could spend looking for better employment or gaining new skills to become more competitive in the job market. Let's face it - Uber as a business model does not work for the drivers. If you Uber, you have to lake your insurance company know and they'll charge you more because you now transport people for profit. In addition, your car is getting greater wear and tear and will need more maintenance since you're driving around a lot more than you normally would; Uber earnings do not account for this. There are no benefits, and if you don't have benefits from work you need to pay for them yourself; another thing Uber earnings don't account for one bit. Also, what about the extra gas? I'm sure you could come up with a few more things to which we put a dollar value, deduct it from the driver's earnings, and see how Uber is ripping them off. Finally, Uber drivers are not serious business people with superb customer service skills; unlike most taxi drivers, they don't know how to handle drunk, horny, irate and other such customers. That is why there are so many incidents between Uber drivers and their fares. Therefore, people who dream of running their own business through a gig like Uber fail to face the reality of it all, and will fail at business from the start.
Now, we have a brick and mortar business dream. Many people here have been inspired by Food Network Shows to open up their food truck, coffee place or a fast food restaurant. Maybe they went to a chef school, worked in catering for a few years, or maybe they're just very talented (friends, family and relatives love their cooking) and think that instead of looking for a job they should get money from their family and the bank and open up a food joint. They love experimenting, always cook up something new, people compliment them and therefore the dream of being their own culinary boss is alive and well. A friend of mine has been bouncing around a few different food business ideas for a while now, and she got serious about wanting to open a restaurant. Her dreams are well known to me- heard about them a thousand times. She sure knows her food. However, I started getting annoyed because every time I asked her some concrete, business level Shark Tank types of questions, she got vague evasive and even fussy. Finally, during one of our hangouts, I asked her to put being fussy totally aside, and just objectively answer a few questions. I asked her about the size and layout of the location, costs to equip, costs to run it for a year, target market, who would do the marketing, menu ideas and so on. She had no good answers to most of my questions! She kept going back to the food she makes and how everyone always loves it. Seems to me that when faced with the reality of business planning and the idea of doing it every day after investing so much money into it, she would scurry back to her happy place- cooking, and nothing else. While I don't want to crush anyone's dream, one thing is clear. People who have a dream like that without a business model should just realize that dream through a job or better yet a career. Business should be left to those who understand that a dream is the fire in the belly of the business machine; a business person has to make the machine as well as fuel it.
Finally, we come to our last but not least example- running an online store. E-commerce through platforms like Shopify, Etsy, eBay, Amazon and more is practically the most popular work from home business model here, and has been for years. Most people who think about doing this have an idea what they want to sell, and again it's usually something they dream about selling because they're passionate and knowledgeable about it. The startup costs are usually way lower than running a brick and mortar business, so the price of admission is not an issue for most. Or so they think. A friend of a friend told me a while ago he was starting an online store that sells accessories made from bamboo. You know, wooden sunglasses, watches and the like. They're really popular and have that cool factor with a lot of people I know. I wished him luck and told a few people about it. Months later, I asked him again how the store was doing and he said he had to close it down because he wasn't getting enough traffic to it, and consequently not enough sales either. When I asked him what he did to promote it, he says he was promoting it organically on social media (organically means manually, for free by himself). When I asked him if he did any paid advertising, he said no and his reasons why not sounded to me like he didn't even bother to learn about paid advertising through social media platforms. Or, maybe he didn't have enough money to even consider it (I didn't want to pry). So yes, here we go- another business effort gone with the wind because it started based on lack of research and knowledge required for success. You see, in case you didn't know, marketing budget needs to exist in every real business that hopes to succeed. Excellent marketing campaigns make a business noticed, bring in customers and keep them coming back. A good rule with running an online store is to imagine how much you're saving by not renting a commercial space, and then putting as big of a chunk of that money you possibly can into marketing campaigns. Sure, you can also market your business manually (as you should), but this is a slow, inefficient process that may or may not pay off more than the paid marketing campaigns. When you pay, however, you get two things. You get your money's worth, and more importantly you get data on the people who responded to your marketing campaign (age, gender, location, interests, average income etc.). Therefore, no matter what someone's financial situation is or how badly they need more money, when a person wants to open an online store they should give it a few months to get going, have a few thousand dollars to spend on marketing, and market it organically as well. Oh, and they should have a well-researched product and price points, excellent written and visual content on their online store, fast response to customers and more. Clearly, you have to be determined, self-motivated, a bit of a risk taker and a true believer in what you're peddling to really make it work. All of this, sadly, most employee type people do not have.
I hope I made my point very clear in my three diverse examples. Now, I want you to know that I don't think that business-minded people are superior to employees and career seekers, or the other way round. But, I do hope that by now you understand that career work and business ownership are two different things, and that most of us are wired to do well in one or the other but likely not in both. Sure, there may be career people who end up running successful businesses and vice versa, but I believe this happens because people start off confused and then find their way. Entrepreneurship is great for a modern country like Canada or USA, but it should not be used as the opiate of the masses and should not be pushed on people who are clearly not meant to run a business because they only have a dream and nothing else. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, a government should not use entrepreneurship as the main solution for youth unemployment, or as an attempt to heal an ailing economy. People who should really just pursue a career will borrow money or get grants for half-baked business ideas, spend it all and go in debt, and waste their best years doing the wrong thing. The best way to avoid these mistakes is to know yourself well, be objective over what you can and cannot do, and ask others who have a dream how tangible that dream really is. Ask yourself and others the hard questions; initially it'll make you upset, but eventually you'll be glad you did it.