Mr. McQ works for a guy who is always describing himself as a ‘self-made man’. He’s the owner of a small business, and I would never say he doesn’t work hard. But he’s admitted that his family helped him get started, either with a loan, a gift or colateral on a bank loan(he’s told different versions) and his family is very connected and invested in real estate. It is easy to follow the records back and find that his family was giving him most of his first orders as well, and it seems reasonable that they also used their connections to other businesses to help get him clients.
Not that I’m saying he couldn’t have made it otherwise, but we don’t know. He had already failed as a vacuum cleaner salesman(he said) and quit a job as a manager rather than take the blame for something(he said).
Is this a ‘self-made man’ in your view? What does that phrase mean to you? Do you have any examples of individuals who fit your description?
I would consider a “self-made man” to be one who did it all himself with no financial support from friends or family, as in a person who came from poverty and made it to wealth using their brains and hard work.
I’d be hard-pressed to call anyone from the middle class or above to be “self-made” because your parents likely paid for your college, got you your first job, taught you business smarts, gave you a car, etc. Those things give people an enormous advantage.
Everybody gets some breaks from others that they know. Oftentimes, the reason that people help people like that out is because they see them working so hard and want to reward potential.
I would say that all self-made people have to be extremely hard workers to fit the term. They must also have come from a lower social class than the one they end up in and made their accomplishments mostly through their own merits. Small start-up loans and things like that don’t count against the title.
My father-in-law is a self-made man. Now 72, he has some many millions of dollars that I don’t even know. He was the son of Italian immigrants and managed to finish high school but then it was straight to hard work. He bought his first investment home at 20 from money that head made selling meat from a stand. He turned the meat into a cheese business and bought more houses. The cheese business turned out well and is now a nice sized corporation. He decided that he wanted a country house and instead of just paying for a regular one, he bought a dilapidated 300 acre farm for next to nothing and spent the next 15 years traveling there every weekend and doing whatever labor he could be himself (he was 57 when he started).
His best friend started as a supermarket stock boy and literally worked his way up through almost every position until he could pay his way through grad school. He later found himself near the helm of a very-well known company right when it took off and got so much in stock options that he was able to go back and buy the original supermarket chain and then sell it for a huge profit 5 years later. There was some luck involved with him but he road the wave exactly right and would have down well despite some of that.
My mother was a 6th grade teacher at an all black school when I was growing up. She started a small speaking career and it took off. She realized that she needed credentials to do big-time speaking so she got her doctorate at age 51. Now she has two books that are doing well and speaks in every region of the world and every state in the U.S. to audiences sometimes of thousands.
I am surrounded by self-made people. It is mainly about hard-work and vision and going where your peers didn’t.
You are going a little overboard here. There are lots of those people and I know or have known them although most of them were older. My FIL for example never went to any college and his parents kicked him out of the house at age 10 to go live with his newly arrived grandparents who didn’t speak any English. If you scan the whole U.S., you can compile a very large book about those kinds of stories. Again, it isn’t common but it is untrue that people in the upper middle class and above all had somebody but themselves that made them who they are in a significant way.
In some businesses, it is much more difficult to achieve the “self-made” title than in others. It really depends on how much start-up investment capitol you’re looking at. Starting a shop or a restraunt requires that you own the property and buy a certain amount of equipment. There are other businesses where the start-up cost is almost nothing.
My mother began a gardening business when she was 58 years old. The only thing she needed to buy was a truck; she got a used Chevy for $10,000. At the beginning, all of her gardening equipment was her personal stuff that she had owned for years. She didn’t get a penny of assistance from anyone. Now it is true that for the first couple years, most of her clients were friends and people she knew from church, but I imagine that’s true to some extent for the majority of all businesses. Likewise my grandmother started a literary agency, also when she was almost 60. She got no start-up cash from anybody. She paid for listings in the directories with her own money and it grew from there. So those would be the two examples of self-made, ummm, men that come to mind for me.
I agree that there are men I would call ‘self-made’ to the degree that they were born to disadvantaged circumstances and managed, through dint of hard work, ambition, vision and a modicum of good fortune to become very well off. For instance, my mother grew up with a former top executive at Coca-Cola. They both had mill workers for parents and attended the same schools until high school graduation. They weren’t even middle class, so there wasn’t any ‘good old boy’ or alumni type network for him to tap into that could put him on a fast track to earning millions.
But I don’t think my husband’s boss qualifies. He came from a fairly tight-knit and comfortably affluent family. He admits to things like having goofed off and partied his way through college, and then gone on to art school(in his own words, because he wasn’t good at anything else). He failed at several jobs, then had his family provide the financial assistance to make him an instant business owner.
What bugs me most about this guy is that he’s the type of Rush-worshiping Republican that is constantly belittling the less fortunate, calling them lazy, greedy, wanting steal his hard earned wealth through programs like Medicare and Welfare. If anyone tries to point out an example of people who do work hard and are still poor, he says they should ‘work smarter’. He refuses to see how lucky he was to have connections, or admit that not everybody does.
