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Self-Employed folk and/or Business owners: How/why did you get started? Any advice?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Blackbird, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Yes, I've been laid off again. That's three times in three years. Yay.:mad:

    So I was looking at different opportunities that the Employment Development Department (EDD) is offering and I've found out that there will be free business startup classes at a local community center and I've signed up.

    I have an idea for a retail/import/export business I think would thrive in this market, but I'd like to hear from other folks who are writing their own paycheck, regardless of field. Any insights, advice or general silliness encouraged (And PMs are welcome too)

  2. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    I've got my own business, it's really simple too.

    All I had to do was slap around some prostitutes and strategically place them on highly trafficed street corners.
  3. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    hahahaha we LOVE deez hoes.

    brad cook
  4. canopener


    Sep 15, 2003
    Isle of Lucy
    While I'm no business owner, I've studied this subject (minimally)...

    I'd suggest doing a survey somehow, or at least a study of what you'll be competing with, how close you are to your target market, how close you are to roads, malls, etc. I think a lot of businesses go under because they don't pay attention to these types of details. Another thing to consider would be zoning laws, and startup expenses. If you'll be relying on a loan, you'll need a very detailed business plan.
    Someone else will be able to elaborate more, but these are some of the basics.
    Good luck!
  5. To help crunch the numbers and get your mind looking at all of the financial facets, there is a great piece of software called Business Plan Pro. Long term, it will guide you through developing a thorough business plan for yourself and any other potential investors. Short term, it helps you focus your ideas by taking them from thought to paper and allowing you to evaluate whether it's a potentially viable idea $$$ and resource wise.
  6. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Having a soft spot in my heart and wanting to help my ex-Employer out during hard times it was decided that I would help them the most by being shown "the door".

    I was told I was "let-go" because I was the youngest and had the best chance of finding "gainful employment". Alrighty then.
    Let's also mention that my wife and I had just bought a new house(IE: no extra money), my wife was also 7 months pregnant with our 2nd child. Fortunately, we had no carpayments or major credit-card debt.

    The industry I was in was in dire-straights anyway. Having some foresight, I applied and tested for a Real Estate Salesperson license prior to my getting the "boot". It still took many months to get back on our feet.

    I've been a Residential realtor for over 7 years now.
  7. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I have to echo Joshua's advice and tell you to talk to an accountant. (As your business grows, you'll eventually be able to have a lawyer, but for right now, an accountant will suffice) That way you can get the low down on what you'll have to claim; what you can write off; and you'll also be better informed on what type of business you want to be registered as. (i.e. sole-proprietorship/partnership/corporation) Personally, I would go with being a corporation since you get more tax breaks, and the corporation is a legal enitity itself - that means that if something goes screwy, such as you get drug to court, it's the corporation that gets sued and not you personally.

    Think about your competition. With the internet, we're competeting in a global market whether we like it or not. How can you compete? You always want competitve prices, but you can't always undercut someone; many people are going to have huge amounts of capital backing, which allows them to buy large stocks. That in turns, drives down their wholesale cost, so they can offer those low prices. You can beat those people out by offering better service, longer warranties, ect. Remember, business is all about trust - if you have a client whom has given you a lot of trust, chances are that they are going to remain doing business with you as long as there isn't a huge difference in your competitors' prices. It's also possible to find niches in the market. Just because one company is offering high-end models for top dollar, doesn't mean that you can't offer mid-level models that the average person can afford.

    If you're truly serious about starting a business, then don't sweat the unemployment. Many people have become very sucessful due to unemployment forcing them to start their own business. (just like P. Aaron's story) In times of economic depression, you usually see people strike out on their own.
  8. bassturtle


    Apr 9, 2004
    For me it was a bit different I think than what usually happens. I was a college student and had been working for this guitar shop for about a year or so. Out of the blue the owner takes me for a car ride to ask me if I'd want to buy the store. I wasn't really looking to start/takeover a business at the time and in fact turned him down at first. I wanted to finish school first, but then realized - This is all I really know and it's the only thing I'm good at...why not make it my living and future? Needless to say several of the older guys who were co-workers of mine who had been offering to buy the place from him weren't too happy that he offered it to a 20y/o.

    Here's some advice that I wish someone would have given me 3 years ago. Some of the stuff might not apply to the line of work your getting into, but I think they are fairly universal tips.

    1) Don't pay someone to do something that you can do yourself.
    -Employees are expensive...really expensive.
    -This means sometimes you're the one who is sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets.
    -This sometimes means that you are pulling all-nighters to get a job done.

