Anyone who owns a small business knows that if you don't reinvest in the business, the business dies. So why do so many people fail to reinvest in themselves? Even if you work for someone else, you are running a small business: The business of you. You provide a product and you have to market it and make it better and better so you earn more and more money.

If you put all your money into savings, you are like a business with a lot of cash on hand but only small potential for growth. If you spend all your money on fun and toys you're like a business run by executives who throw lavish parties they can't afford and drive the business into the ground. Your aim should be to save a little (for security's sake) splurge a little (for sanity's sake) and reinvest most of your money back into your business: You.

You the careerist that is. Here's what the business of you needs in order to expand: Headcount. Here's what you need in ascending order, depending on how much money you have.

Childcare — pay the highest rate in your neighborhood
The first thing you need to grow a career is to clear your head so you can think. If you have to worry about childcare, if you have to argue with your spouse during the workday about who is picking up the kid, you are spending time in ways that don't grow your business. Pay enough money for a caregiver who can do the job without you micromanaging.

Personal Assistant – $10 an hour
Take a look at your to do list. Think about how long each task will take, and whether or not a person can do it for $10 an hour. Your time is worth more than $10 an hour. So why are you doing tasks that you can pay $10 to have done? Don't tell me you need to do everything. If it's not integral to your life plan, you don't need to be doing it. Examples: Shopping, dry cleaning pickup, waiting for a plumber.

A therapist – $125 per session, but try to get your insurance company to pay
I'm a big fan of therapy. The more you know about yourself the more likely you are to make good choices for your career. Also, the problems you have outside the office usually pop up inside the office also. So go to a therapist to deal with non-work problems and your work life will improve.

Speaking coach – $300 per session
Charisma can make up for a lot of shortfalls, and good speaking skills gives you more charisma. You probably think you're charismatic already, but there's always room for improvement. People believe that a charismatic person is better to work with than a non-charismatic person. You'll also learn to speak in a way that makes people trust you and believe in your judgment. Scary, but true: This is teachable.

Publicist — $1000 month
Most people who are quoted by the press actually have publicists. For a CEOs publicists are a packaged deal with the job: A PR department. For other executives, and even up-and-coming managers, a publicist is someone you hire. Your name will get into the world and you will have an easeier time getting a new job, easier time making sales, and more justifcation for asking for higher wages. I know, you're thinking, how crass. But it's the way the world works. If you want to be noticed in your field, hire a publicist.

I bet you're saying, “Penelope is out of her mind. This is so much money.” But if you reinvest 20% of your cash back into your career, which is, in fact, very low as small businesses go, then this list starts looking reasonable. I have hired each of these people at some point in my career, and the return on investment for each easily exceeded cash output. Really.

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5 replies
  1. mahesh
    mahesh says:

    I just read your blogs about farmer inviting you to his farm and you need an entourge. I didnt read the other blogs but it is always better to judge the rice bag by cooking a handful to know the quality of rice. I like your blogs but will read them but cant comment them each and everytime, since I will be wasting my time everytime appreciating.

  2. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    I would have never seen this post if it weren’t for a comment on this post today (which I saw in the sidebar).

    Interesting point! Many people equate expense with investment in their minds. I have found that routinely putting at least 15% back into development and support activities is very fruitful. So naturally I agree with you. On that last point re the publicist, I am going to ask you some questions I think. :-)

  3. Gwen
    Gwen says:

    So, how do you homeschool and take care of business? Do you have help with your boys on a daily basis? I’m working to self-educate and build a new business and homeschool all at the same time and I’m getting overwhelmed. And we live 15 hours away from our family…thus no help at all.

    We are on summer break right now and I’m juggling it, but I’m dreading the fall and considering putting them in Public for year to get a handle on it. But just thinking of doing that makes me sick. And everything I earn right now is going right back into the business…

  4. Krysten
    Krysten says:

    Agree 112%.

    I don’t understand why people think delegation only applies in the workplace. You can’t complain about your income if you spend your time doing $10/hour activities.

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