Not too long ago, business coach Jaime Tardy set out to answer the million-dollar question: What does it take to become a millionaire?
She polled 120 people who fit the bill and presented her findings in the book Eventual Millionaire: How Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur and Successfully Grow Their Startup, which was released in February. The results may surprise you.
“I’m from a small town in Maine with 2,000 people. I didn’t know any millionaire before I started this,” Tardy (pictured) says. “We assume that because [people] are millionaires they must be greedy. Those are few and far between. They are trying to make a life for their family and set up a legacy.”
As a coach, Tardy works with a wide array of business owners, from those just starting out to those whose companies bring in $10 million in annual gross revenues. Her website offers worksheets in boosting your business’ profits, and her book features action items designed to help entrepreneurs reach millionaire status.
The Intuit Small Business Blog caught up with Tardy, who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, to talk about her book, her personal achievements, and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
ISBB: What inspired you to write the book?
Tardy: I wanted to find out how [millionaires] did it, and if they were happy afterward, and what sort of life they had to go through in order to obtain what they obtained. I wanted to ask people who were actually [becoming millionaires], instead of authors who were talking about it.
What was your corporate job before becoming a self-employed business coach?
I was an engineer and a project manager for SeaChange International. I come from the tech side of things. I used to fly around the country and help with video-on-demand.
In the book, you talk about paying off $70,000 of personal debt in 16 months. How did you manage that?
One of the biggest things [I did] was get honest with myself: I didn’t even know how much debt I was in. I thought I was really smart with money. It wasn’t credit-card debt. It was a loan for a brand-new car, a student loan, and a home-equity loan. It was a very low-interest rate [at first], and it kept going up and up.
Get really clear on what your priorities are and what matters to you. To me, getting out of debt was way more important than having a new car. [My husband and I] ended up selling our $20,000 car when it was only two months old … and [buying] a cheap car for only $7,000. We only lost a thousand dollars on the [sale]. That was a huge momentum piece that started to drive us forward.
We made sure we didn’t spend a lot on groceries, and we sold the small things — like old computer parts, a kayak, and a wine rack — and my husband started to take on extra work. Whenever I traveled, I got an on-site bonus, and so I started to travel more.
Getting out of debt is painful. Try to have it be a shorter time span. We set it up as a challenge. That was way better for me than to have it be a five-year plan. That would be five years of me saving the whole time.
How did working in the corporate world prepare you for running your own business?
It was a rude wake-up call. When you’re at a job, they teach you how to do that job. When you’re doing your own business, not only do you need to know how to deliver the service or product, you have to do all the other stuff … the tax liabilities and dealing with the admin stuff.
A lot of my clients are amazing at what they do, but there are so many holes in the business. One of my clients is currently growing in leaps and bounds, but on the human-resources side he only works with a handful of employees, like five or 10. It’s a very different ship to run when it’s five people as opposed to 50 people. That’s a pretty good learning curve.
What is some of the most surprising advice you received from millionaires while researching the book?
One of the pieces that kept coming up was that they always are in fear. There’s actually a whole chapter in the book on fear. We assume that millionaires are more fearless and confident, but in reality they have the same fears as everyone else. They are able to recognize their fear and push forward anyway.
I get asked a lot, “What [is the] millionaire’s secret sauce?” Millionaires, while they have a lot of money, are people like us. We tend to put them on a pedestal. … We do that with celebrities too; we idolize them. If we can learn they are just a person, maybe we can have that as a goal too. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to have real people [in my book], not gurus.
How does today’s economy provide opportunities for entrepreneurs?
When you work for someone else, you don’t really have that control and freedom. One of the questions I asked [millionaires] was if they had a day job beforehand. I wanted to find out whether entrepreneurs always knew they wanted to start their own businesses.
I asked how many people started in a corporate job before they went out on their own. More than 57 percent of them [had ... and many] realized they didn’t like it. One guy got laid off twice. It’s not as if you have to have been born with an entrepreneurial side [to become an entrepreneur].