Inside the Mind of a Small Business Owner
thoughts & comments are encouraged
In 2006 I came home from college & started PoWeR Windows & Gutters. I had dreams of starting a business & turning it into a successful company. Then a brand name & just maybe a giant corporation or franchise. I would retire before the age of 40 & live the good life. I had no prior business experience, but I had read plenty of books & was not short on motivation. I was ready to take on the world & I am not saying I was expecting it to be easy, but how hard could it actually be?
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE (I’m being somewhat sarcastic, but it’s all true) !
Owning & operating a small business is TOUGH! Operating a small business is never easy & there are always new challenges. Every time you reach one milestone there are more & more to achieve. Small business owners love it though. We’re kind of a different breed …
Deciding to start a business is the easiest part. After that you have to pick a name & file paper work: Where do I file? What category of business should I become? Did I do it right? Looking back on this 13 years later is kind of funny to me because I really had no idea what I was doing. I talked w/ a few people I knew had small businesses, took their advice & started a d.b.a (doing business as) under the name PoWeR Windows & Gutters. From there I just “rolled” with it.
Next you have to find clients (obviously). You’re already in the hole financially & it’s time to get your name out there. Solution: I’ll just tell people I’m going to wash windows & my phone will be flooded with calls, right? Not even close. Building a brand and loyal client base takes time. You get your first couple jobs from the support of friends & family, but then it runs dry. Where is everyone, don’t they know I’m washing windows now?
Advertising is the logical step. But where & how much to spend? You’re already “in the red”, but what the heck, let’s go for it! After all you decided to take the risk in the first place. To be honest, I really had no idea where to advertise so I picked a newspaper & ran my first classified ad. YES I SAID NEWSPAPER AD. It was actually a quite successful way in getting the word out for my first couple of years & fairly inexpensive. From there I developed a solid customer base & word of mouth took over for a while.
Now that you have all this work just go hire someone right? If only it were that easy. I learned quickly that if you don’t have consistent work & enough hours you won’t be able to hire someone. So what do you do? Do most of the work yourself & start networking. Have a friend help you here & there, hire anyone you can & hope for the best. If & when you do find someone good, can you keep them? Can you pay them enough or have enough hours for them? This is what I was getting at above when I said there’s always more to achieve. One thing leads to another & you just go with it. After all, this is what you signed up for right?
So now you have all this work & maybe a couple employees. It should get easier, but not really. You were already doing everything, but now you have both customers/employees looking to you & relying on you to get everything done. It’s time to get organized. The 8 hour work day no longer exists for you. You’re taking phone calls before the day starts, responding to emails, estimating jobs & even organizing the schedule. Oh yea I forgot, your also on all the jobs making sure everything is being done properly. It quickly turns into a 24/7 gig. Should I just quit now? Heck no, this is what you wanted in the first place so stay head strong & keep pushing forward.
If you’ve made it this far you have somewhat of a brand name. People know you, your business & your reputation (hopefully a good one). This is the time it starts to get really tough, hahaha. Around this point you should decide if you’re going to stay small or try & grow. Decisions, decisions …. If you stay small you will have enough work for you, but you cap your potential. You have less people & variables to worry about, but you can only grow so much. If you take the next step, it’s almost like opening Pandora’s Box. There’s a whole new bunch of stuff to worry about: paper work all over again, collecting money & making payroll 2x a month, w2’s (if you haven’t already), finding more customer’s, etc …. If you’re a client, just try to understand (most of us) are doing our absolute best. If the job isn’t getting done, it’s cool to find someone else, but don’t take it personal.
So what do you do? You should have already learned a lot about yourself & understand your comfort level. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but also don’t sell yourself short. Trust your gut & roll with it because as long as you’re in business it’s a 24/7 job and it never really gets easier. But that’s what you loved about it in the first place.
This is the condensed version, just to give the outsider a taste. Before you know it, 13 years have gone by & you have a bad back & a family … This is how life goes & I would not change any of it given the chance. The way I view life: There is nothing easy, but nothing too difficult about life so long as you give your best effort. You could just find a job & go through the motions, but will that truly satisfy your desires? All that being said, if you want to start a business do it! If you are serious about it & you love the challenge, don’t hesitate. Life is a daily grind no matter what, so you may as well do what you love ….
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Thanks so much, Peter Robert Wengerski -