If Everyone’s a Boss, Who’s Really Working?

September 2018 “Why don’t you just take a stake in the company?” My manager looked at me from across the table and waited for a response that I didn’t immediately have, so he continued. “You would retain partial control of the venture, keep some monetary upside if they do well and keep your seat here, which will still pay very handsomely.”

It was a late September afternoon and I was sat across from my manager in an office at the back of the floor. By this stage, we had developed a pretty transparent team and so I was open with him when I had gotten an offer to join a start-up. It wasn’t the first offer I had gotten to do something else, but it was the first time I was genuinely interested in joining what looked to be an exciting and potentially lucrative project. Naturally, it meant I had to move on from my role in banking and embrace the wild west of start-up land, or so I thought…

“It didn’t really cross my mind Rob,” I responded frankly. “I figured it was my expertise they wanted more than my capital.” “But I need your expertise as well PB,” Rob responded with a smile. “In any case, the capital you can offer them would certainly make a difference and if the venture achieves the success they envisage, you’ll get rich off it anyway.” Rob paused for a moment before continuing, “Look, it’s different if you don’t enjoy what you do here anymore, then I could understand the proposition, but if you do still like working in this team and believe in this start up then I think at least see if they’d entertain an offer for you to seed rather than join their effort.”

I looked across to Rob, assessing what he had said. He had a point, I didn’t particularly dislike the work I was doing, on the contrary despite it being intense, I still really enjoyed the challenge. However, it was time for me to start investing in ideas and assets that would change my destiny which meant, perhaps Rob was right. Just then, as though he was reading my thoughts, Rob chimed in again,

“Look PB, you’ll come to learn this soon. The more you can make your money work in places where you needn’t be present, the quicker you’ll attain the financial freedom you crave.”

TodayDame Dash famously got on the popular morning show ‘The Breakfast Club’ and screamed: “There is no amount of money in this world someone could pay me to call them my boss. That’s like calling somebody daddy!” Now thankfully, I’ve developed no confusion of who the paternal figures are in my life, but this was one of the standout statements in a heated debate. With the boom in social media, direct to consumer marketing and the push for expanding opportunities for BAME individuals, the debate on ownership, running your own business and giving the finger to a 9-5 hustle has reached fevered levels. The comment section and threads are full of arguments on having a job versus running a business, being a boss versus having a boss and why owning anything less than 100% of your content is tantamount to being sodomised by the system. The thing is though; ownership is a big deal, ownership of fixed assets, beneficial ownership of stock, ownership of a business, they all contribute to building sound financial prudence and is a key pillar in building generational wealth. However, for this to really filter through to the people who come up from the “Ends” and the broader working class, it has to be communicated with more tact than to just scream at them that their job isn’t something to be proud of on nationally syndicated radio. I’ll try and break down having a job versus business, ownership and everything in between from my perspective.

One of the first things I realised when I started working in finance, was that I didn’t own shit and neither did many of the people I knew. I mean sure, I owned some decent clothes I’d spunked my internship pay on and a car I was barely maintaining, but none of these were the assets that my colleagues would brag about. They owned not just houses, but managed their own portfolios of stocks and ETF’s, owned stakes in private ventures and many had in excess of 3 incomes. I set about trying to internalise and apply as much of this knowledge as much as I did my day job, because it wasn’t just the fact that my colleagues operated this way, it was the nonchalance they did it with. Money was a means to acquiring income generating assets first – wealth created more wealth. They had a coolness towards asset ownership that I’d never seen growing up. This lack of poise is a reason I think our communities feel so passionately about full ownership of their content, their brands, podcasts and businesses. Often, due to the lack of opportunities we naturally have, it’ll be the first thing we actually own and so we’ll fight so intently to keep full control of it that we become blindsided. Here’s the reality though, often, there are more profitable assets you can own. Sometimes if you give up a few slices of the cake to informed investors/ partners, the cake your left with is worth a whole lot more than when you owned the full dish. This is not to undermine your work or the value of it, or saying you should give up total control of your venture, but often I see my community fret over ownership of assets that are as likely to generate revenue as I am to play Premier League Football. Owning 50% of a revenue generating business is vastly better than owning 100% of a failing one. Each industry has their nuances of course. The music industry is famed for having a small selection of individuals who own the masters of a huge range of artists for instance. However, on the whole, yielding some control of your business is the natural order in the corporate world, whether you get funding from angel investors, crowd investors, venture capital funds or other parts of the capital markets.

One aspect of ownership which I’ve struggled with in more recent years is the realisation that I’m often too time poor to own anything that is anything more than a passive investment. This leads me down the familiar road of struggle with working full time. Dedicate myself to my career and working for the man? Or forge my own path using the capital and knowledge I’ve attained to build my own business? I don’t have a straight answer for this in all honesty. I’m often too exhausted to consider doing anything other than struggle to have dinner and sleep when I get home in the evening. In some ways I’m a coward; I’m in a well-paid job and the embrace of a pay check at the end of the month can feel as warm as a mother’s hug sometimes. On the other hand, I’m pragmatic. I’m not a naïve kid who has the luxury of jumping head first into whatever venture comes to mind – it has to be worth the sacrifice I make in forgoing at least a chunk of my career. I feel society is almost built this way by design. Corporations often make employees feel like they’d be foolish to try their hand at anything else and that they’re disposable at the click of a finger. That feeling is simultaneously an employee’s greatest source of motivation to venture out and build their own business and their reason to begrudgingly stay in their seat and be thankful that they still have a job.

All in all, I’m still at a place where I need my job and there’s no shame in that for me. I work hard, get paid well and am still learning skills that will certainly carry once I’ve left. But eventually, the plan for me is to start leveraging the money I make to make something which can truly give me flexibility in my time and efforts to do what I really care about.

The Poor Banker