November 18, 2017

I Am What I Was – An Entrepreneur

Cornfield

Cornfield in Indiana

I believe that for most of us, the adult we have become is a reflection of the child we once were.

Childhood Experiences Shape Our Lives

I love meeting people and learning about the paths they took to get to where they are today. In these discussions with others, I find quite often that events and experiences in a person’s childhood had a major impact on the direction their lives took, and especially on the career choices they made. This was certainly the case for me as there were two major experiences I had as a child that shaped my adult life and career choices. This article is about one of those experiences which was delivering newspapers. At age 11 I became a paperboy delivering newspapers to about 45 customers on Monday through Saturday each week. I did not know it at the time, but I had become a young entrepreneur.

The Work of a Paperboy

I delivered newspapers in the small town in Indiana where I grew up. The population was around 6,000 people and it was a rural area surrounded by farmland. In fact, most of Indiana is farmland and many people who have never lived in a rural area would call it a flyover state. For me, it was a great place to grow up and to this day, I find beauty and peace in those miles and miles of cornfields.

In those days, I rode my bicycle about a mile into town to a place where my newspaper bundle was dropped off each day. I would fold the papers into squares and stuff them into a canvas bag that attached to my bicycle handlebars. I drove my bicycle up and down the streets – Second Street, Third Street, and Fourth Street; obviously, my town was not very original in naming its streets. I got pretty good at flinging those squares 10 – 20 feet from the sidewalk and onto the front porches as I drove by.

One of the responsibilities of being a paperboy was that I had to collect the monthly bill from my customers. To keep track of the billing, I had a booklet that contained a sheet of tear off receipts for each customer. I would stop at each house and knock on the door hoping someone with money would answer. More often than not, one of the children would answer and tell me their parents were not home, they did not have any money, and I would have to come back. This could get quite frustrating so over time, I learned a pretty effective way to get my money. I would designate a Saturday each month as collection day to go into town for the entire day and try to get my money.

I delivered the newspapers in the afternoon on Saturdays but on collection day, I would get to town about 8:00 AM and start making the rounds knocking on doors trying to collect the money. After I was done visiting all of my customers once, I would wait an hour or two and make the rounds again visiting every customer who did not pay me the first time around. For those who still had not paid, I would try a third time when I made the rounds to deliver the newspapers in late afternoon. This approach was quite effective and at the end of the day, I usually only had a few customers who still had not paid.

Saving My Money

I loved taking the money I earned as a paperboy to the bank. Back then, you had a booklet called a paper passbook and each time you deposited or withdrew money, the passbook was updated. I loved opening the pages of that book and seeing how my money had grown with each deposit. The bank was so clean and everyone was so nice to me every time I visited. Some of the people at the bank were my customers and I really enjoyed going there.

I would save most of my money but I always kept a little out for fun. I remember taking my fun money to town each month after collection day and going to the dime store to pick something out for myself. I would spend a lot of time looking at things and deciding on whether I really wanted to spend my money. Often times, I would not spend my money that day, but instead would continue to wait until I found something I really wanted at a later time.

I Never Forgot the Experience

When I turned 16 years old, I felt I had outgrown my paper route and of course, I had other interests by then including cars, girls, and partying so I gave up the paper route to work other part time jobs that paid more money. However, the experience of being a young entrepreneur, earning and managing money, and working with customers never left me.

Learning About Saving and Investing for the Future

As a young adult, I became very interested in saving and investing for the future. I loved handling my personal finances and learning about how to invest. I began to read anything I could get my hands on about personal finance and investing. I would go to bookstores during my lunch hour and read as much as I could from personal finance and investment books. I usually did not buy the books but would instead, scan the chapters looking for ideas and absorbing the information. You would be surprised at how much you can learn from scanning the chapters of a book during your lunch hour.

Once in a while I would run across a book that I really liked and I would buy it. Waiting to buy just the right book probably came from my experiences as a paperboy going to the dime store on collection day to pick something out for myself, but ultimately waiting until later to make a purchase when I found just the right thing to buy.

Working towards My Goals

I had a 28-year career in the high technology industry working for others. I was a dedicated employee who worked very hard for my employers. I gave them my very best over the years. But I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to be my own boss someday. I would talk to my colleagues about how I wanted to own my time someday instead of working for someone else who owned me 8 hours a day and more. I came to the conclusion that money in the bank and long term investments would provide me with the ability to have more choices as I got older. I was willing to wait and allow my savings and investments to grow until the time was right, and then I would make a decision to leave my employer and try something else.

Returning to Being an Entrepreneur

The time finally came as I neared 50 years old. I decided to leave my old career behind and become a professional financial planner so I could help others achieve their goals and dreams just as I had achieved mine through saving, investing, hard work, and living beneath my means. It makes sense that I became a financial planner as I always enjoyed saving and investing for the future just as I had done as a paperboy when I was a kid.

Today I run my own financial planning firm and I have become again what I once was, an entrepreneur working with my clients and their finances.