Monday, November 03, 2008

Starting a New Business in Shady Times

How to Succeed in a Failing Economy

Most people would have told my husband and I that it wasn’t a good time to start our new business, but we wouldn’t have listened. Is there truly ever a good time to start a new business in corporate America if you don’t have the right people on your side? Because we started with next to no money and loans galore, we have learned a lot from our mistakes, and we've been in business for one year now! Because there have been so many lay-offs and the ecomony is so scary, here are a few ideas to help you if you're thinking of going down that road.

Use What You Have
With times as they are and no end in site, many people are hanging on to jobs they are either unhappy with, or they have lost their job and have no where to go. My husband had worked in the collision repair industry for ages, so he had plenty of body shop tools. What he didn’t have, he knew someone who was willing to sell a tool. There are some things we had to do without, but we had to watch our money closely and do without a few things. If you decide to start a new business from scratch and have nothing to work with, your costs go up exponentially.

Do It Alone
Do you really need an employee to micromanage, or can you do it yourself? Having employees may articulate that you are successful, but if you are able to do everything on your own, you cut your costs by doing so. Let's face it: Small Business are Taxed, Taxed, Taxed! Not only do you have to pay the employee, you have to pay taxes and insurance on them and worker's compensation. Even if you start to thrive and have to say no to people because you can’t do it all yourself, give yourself time to grow before hiring someone else. Start small, even if you have to turn away potential customers. There is such a thing as thriving too quickly.

Have the Right Tools
Even if it’s just you, tracking your finances is important. I found that Quick Books Pro was the best way to do this, but if you can keep your own spreadsheet, more power to you.

Let’s face it. Most businesses fail for lack of capital. It’s important to keep overhead costs to a minimum. Do the cleaning yourself. Have your spouse or kids help with something. Maybe your children’s friends will want to help. Advertising gets expensive, so try to depend on word of mouth.

If you’re good at what you do, location shouldn’t matter, but it does help.

Again, if you can do most of this yourself, then by all means, do. We spent a fortune on radio ads, and it didn’t help at all, but we've learned from our mistakes. A good placed ad in the newspaper might help, but be sure you don’t pay for it without knowing exactly what you’re getting. By far, joining the Chamber of Commerce is your best advertising option, but be sure to take all they have to offer. Vistaprint or any of the other online printing services makes great business cards for cheap, and National Pen offers good deals, too. Watch them for those deals, and you may get a lot for next to nothing.

Take Care of Your Costumers
They are the ones keeping you in business. Send them a thank you card, a Christmas card, a birthday card. Anything to make them remember you and to show your appreciation. Go out of your way to make yourself stand out from your competition.

Take Time
If you’re doing everything yourself, you have to take the time to research, learn, enter you financials, make phone calls, make records, and other necessary tasks of running a business. My husband runs the business end, I run the financial end. I try to set aside Saturday mornings, as I drink a cup of coffee, to enter our checkbook into Quickbooks and pay the upcoming bills such as rent and utilities. Because our business is so small, we only use a CPA at the end of the year.

Though running a business requires time, be sure to take time for yourself as well! I don’t let this business take over what I am really passionate about: writing. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and count your blessings. We’re not making it rich (how can you in corporate America?) but my husband isn’t spending gas to commute everyday to work. We've made it a year, and they say a year is your hardest yet. Already we have grown, and that is something to be proud of.

1 comment:

The Blonde Duck said...

Congrats! Running a buisness, well two really with your writing career, is tough! Good for you!