What’s Your Fall Back Skill?

This week, College Works Painting is featuring Nick Niehaus as our guest blogger. Niehaus, a previous intern of College Works Painting, graduated from Washington University with a BA in Entrepreneurship in 2009. Niehaus is the founder and CEO of the Case Coolie, a revolutionary cooler that removes the hassle out of keeping your drinks cold. He and his business partner invented the Case Coolie in 2011 to resolve the issue of dragging a heavy cooler around at a tailgate and always needing fresh ice. Read about his success and how College Works provided him with fall back skills he will always possess.

What’s Your Fallback Skill?

Now that I’ve been away from College Works for a while I’ve gained a new perspective on all that I learned and gained from my years with CWP. I’ve spent the past year starting my business, Case Coolie which you can see at www.casecoolie.com (shameless plug!) Obviously everything I learned in my six years with College Works has been essential to starting the business, but I’ve been surprised by some of the unexpected ways College Works Painting has helped me. While the direct experience of running a business has been invaluable, it’s actually the fallback skills I picked up that seem to have opened the most opportunities for me.All four crossing street with three coolies

A fallback skill (feel free to suggest better names in the comments) is a skill that you can rely on no matter how bad the economy gets. Basically it’s something you know you can do at any point in time to make money. Why is this so important? Ultimately it comes down to managing risk and stress. When you are 100% confident that no matter what happens you can find a way to make money, it gives you the confidence to take chances you normally wouldn’t. This has been an essential part of starting Case Coolie over the past year.

The first fallback skill I had to rely on over this past year is one I’m sure we’ve all taped into at one time or another, painting! It may suck to do manual labor after years of training and managing job sites, but when all else fails any former CWPer knows they can make money painting. I can remember a conversation, in Cancun I believe, where Spencer Pepe mentioned that no matter what happened to the business he knew he could always grab a brush to make a living and get by for a few years. This is important for two key reasons. First, there is always a demand for good painters and no matter how bad the economy gets it will always be a way to make money until I physically can’t do it anymore. I’ve used this several times in the past year doing small jobs for family and friends to get by while starting Case Coolie. Second and most important, it takes away my fear of what will happen if my business fails! It would take a while to get a career started if the business didn’t take off, but in the meantime I’m confident that I could make money. This means I can take risks and not worry about the ‘what ifs’. While painting is a solid fallback skill, I actually discovered a second that seems even more reliable.

Sales is a skill that we all learn extensively in College Works Painting. I’ve never seen a more thorough, year after year training program than what we got at College Works. Because of this I was able to get a retail sales job after trying to pay myself a salary for a few months. I needed a steady check once I realized it would be at least a full year before I could really depend on Case Coolie for income. That’s when I realized that no matter how bad the economy gets, unless there are literally no goods being sold, there will always be a need for good salesmen. On top of that, the average company does a terrible job training sales (as do most colleges) so we will almost always have a huge advantage in that particular job market. It took less than 24 hours between asking my networking group for leads for part time jobs and having three offers for sales jobs. I actually make more than most of my friends do in jobs they’ve had for years now! After only a few months I posted the top numbers out of over 30 people. This isn’t bragging (it’s not a very prestigious job), but rather a huge relief that I can provide for myself at any time simply because I am willing and able to sell.

Many of us never realize this, but most of us go to four years of school for something we’d probably consider a fallback skill if we were honest. In many cases our parents or peers helped nudge us towards the safer, more practical degrees. That’s not a bad thing! It means that no matter what we do, we will always have that degree to fall back on. While we are young and free from heavier responsibilities, like children, we can pursue the things we’ve always wanted to try. Many of us head straight from school into the job market in search of the career we were always told to want. With the job market the way it is, this isn’t an easy search. Now several years out of school I hear constantly from friends that they want to do something different than the career they’ve chosen. Now is your chance to take the risks that may not be possible later in life! You’ll always have your fallback skills!

What skills do you have to fall back on? Please share in the comments!

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