A fundamental tenet in communications circles is to never insult your target audience. So starting this column with, "If you're in IT services and you're not rich, you must be stupid," is probably ill-advised. But no matter how I might soften that statement to make it more palatable, it is my central theme nonetheless. Don't be insulted - hear me out.
The more I observe the rapid growth of the IT-services sector, the more I see the early days of Silicon Valley. Rather than kids in garages making stuff, however, there's an unmistakable, insatiable demand from Main Street to Wall Street for just about anybody who can "actually work this stuff".
The best examples are people you personally know, not people you read about. Maybe it's this way in other fast-growing industries, but forgive me for saying this: a lot of ordinary folks I've known over the past 10 years are getting filthy rich. And why not?
Capitalism at its best
This is Western capitalism at its best! My intention is not to irritate but rather inspire those who've observed the same phenomenon and are thinking that maybe they're missing their fair share of this market's new wealth. So what does it take? Well, if you're working for someone else and want to go off on your own, the mechanics of starting a business are universal. Talk to your accountant, your lawyer, your friends, and your family. If you really want buckets of money, you'll need a smart business plan and probably some connections.
But becoming an entrepreneur is much more than getting new business cards and a letterhead. It's emotional. Success takes self-confidence, conviction, enthusiasm, passion - all tempered by humility.
It's also about how much risk you're willing to take.
Can you handle the pressure? Can you feel secure without a "brand" behind you? Most important, once past the start-up phase, do you have the fortitude to reign in your ego when the money starts flowing?
Perhaps you're not entrepreneur material but still want a greater measure of independence. A partnership may work for you. Do you have chemistry with a few friends in the business? What do you have to lose by putting some ideas down on paper?
At the very least, start equating the value of what you do with the return it yields your employer. If your compensation is out of sync with that value, move on. I've seen some incredible lures to attract good people in IT services. Another business to consider is analogous to a sports-management agency, where you negotiate the contracts for IT-services superstars. Rather than headhunting, this is more the kind of full-service celebrity care heretofore reserved for entertainment and sports stars. I'll leave you with this: a CEO of a widely known IT-services firm once confided to me that he was not - nor was any member of his executive team - among the top-five highest compensated people in the company. Fascinating.