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Thinking about starting a business, here are my suggestions:

Been a business owner for several years and thought I'd write down a few suggestions for any aspiring entrepreneurs.

First, as with anything I suggest you do your homework. Read eMyth by Michael Gerber. There are other good books but start with this one.

Second if you can I'd recommend buying an existing business. The space shuttle uses most of its fuel just taking off. It only needs a tiny portion of fuel for the weeks that follow and re entry. Launching a business is the hardest part. If you can buy a successful business, you save your self many years of hardship and are less likely to fail.

Third, you may want to consider working directly with a successful business owner for a while to see what it's like. To work with the best, work for free if you have to.

Fourth. Take the Kolbe test. Unlike other test which measure your aptitude, the Kolbe test measures your action tendencies which is all that matters when your running a business. It doesn't matter if you can do something, what's important is if you will do it. It will also help you know what kind of people you need to hire to make up for the things you need the most help with.

Expect to fail your way through it. If 9 out of ten businesses fail, be prepared to start several businesses before being successful. If your starting from scratch, I like internet businesses because you can start, work hard, fail and learn something without losing too much in resources. However, internet businesses are easy to copy which makes them vulnerable to competition.

Does it have to be something you love? It depends. It certainly helps when things get hard but being successful is more important than passion. Start a business you can succeed in first.

What do you think, DP business owners? What are your suggestions?

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I'm just willing to work as hard as necessary not to have a job

I seem to be a serial microentrepreneur. And I'm not all that smart about it either.

I guess it started when I had this notion to get a degree. That was rather pointless but to finance my way through it I opened up a motorcycle repair shop. Since I was fairly well known in all the local shops I approached them and told them to send me anything they didn't want to work on which mostly turned out to be scooters and mopeds. Man have I ever worked on some oddball stuff. Sacks-Dolmar, Benelli, Zundap, tons of Vespas and the cadillac of scooters, Lambretta.

I can't say the experience of the shop changed me much or taught me much. I knew the trade but running the business was simply a matter of fixing more bikes faster. Sure I had wholesale suppliers and stuff and I knew basic accounting but it was pretty much just like bikes comes in, you fix them and out the door they go. Work faster and you make more money in a week. I guess I was reasonably good with customer service, the customers just adored me.

I graduated not owing a penny in loans or debt. But somehow going to school fulltime and working full time (yeah double full time, go figure) just took all the love of the trade right out of me. That was really strange. Motorcycles were my life before that and all the sudden I realized I didn't care if I never twisted another wrench again. So that would be my first bit of advice: they say pick something you love doing but I over worked myself and lost that love. So I sold it for a pittance and moved on. Don't over work your love or it just turns into work. I hate work.

By that time computers had caught my attention so I apprenticed for a network engineer, learned TCP/IP, hardware support and moved into web development. But having tasted the freedom of being your own boss, as soon as I could I started hooking down jobs for myself. My little web shop has continued since then. And there was no other shops throwing me work like they did with the mopeds.

What I learned from this is that I am a pretty good project manager and I can communicate technical/business issues to business owners. And I'm pretty hands-on, quality control and process flow requires me to keep my nose to the grindstone and just DO THE WORK. I don't have much time left over for marketing and promotions. So for years I searched for a good marketer to partner with. I thought I'd found one, this smart, attractive, educated woman named Susan who I ended up fallig in love with and marrying. Well since she was then my wife, she was free to decide she really didn't like doing technology sales. She never sold one red penny or thin dime's worth of work so that would be my second piece of advice: don't marry the help. Then you can't boss them around anymore. But I have to fit in here that coding to me is like a drug. I love staying up all night in silence and quiet and just pounding out the code. I'm totally consumed and loving it.

But then the wife kinda wanted another income but we really wanted to spend as much time with the kids (hers) as we could so for some reason I bought a hot dog cart for her and steered that business into private events and parties. I never even considered street sales where you show up at a regular corner every day. This turned out to be a great niche and it just keeps growing. See as the economy gets tougher, the people that would have hired a more expensive caterer are calling us now. That combined with the fact that not many hot dog vendors are expert web developers and search engine optimizers, I have us at the very top of google and we think we're out competing the whole state.

But it's not like I anticipated the success that private events would bring, that was simply the desire to be able to pick and chose jobs and schedules that allow us to hang with the kids. What did I learn from it? Only one thing: I gave the business to her so she could feel like she has some security and now she's the boss and often doesn't take my advice about how to run it. I didn't have to do that, I could have just let her run it and retained ownership.

So don't give away baby. That advice point number 3. You can give anybody anything you want FROM a business as long as you still OWN it.

Well where we are it gets hot as blue blazes in the summer and once again this threatened to take all the enjoyment out of hot dogs and you absolutely cannot be a grumpy hot dog vendor. Everybody wants to laugh and joke with the hot dog guy for some reason. I think we're seen as "people of the people". But anyways I decided my talented wife would make a great admin assistant (for somebody else obviously, not me) so I set us up with a "virtual assistant" business so she can work in the cool indoors in summer. That's doing OK but again, like me, she just likes doing the work and marketing/promo is suffering. So maybe there's number 4 in here: pick a partner with a skill set that compliments yours but only slightly overlaps. As it is now it's like there's two of me in that business. But again she's my woman and what am I gonna do? Fire her?