    2) Keep overhead lower than you think you need to.
    -You'd be shocked at the monthly expenses you think you have to have, but really don't.
    -This ties in with how much your pay yourself. Don't underpay yourself, but try to set a reasonable cap on your paycheck. It's easy to say "Hey we had a great month...maybe I'll take a bit more home with me." Roll that money back over into the business.

    3) Realize that you ARE the business.
    -Be of the mindset that if you don't care about the business then no one will.
    -Don't rely on anyone else to make the business successful.
    -Most of my regular customers do business with me because of me. I might not have something in stock, but because of our relationship they will wait for me to order it up instead of driving 5 mins from here to buy it from my competition.

    4) Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
    -Be honest about this. Where do you lack? Maybe leadership skills? Maybe you're not good with money?
    -Use this information when you are hiring people. Hire people who are strong where you are weak.

    5) Keep your chin up.
    -If you do anything for a long enough period of time, it's a sure thing that you will piss someone off. Just learn to live with this.
    -You have your own four walls to worry about. Don't get too hung up on what the competition is doing. I'm not saying be oblivious to what they are doing, but staying focused on your goals is key.
    -Stay positive. Don't let things get you down.

    I'm sure these are all things you know, but they are some every day things that I try to keep in mind. Some of the other marketing and business majors on TB could give you tips on advertising, accounting, etc.

    Oh my last bit of advice. Startup money. Try to use your own money if at all possible. Nothing sucks more than being in someone's back pocket. This includes the gov't/SBA. If you take a government loan, like I did, you are opening yourself up to a whole new list of rules and regulations. If you decide to take on a partner or a business investor be careful who you choose. Yoke yourself up with people with common goals, dreams, and ambitions.

    Good luck and more power to ya :D
  9. bassturtle


    Apr 9, 2004
    Oh and I almost forgot this little pearl of wisdom that another business owner told me a couple of months after I bought my store.

    "Sometimes being self-employed means that you're un-employed."

    Hehe...not real encouraging, but I know it's been true for some days and weeks for me.
  10. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Good point. There's always an element of risk. My partner recommends a year's salary stashed away somewhere as backup, 'cause you never know how the economy will go. And, "always have an exit strategy defined in advance".
  11. Max

    Max Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2000
    Bakersfield, CA
    Im a bankruptcy lawyer and with BassTurtle's permission, I would like to cut and paste his excellent post and give to clients thinking the same thing. That was some succinct and sage advice. The most important thing he said in my experience as to overhead is true, there's lots of stuff you think you will need but don't. Period.

    Other obvious stuff but worth repeating: DO NOT finance your business start up with credit cards. Do not pay consultants for their advice. Have a GOOD PRODUCT and do something you are interested in and like. Enthusiasm, knowledge and hard work can be as effective as a lot of store bought market research. DO NOT attempt to feed other mouths with the business, like family members. On the topic of family members, they ALMOST NEVER know what the he*l they are doing either when it comes to your business so don't equate pre-business family ties as some how giving them the ability to make you a success. In other words, don't hire them unless they will work for free the first year. Be prepared to work an insane number of hours. No task is beneath you like Bassturtle said. Scrub your own toilets and take out the trash. Buy your furiniture and fixtures at Goodwill. Drive your car til it has 200,000 miles on it. A scruffy paid for car is a BADGE OF HONOR. Remember that 4 out of 5 businesses fail within two years of birth. Don't take the staff out to lunch every Friday. Get a copier that is rated higher as to copies per month capability, and then DONT buy a service contract. Pay close attention to rent and payroll and make that as %*$(* low as possible. Those two expense items control.

    That will be $500.00 for the consult.
  12. tappel


    May 31, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    I'd highly recommend making an appointment with your local SCORE office. They specialize in advice for small business owners and, best of all, it's free.

  13. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    Yay for Wilco.
  14. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Yeah, I still don't get why many businesses employ nepotistic hiring policies. I would hire the person with the right qualifications, not the right last name. Oh well, I do things a lot differely than most people. :D
  15. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Sorry, Max, but you advised yourself out of your fee! ;)

    Thank you for all your advice. I'll keep it all in mind. I'm glad to say I already have a working relationship with an accountant and I'm sure he won't mind if he has a bit more business coming from yours truly. With a little luck, I will not have to put up any money of my own up front.

    One extra bit of info is that this whole program is part of a neighborhood renovation plan, so incentives are being given for people to open businesses there. The neighborhood in question has very good foot traffic, extensive bus service, is reasonably safe and accessible from other parts of town and there's nothing similar to the kind of business I'd like to open at that location at this time.

    Thanks again for all the info and links. I got some more thinking to do...