Really this just sounds like more SDMB class envy to me. Is this guy completely “self made”? Probably not. But it does sound like he is running a bussiness successfully and that does take some hard work and skill. There’s plenty of people from affluent backgrounds who start some vanity business on their own with their parents money only to have it fail spectacularly. Some people are handed a job and turn it into a successful career. Others spend the next 5 years sitting on their ass collecting a paycheck.
Why is it class envy? Are you assuming I wish I had this guy’s connections? Because you would be wrong. My parents did try to pull strings with friends and relatives when I graduated from school, to get me a job. I wanted to earn my way on my own merit. I still prefer to earn my way on my own merit whenever I can. For some misbegotten reason, I think that it helps me to improve myself.
I never said this guy wasn’t working hard now. I give him credit for his business skills. Maybe this is his perfect niche, working for himself. My problem with him is his hipocrisy. He constantly claims to have earned his place, and harps frequently about how everybody should. My contention is that he didn’t, even if he is working hard to keep it.
Not everybody knows someone who can help them. I’ve known quite a few people who were struggling just to make it, and one of the issues they had in common was that they had estranged or disfunctional families, and they weren’t social. Just about everybody does need help at some point. A small loan, childcare, help fixing our homes or cars, advice, help finding a job or business. These are all the kind of things we get from our families and friends and seldom even think about, but they can make a huge difference.
As for the helping people out because they have potential, in my experience it isn’t hard work that they are rewarding so much as good self-promotion. If you work hard but don’t self-promote, odds are good you’ll be taken for granted.
You know, it doesn’t take ‘connections’ to come from nothing and be succeessful. My entire family is full of self-made people, and so is my wife’s. All of my closest friends grew up with me in similar circumstances, and all of them are now comfortably middle class or above. None had ‘connections’.
The formula for success is not mysterious:
Stay in school.
Learn a trade that’s in demand or get a degree in something valuable.
Save your money.
Don’t make bad life choices like having children at 16.
Stay married if you can. Divorce is a financial killer.
Be willing to make sacrifices or hard choices when needed.
That’s about it. And that’s exactly what all the successful people I know did. My grandparents were poor in their 40’s. My grandfather was working as a pump jockey in a gas station at 50. They died with a half-million dollar estate by saving every nickel they could from age 40 on, and using it as a down payment on a small decrepit farm, then working their asses off to improve it.
My friends and I all came up the same way - from poor families, we managed to go to college by getting good grades in school and living like paupers in college. Then we went to work, did a good job, got promoted, started families, bought houses, stayed married, and clawed our way up into the middle class. One friend joined the Coast Guard after college, then retired 15 years later and started a consulting business, trading on what he learned in the service. Another friend became a teacher in a junior college. My cousin started from nothing, went to work for a sporting goods company, worked his way up to regional rep, developed a reputation among professional sports players as a ‘go-to’ guy who could solve their problems, and made a zillion bucks.
The same is true for everyone on my wife’s side of the family. Her parents were immigrants who didn’t have any ‘connections’ and had no money. They provided enough for their kids to get a high school edication, but that was it. And all the kids have done just fine on their own, all three managing to get post-secondary educations on their own wherewithal.
I don’t know. I just get the impression that the vast majority of the SDMB are more likely to be the types of people who hate McMansions and SUVs than to be the type who live in them. Perhaps a topic for another thread.
Maybe. On the one hand it’s a competetive world and I think it’s foolish to turn down a helping hand. On the other hand, such strings often have strings of their own attached. For example: our intern is the boyfriend of the daughter of one of our Partners. I’m like, hope you like her because you know you’re stuck with her for the summer. And you better be careful how you act when out drinking with the guys after work because it’s bound to get back to her. And I hope you like this company come graduation time because I’m sure the GF and daddy will want you to come here.
I never said it took connections to make it. Never even implied it. I’m glad for you, Sam Stone, that you came from such a background. So did I, for the most part. Not that they are rich, but my family is solidly middle class, and for the most part sucessful. More importantly, they instilled in me the values of hard work, honesty, sacrifice, education, marriage, etc. They were also there for me whenever I really needed them(I tried to ask as little as possible, but if it was a choice between a loan and having the power turned off, I swallowed my pride and asked for help, and my dad has saved me thousands of dollars by helping me with home and car repairs so I didn’t have to pay someone). I consider myself lucky. If I believed in a diety I would thank it every day for giving me such a supportive family.
All I said was that this one person, whom I do know, judging from the words that have come out of his own mouth, does not seem to me to have earned the position he currently holds in life. He didn’t start in the bottom of the field and work his way up. He barely knows anything about the skills that his employees use to produce his product. He didn’t save up and buy the business himself, or start small and expand until he is where he is now. He’s a hell of a salesman, and good at managing, which are important qualifications for a business owner, but I reiterate, by the standards that he sets for other people(judging again by the words out of his mouth) he did not earn it.