Or maybe don't go into business with your spouse. That would be 5. But it's not a failure, it produces steady revenue and we're looking at brining in others to handle the load.

Then I decided to try my hand at writing. I'm working on my 4th book now with a 5th in the works. The first 3 actually sell! But I found the process of writing so gratifying that the other businesses began to suffer. I had to back off it, stop aggressively pusing it, getting interviews, becoming recognized and just kinda let that one coast. Is there a lesson there? Don't over extend again? I dunno, these decisions are really just common sense. But let's count that as 6.

The web shop however, puts me in direct contact with business owner after business owner and that's where I see not only businesses failing but I began to try to figure out why some businesses succeed and others fail. Most of the time it comes down to business owners that simply lack competency but fail to realize this and bring in the right people. Unrealistic or unexpressed expectations between partners is a big one too. There's a host of other problems that can happen and somehow I'm just really good at troubleshooting businesses and spotting the problems. So before you know it, there's businesses in trouble calling me to help them sort things out. I turned around a bar, then a restaurant and then a small hotel. But once again, that can be so consuming (and fascinating) that the web shop once again began to decline and I kinda had a decision to make. Keep on as a consultant or just go back to my desk and pound out code. One reason for this is when you are dealing with business in crisis they don't have a lot of money to spend so I think that was the right decision. Maybe not. But I made a decision and stuck to it and the web shop continues to crank along. So be decisive? Might as well call that 7. Plus the clients couldn't really pay me so 8 is pick clients that actually have money. But does anybody really need to be told that?

Again, it was just something I found fascinating so I gave it a try. Not sorry I did for all it taught me. But somehow this seems to be my downfall. I love learning. I also like people quite a bit and I guess this might be a tendency towards distraction. And I have a hard time saying no when somebody asks me for help. Let's take political activism for example. Oh the thousands of hours people like us put into a task that's unending and hasn't enriched us in any way shape or form. And every time I think I should back off and just develop the now 3 businesses we have, some new emergency or exciting event pops up and off I go spending time on that. Plus I love spending time vitually or in person with you guys. You guys are one of the bright spots in my life. Love you to pieces.

So here's me now. I don't produce failure but there are others that make way more money than me. On the other hand I've spent my life doing pretty much whatever the hell I want and I have a lot of fun. I don't have a retirement planned for but when you just like doing stuff, who can even imagine retiring? I always have to be doing something, it's just genetic or something. I have this feeling that maybe if somebody else were in charge of my life, maybe I'd have more money but then...I really don't like working for other people, particularly when I see I could be doing a better job at it than them. And I don't see it making me happier.

So what's number 9 there? I dunno, maybe you don't wanna be me, you wanna be kinda like me but less curious? Less enthused? Less addicted to learning new things? Be less willing to take chances? Pick more ambitious projects?

I have this feeling it's a bit late in life to start being somebody else. But for some inexplicable reason, I'm kinda content. Generally happy with who I am. Some say that's worth more than money. So I don't know if I'm a positive or negative example for anybody. I'd probably tell you to pick ONE THING that has a clear upward trajectory, something that you can continue to grow with and reach new heights but then...if you are miserable no amount of money can compensate you. And I guess that's 10. If you are miserable no amount of money can compensate you.

So this probably amounts to a load of useless advice. There is, however one piece of advice I consider important:

NEVER COMPARE YOURSELF TO ANY OTHER SOUL ALIVE OR DEAD. That just seems to produce envy and envy is a joy-robber. No other soul knows what it's like to be you, what your challenges are, what life looks like to you. So you had to do a lot of reading for number 11. Take a break, you deserve it.

There is nothing strange about having a bar of soap in your right pocket, it's just what's happening.

Zundap?

Geeze it's been years since I heard that name. Brings back memories. I waz in the MC biz for about 30 years.

Did: Triumph, BSA, Norton, CZ, Jawa, Rickman, Suzuki, Maico, Honda, Husquvarna, Yamaha and Bultaco too!

Yeah, this goes back sum years....

Because: Some animals are more equal than other animals. -Animal Farm-

What the? > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MTIwY3_-ks

Fun read. Good advice!

My favorite: "Don't over work your love or it just turns into work."

Thanks. I thoroughly enjoyed

Thanks. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reply! Keep being who you are.

Everytime I think about starting a business..

... I start thinking about all the draconian regulations, cronyism, and utter corruption; and it just makes me want to leave the country. :(

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." -- James Madison

BMWJIM's picture

Look for a failing business that

you have the commitment and resources to take over and build correctly. This is what we did with the cycle shop. Took over the debt and started running it like an actual business. 2 1/2 years later and doing very well.

Have done this three times in my life. Once profitable, sell it and look for another.

Jim

1976-1982 USMC, Having my hands in the soil keeps me from soiling my hands on useless politicians.

