Nick’s Note: Longtime readers know that PBRG co-founder Mark Ford went from rags to riches the old-fashioned way… by working hard and then investing his income as carefully as he could.
Today, we share his classic essay on how to get rich as an employee by completing a three-step journey: from ordinary employee… to extraordinary employee… to invaluable employee. As a bonus, he’ll show you four ways to get a raise—fast…
By Mark Ford, co-founder, Palm Beach Research Group
If you are an employee now and are wondering about the feasibility of getting rich… you can do it. But as an employee, there’s really only one way to get rich…
You must first make your boss richer. And if he has a boss, you must make him richer, as well. Your ultimate goal is to make the owner of the company much richer—and the only way to do that is to make the company much more profitable.
So how do you do that?
You start from where you are and take small, sensible steps in the right direction. You begin with the skills and knowledge you currently have and add the skills and knowledge you lack.
In other words, you begin as an ordinary employee and become an extraordinary employee. And after you’ve accomplished that, you become an invaluable employee.
But there’s a caveat: You must be working for the right kind of company—a company that’s ready and able to give you the opportunity to help it grow.
Put differently, the road to riches as an employee is a journey of three legs:
First, you must find a job with the right company.
Then, you must become a valuable employee.
And finally, you must become an invaluable employee.
Finding the Right Company
There are three kinds of businesses that can provide the environment you’re looking for:
Big corporations will pay you serious money if you’re at the top of their food chain. A senior vice president of a billion-dollar business can easily make $350,000 to $750,000 a year.
But if you like the idea of working for a big company, be prepared.
You’ll be competing with hundreds of very smart, very well connected, hardworking people. You’ll not only have to be extremely good at your job, but also politically shrewd… because all big companies suffer from some amount of corporate politics.
And even if you have what it takes to rise to the top, it will likely take 10 to 20 years.
Financial services businesses
Brokerages, banks, and insurance companies are happy to pay their best people $250,000 to $1 million, or even more—if they can perform. Career paths at this level include portfolio managers, marketers, and salespeople.
But becoming a top-notch portfolio manager is not easy. It takes years of hard work and a degree of luck. The same can be said for the very best marketers, the people responsible for devising strategies to bring in new customers. And to become a top salesperson, you have to be very good and very aggressive. You may even have to put aside your scruples about treating your customers right.
Small companies with big potential
This was my choice as a young man, and I don’t regret it. Starting out with a small company, especially if you’re young, gives you a fast track to big money that you won’t get in a big corporate environment. It also gives you several ways to become a big moneymaker without sacrificing your principles.
Becoming a Valuable Employee
Whatever type of company you choose, your journey to wealth begins by establishing yourself as a valuable employee.
Most employees go through their lives working for businesses they care nothing much about, dealing with problems they’d rather not face, and getting paid very ordinary wages. They would like to earn more. They may even be willing to do more. But their ambitions are sporadic and fleeting. Most of the time, they are simply just showing up.
Such employees are never going to get substantial raises. They can expect their salary to rise very slowly and very gradually. From 1984–2014, for example, the average salary rose by around 3.5%, according to the Average Wage Index.
But a valuable employee could easily get twice that. And at 7% per year, a $50,000 salary turns into about $98,000 in 10 years, $193,000 in 20 years, and $380,000 in 30 years.
There are four ways to distinguish yourself as an employee and see your compensation accelerate at a faster pace:
Work longer hours.
Don’t fall for the goofy idea that “good employees get their work done between nine and five.” If you want your bosses to notice you as someone who is willing to do more, begin by working longer hours.
How many extra hours?
An hour per day is good. Two hours is better. If you can do a little work at home on weekends, that’s not bad, either.
If at all possible, put in your extra hours at the beginning of the day. Getting to work early is a common virtue of almost all successful people. There’s something about getting in earlier than everyone else that seems nobler, smarter, or just plain more industrious than working late.
In his book How to Become CEO, Jeffrey J. Fox puts it this way: “Arriving to work late signals you don’t like your job very much. Even if you prefer to come in late and stay late, staying late sends the signal that you can’t keep up or your personal life is poor.”
You’re working more hours for three reasons… You want to do more than your peers. You want to learn more than your peers. And you want to be sure that your bosses—the people who will eventually promote you—know how extraordinary you are.
Develop a distinctly positive and infectiously enthusiastic attitude.
Nobody likes a sourpuss—even if the sourpuss is a genius. Become the person who arrives at work with energy, greets his coworkers warmly, volunteers for assignments enthusiastically, and seems very happy with his career.
Much has been written about the virtues of saying no. But if you want your boss to support your efforts to move up in the company, you have to support him by making his job easier.
You do this by saying yes—by saying yes when he asks you for a favor… by saying yes to taking on that extra job… and even by saying yes when you mean no. (There’s a certain skill in saying yes when you mean no, but that’s a topic for another essay.)
Advertise your accomplishments.
It’s not enough to be positive, to say yes, and to work more hours. In order to make sure the extra efforts you’re making are noticed, you have to advertise them. Doing a good job of self-promotion (without coming off as a braggart) means that you always give others some of the credit for your accomplishments.
Becoming an Invaluable Employee
Valuable employees earn good salaries. But invaluable employees earn great salaries.
You become an invaluable employee by embracing a simple truth: The lifeblood of a business is profits. So if you can help increase your company’s profits, you will be rewarded.
There are only a limited number of ways to make a business more profitable… You can help create or improve your company’s products. You can help market those products to new and existing customers. You can help manage profits by decreasing costs and raising margins.
So how do you get yourself into sales, marketing, product creation, or profit management?
Identify the people in your company who are already doing those jobs. (They’re almost certainly the ones who make the most money.) Tell them you’re interested in learning more about their end of the business, and offer to help them out in your free time.
As you learn more, you’ll be able to do more. And your contributions to the business can gradually shift in the direction of creating profits.
What You Can Do Starting Today to Make It Happen
Being an ordinary employee will give you an ordinary life. But becoming an extraordinary employee will give you an entirely richer future.
If you’re interested in this idea of becoming rich as an employee, these are some steps you should begin taking right now.
Recognize every business interaction as an opportunity to advance your career. Come into work earlier. Set aside the first half-hour of your day to learning more about how the business works. Greet your boss and fellow employees with enthusiasm. Meet your deadlines. Deliver more than you promise. Volunteer.
And do it all with the goal of becoming thought of as invaluable—by those who count. It might feel a bit artificial at first, but it will soon feel true because it will be true. And you’ll be on the fast track to making the big bucks.
Co-Founder, Palm Beach Research Group
Nick’s Note: For years, you’ve read Mark Ford’s best-selling books and essays… And for the first time, Mark has joined Bill Bonner and Doug Casey on camera for an evening of candid conversation and uncensored opinions…
In this exclusive “tell-all,” Mark, Bill, and Doug, revealed their backstories… why they’re joining forces (and why it’s more important than ever)… what they see ahead for U.S. stocks and the economy… and what they’re doing with their personal money now.