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The Real Poop

When it comes to your career, are you a penguin, going with the floe?

Or are you a lone wolf, just waiting for your time to howl?

Meet Ms. Paris Milan, a fashionista and ex-penguin who thinks outside the shoebox. She just patented The Flatform®, the first remote controlled shoe. The Flatform® is the one shoe every woman needs. In the morning, Ms. Milan walks to the office in her comfortable flats. When she gets to work, she pumps up her pumps an inch or two for a dressy heel. Later that night, she and her friends meet downtown for cocktails and she's all set with her seven-inch high platforms. (Of course, the woman who works in seven-inch heels also needs a nice pair of comfortable shoes so she can kick up her heels at the end of a long shift down at the South Pole.)

Ms. Milan wasn't always a leader of the pack. In fact, she started out as Penny Penguin, part-time stock clerk at Berg's Department Store.

Every day after high school, Penny Penguin stacked shoes until the store closed at 10:00. Then it was home, homework, sleep, and back to school again first thing in the morning. She loved it. All her friends worked there and by the time she was a senior, she was netting a good wage. She and Peter Penguin (no relation) dated on the weekends and Peter was ready to dive right into family life. Penny? Not so much. She wanted to get out and see the world. She put her relationship with Peter on ice and headed for college.

But she returned after she'd received her degree in Marketing and took a job at Berg's HQ as a temp intern to the Assistant Deputy Junior Manager Trainee. There was a hiring freeze at the time, but Penny didn't mind, she had thick skin and discouragement just rolled right off her back. She didn't sit around blubbering like all the other chicks. She was hatching a plan.

Penny started working with the shoe buyer at Berg's. The buyer was a little chilly, but Penny was a fast learner. Her job meant she ordered shoes for all the other Berg's around the country and kept track of their inventory. When they were low, Penny ordered more and a truck was dispatched to the store. Then someone just like her unloaded the boxes and put them out for sale. After a few years, Penny started noticing trends. She discovered that women flocked to any new style that came out. They didn't care if the color that year was bright yellow or turquoise blue; they loved to be trendy. Buttons, bows, sashes, straps, low heels and high, leather, canvas, plastic, hemp—as long as it was new. And women were willing to shell out a lot more than anything else in their wardrobe.

No matter what the fashion tide brought in, women loved to make a splash. But one thing never changed. Every woman had three basic black shoes: one flat for walking, one low heel for work, and one high heel for special occasions.

That's how Penny Penguin transformed herself into Paris Milan, inventor and CEO of FlatForm®, Inc.

She was happy enough at Berg's. She and her friends paddled around in the shallow pond of work life—drinks after work, book clubs, company retreats. It was on one of those annual team-building affairs—was it Scottsdale?—when she first saw Percy Penguin perfectly perched in his impeccable tux. He was surrounded by chicks and when he smiled, he lit up the convention room floor like a disco ball. She saw Percy many times over that weekend, and over the years, but he always seemed to overlook her (it didn't help that she was only five feet tall).

When she got back to work on Monday, she double-checked her bank balance and her 401(k) and decided to take two days from the three weeks’ vacation she had coming. She signed up for a class for entrepreneurs about managing small businesses. She spent her evenings and weekends writing a business plan and finally, after ten years with Berg's, she walked into a staff meeting and addressed her huddled coworkers, "It's my time to fly" and quit. As she strode down the hall, she heard their frightened whispers, "But waddle we do?"

She'd had it. The jargon—"Let's run it up a flagpole and see who salutes!" "There's no I in team!" "Are you working hard or hardly working?" The TPS reports, the same old, same old, day in, day out. She was done with it. She decided she was going to hire herself. She was going to be her own boss. And as a boss, she wasn't going to boss herself around.

And who likes being bossed around? Not you. You're an entrepreneur. You're confident, decisive, passionate, and let's face it, a little obnoxious. You get bored easily. You chose "none of the above." You don't have time for Negative Nellies or Debbie Downers. You don't need to wait for feedback, do more testing, or analyze the poll results. You don't take no for an answer, even though you hear a lot more "no"s than "yes"es. That makes you tough and a little gruff, but that's what it takes to handle all the rejection.

You don't need motivation—you've got plenty of it: You have to write your own paychecks and the money is coming from your bank account.

You don't need days off—you're doing what you love.

An entrepreneur is anyone who spends his or her own money, time, labor, and sweat on their business. Once you've got an investor, you're no longer an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur may be the most dangerous, most risky way to make a living. Unless you're a Shark Wrangler. That might be scarier.

On her first day as an entrepreneur, Penny Penguin—a.k.a. Paris Milan—wakes up early. Well, not exactly early, and not exactly wakes up, because she never fell asleep. She was too excited and had too much to do. And her boss was a real bear.

She opened her project management program.

New list:

1. Finalize prototype;
2. Get taxpayer ID;
3. Get small business loan;
4. Rent warehouse space;
5. Ship inventory to distributors and invoice;
6. Hire sales reps;
7. Identify vendors and secure lines of credit
8. Travel agent: Schedule flight to Hong Kong, Guangzhou;
9. Apply for patent and trademark;
10. Review samples;
11. Hire graphic designer;
12. Design logo;
13. Produce displays, print and digital collateral, ads, business cards, etc.
14. Hire web designer;
15. Hire accountant;
16. Get health insurance;
17. Learn to prioritize;
18. Create deadlines;
19. Eat;
20. Sleep (optional);
21. Learn to dance before Ellen calls.

Starting to sound like you'd rather have a desk job?

If you're obsessive about details, passionate, competitive, disciplined, creative, flexible, clever, decisive, energetic, passionate, driven, persuasive, and a lot like a cheerleader who can sing, juggle flaming pinecones, and text all at once, you might never be happy in your job unless you're an entrepreneur. And did we forget, passionate?

It means that weekends and evenings, you may have to say no when all your friends are saying awww yeah! That takes discipline. It takes nerves. Think nerves of steel? Scrap that. Nerves of titanium. In fact, many successful self-starters say being fired or dropping out of school gave them the kick in the aspiration they needed to take the plunge.

On the other hand (the one that's not juggling or holding an umbrella), if you're afraid of rejection, wishy-washy, passive, a loner who'd rather sit on the sidelines, you might not be your ideal boss, or if you're constantly taking votes, asking for feedback and listening (yes, listening to people will make you popular, but not a successful small business owner or entrepreneur).

You may be starting to wonder why anyone would willingly take on all the crappy parts of being in charge of a company—paying salary, sales, customer support, delivery, advertising, marketing, bookkeeping, traveling to places like Poughkeepsie for the Quad-Annual Doodads And Bleep Bloop Trade Association Awards—but if you're an entrepreneur, you can already picture the happy ending: millions of happy customers, lunch with Kim and Kourtney (or being able to block Kim and Kourtney’s incessant invitations to lunch), and the financial freedom to spend your time and your money any way you want.

Some entrepreneurs work on one or two products for their entire lives before—if ever—striking gold. Others work with several products at once. Serial entrepreneurs develop many products from start to finish, using their magic to bring ideas to market, recoup their investments, and move on. Remember, an entrepreneur has to invest her own money in the product. Some entrepreneurs spend their money buying a truckload of something at wholesale prices and are successful only after they've sold it all for a profit.

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