Reflections on Small Business – Part 1
Being an entrepreneur in today’s world is a bit of a catch 22 if you aren’t already wealthy. These days it seems everyone has an idea for a new product or sees a need for a different way of providing services. We see dollar signs in these ideas and fall in love with the idea of being financially secure and being our own boss. Unfortunately achieving this dream is a bit more complicated than “Step 1: Idea, Step 3: Profit.”
With the economy in the dump, government taking socialist approaches to business, and financial obligations in our own life, it is nearly impossible to justify quitting your day job or taking out substantial loans to start your dream business. Much of the time a “side” business will form out of these ideas and bring in a little extra income. In the beginning, this seems great. However as time goes on and months then years pass and you are in the same spot you started, receiving only a little extra income per month on the “side,” it is easy to get discouraged.
At this point I think it is important to be honest to both yourself and your customers. Are you truly committed to yourself, your business, and them? Are you content with the few extra bucks a month or do you really want more? If you want more and are truly committed, then it is time to sit down and work out a plan for how to get more. The sitting on the side and being cautious route didn’t provide the growth you wanted but it was much safer than the “all-in” approach. You need to find something in the middle. Just think – if you would have looked for middle ground in the beginning, you might be in a better spot.
Here is my recommendation for how to approach a business: Do NOT go it alone. It is much easier to find and justify a balance of “all-in” and “safe” when you have help. Everyone involved should be in a spot where they can contribute to the company, but not rely on it financially for some time – if ever. Once you have your team together, set realistic goals for each month or quarter and develop a plan to get there. Once you have your plan – implement it. Don’t spend too much time planning because nothing will get done. Once again, the name of the game is balance.
So far we have honesty, balance, more balance, and one remaining item to level out of thinking. That item is honesty. It is important to be open and honest with your customers. As a small business you can’t always compete on price, but you can compete on the human level every time. Develop a relationship with your customers. Let them know where the company is and where you would like to see it go. (Obviously you don’t want to share every detail of the company, use your sense here.) Take feedback from them. Being honest with them will build trust, which will prove to be more important in growing your company than any other factor.
When I was running a small business, I tried a competition by price model and shrouded the company in mystery. I have been using the feedback from my company to develop themes to consider for others developing businesses. I don’t have any answers, but I have a lot of ideas to share so check back regularly.