Reply by Don Butler

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Don Butler

1092 posts in 3422 days

#1 posted 05-07-2009 03:36 PM

My wife and I have been in one business or another for a very long time.
Establishing your own business is a trial and error thing. No school can teach you what you need to know and you will likely have to learn as you go. The trial part is especially operative when you do something you shouldn’t do and find out the hard way.

Expect setbacks. Perhaps a few will experience no difficulties and life is wonderful, but for most of us, hard times will happen. Even if its not your business itself that causes problems, a million personal matters can cause you grief. Be strong.

Others on this thread have stressed flexibility. I can’t emphasize that too much. If you’re doing something for a client and they ask if you can do something else, don’t reject the idea out of hand. Think about it and consider how it might expand your services.
For example, I’m focussed primarily on fine woodworking and cabinetry. But someone might ask if I can provide a computer service or photography or even electrical or plumbing, I may take it on. Its important to know your limitations, though. If there are local laws requiring licencing, for example, be careful not to step over that line unless you can meet the requirements.
Knowing your physical limitations is important, too. I’m a septuagenarian and can do far less than I used to. Perhaps someone else has a disability that will limit them. Maybe its cash, keeping you from having the tools and other equipment.
Advertising? HMMMMMmmmmmmmmmm.
Although I’ve been involved in that pursuit when working for other companies, and it was important for them, my experience as a small business person and the condition of the present business environment tells me other things. I do almost no advertising, but I maintain availability. Huh? That means that I allow people to find me, but I don’t go after them.
So, I have a website for my wife’s business, but we don’t engage in selling over the Internet. Customers looking for her services or merchandise can find us. On the other hand we have had far greater success with word of mouth connections.
Some also think that a store front or building prominently in the places where there is great traffic is important. Beware. I can think of few things that have caused small businesses to fail than trying to keep up that sort of presentment. In these days, the old idea that your visibility is essential to success is having less and less importance. There are many small businesses doing well that you can’t see from the street and in many cases they aren’t in a business area. You can have a small business in a bedroom.

Don’t hire outside services or employees you don’t absolutely need.
In our business, considered by some to be the best in our locality, we have no employees and never have.
I do everything.
No, really, everything.
I build the showroom displays and furniture. I do all the electrical work (a word of caution, there, we own the building and local law permits it). I set up and maintain our four station computer network. I installed the video surveillance system. I built and maintain the sign outside the building. I fix the plumbing. I installed our digital business phone system. In other words, I hire nobody for anything unless I just HAVE TO. One exception was the roof. I hired a contractor to put on a new roof system because it was just to much for me to do.

So this long harangue has an important message: Be careful. Watch expenses. Stay within your abilities but don’t limit yourself too much. Don’t try to make a big splash when going into business, just do the best you can and depend on your clientelle to bring others to you.

Just a few of the lessons I’ve learned in many years on this planet.

Best regards and wishes for your success,

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