Hey that's a good one

Most failing business owners are incapable of seeing what they do wrong. Total mental blockage. I saw a restauranteur fail because the guy could not, for the life of him, understand inventory and cost control. The food was great, he was just throwing way too much away and not making margins. I found him a professional manager who brought costs inline and it started doing well.

I turned around a failing bar because that owner couldn't see for himself that hosting his best buddies for a free party every night was not only wasting money, if you weren't one of his buddies he practically igonored you. Simply getting the guy to NO HANG OUT AT HIS OWN BAR and telling the staff that new customers were to be treated like royalty.

There was this other fellow, a book publisher that literally hated doing the work. He just hated the basics of running a business, fulfilling orders, answering phones so he started hiring employees to do everything for him and he wasn't big enough for this. I have no idea what this guy actually did all day but all those people were completely unjustified. That destroyed profitability. That one I just walked away from. After telling the guy he might as well sell because that was just silly. I mean come on, the guy was never gonna suddenly fall in love with the work.

Honestly, and I'm not exactly Einstein here, but most businesses aren't rocket science, particularly service and retail. The numbers don't lie even if the principles lie to themselves all the time.

I think a lot of people would be shocked how many small business don't even have a written business plan, no projections, no cost-of-goods-delivered analysis, no employee productivity marks (you can almost divide your taret revenue projections by the number of employees that's the amount of money that employee has to minimally MAKE the business...I mean it goes on and on. All of this stuff is written and published, all ya gotta do is read a stinking book.

What makes this make any kind of sense to me is the "three spheres of knowledge". There's what you know you know, there's what you know you don't know and then there's what you don't know you don't know. It's that third sphere that gets people. Beyond that people tend to assume they know more than they know.

What enables me to quickly hone in on different businesses or skills is I just assume that there's a TON I don't know and all I do is find someone who already knows. Then you do whatever it takes to con them into telling you. Do they like bar drinking? Take them out and get them hosed and work them for info. Maybe they like eating out. Maybe they like to have company at the house. Pay them outright if that's what it takes. People like to talk and they love talking about themselves to an interested party.

There is nothing strange about having a bar of soap in your right pocket, it's just what's happening.

First of all I'll ask

ARE YOU F-ing NUTS?
Then I usually say something like : If you want to end up making a little money running your business. You better start with a lot of money because a little is all you'll have left.
I'm speaking here with 20 years of 80+ hour work weeks and little vacation time for yourself so that you can provide a decent living for a few employees who get that time off and better benefits. Otherwise you would indeed be doing it all yourself. Also
I just had this conversation with another small businessman trying to get bigger. Watch out for the cash in the business because we both cited numerous examples of employee theft.
You are correct in your suggestions. Buying an established or just started business is a good move . Have a mentor to start you off helps too. But be prepared to be owned by the business instead of owning the business is the best advice I can share. And last but probably most importantly. Take the HR dept. very seriously. Hiring and firing sucks so you might as well get the hiring done right the first attempt so you won't have to do the firing.
Oh another lastly... remember this; NOBODY but NOBODY will be as serious about your business as you are so don't set expectations too high for an employee to go over and above.

Wow. I'm surprised you

Wow. I'm surprised you didn't just go get a job before 20 years.

You are right that many people think that they are business owners when in reality they just own a job. In that case it will own you. That's why I'm recommending reading the eMyth.

I didn't just go

Get a job during the last 20 years because it is much harder to successfully close a business then it is to successfully start and run one. Unless you admit to failure and screw your debtors by filing to go bankrupt . Debt can be built up in a business when you are aggressive and continue to push for growth when world events and overall economy takes a turn downward and you realize it a little late.
Selling is an option , but how good of an option? Look around and count how many people are driven in this society. You'll need only one hand if you use fingers when counting.

Understanding the Peter Principle and tempering enthusiasm too late along with having pride enough to not screw your debtors and in turn yourself keeps you working hard and sacrificing some luxuries. Pride also in employing others who work for you but lack the spirit to venture off and be an entrepreneur keeps the fires stoked.

Pride and stupidity, weak mind and strong back and knowing that when your head hits the pillow at least one worry you'll never have is getting handed a pink slip are but just a few attributes one needs and gets from standing up for yourself.

Hey you been on my mind for these few days

and you are absolutely correct. Hard as it is.

My advice point 12: all business plans should be written and every business plan should have an exit strategy. A written plan for the dissolution of the business, the subsequent satisfaction of liabilities, the disposition of the assets.

Hopefully we build it to where we have something to sell but if we're saddled with debt, there's no float, it's sink or swim.

My heart goes out to you, warrior. Sometimes the fight is hard and seems to have no end.

I can give advice to those who ask but...you are competent and engaged and I don't pretend to have your magic answer. But I invite you to personally PM me. What I can promise is that I will listen and maybe, just maybe I can find an easter egg for you. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes, right?

And I can tell you are a fighter.

If nothing else I will encourage you: if you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. And hang in there.

I offer you 8 hours of my time redeemable in a 6 month period starting now. From this very second.

There is nothing strange about having a bar of soap in your right pocket, it's just what's happening.