Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Starting the next great business... or maybe not.

I'm 'consulting' with my son on an assignment he has due tomorrow for his business class at school. He has to come up with an idea for a business, give it a name, create a slogan for it, write a basic business outline, design an advertisement, and then prepare a ten minute verbal presentation. We discussed various ideas, why the things we discussed might or might not work in the marketplace, and tried to come up with something plausible.

I think we accomplished the goal. I realized, as I was discussing things with him, that I no longer have any interest in the sorts of businesses that might have appealed to me when I was younger and without the experience I have today. Those businesses lack a reasonable 'bang for the buck' ratio (that's not proper business jargon, I know, but it fits) and are generally too demanding of time, effort, and sweat. Mostly sweat. I am more interested in working with my mind these days, probably because it doesn't appear to perspire.

What struck me again is that there are a dozens of ways in which people can make money and have some degree of freedom. They might not get rich in the process, but they would be their own boss. That's worth a lot. Most people though, even if they think they might like to be in business for themselves, face some problems:
  • They don't know what business to get into.
  • If they do know what they would like to do, they don't know how to get started.
  • They are paralyzed by fear. Fear of doing something new, fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of dealing with a non-like-minded spouse.
Those are serious obstacles to overcome. There are business opportunities galore, but most people will never recognize them. Even if they do recognize opportunities, they won't act on them. Do you, in the normal course of a day, encounter something and think to yourself: "Hmmm, there must be a better way to do that." You do? Well there, my friend, is a business opportunity. Do you think there are other people out there who might agree with your assessment, and who might become potential customers? There you go. Get started. Read some books on how to start a business. Learn some basic accounting, some marketing, and raise some money.

Raise money? Why? Well, you still have to pay bills while you are building your business, don't you? There are rent or mortgage payments on your residence, utilities, food, car expenses, etc. Then, there are the costs involved with starting up your business. Do you need an office, or can you operate out of your home to start. Do you need office furniture? How about supplies like pre-printed invoices, stationery and whatever tools or equipment you will need for your business? Everything costs money.

Where can you raise money? How about family and friends? That could be a bad idea, because you will be getting a lot of advice from family that you will find annoying and that you could well do without. If the money comes from people too close to you, it usually comes with strings. And headaches. Do you really want to owe your mother-in-law money?

This is not a 'How to Start a Business' manual, I just want to illustrate that starting a business isn't easy. And if you do manage to start a business, there is no guarantee of success. Many businesses fail. When they fail, they often leave behind a trail of human misery, recriminations, marriage breakups, bankruptcy.

Still want to start your own business? Good for you. If I haven't scared the bejeebers out of you by now, you just might have the drive, ambition and determination to succeed.

Just one thing: Don't give up. I don't want to see either you or my son in a welfare line, ever. Tenacity and perseverence are just as important as that one great idea. If those attributes are missing, it is better not to start.

Good luck.


  1. Great post. Good advice.

    I did that. I saw something that could be done better. I'm small fry compared to my competition.. in fact, I'm not even competition to them. But, they are the biggest at what they do and in all that they do, there is one thing that they won't and people want it. It's risky. But, why should they, no one else does either.

    Well, I do.

    I am very, bloody, freaking careful. But, I do.

    It's so simple, it'd make your head spin. And, people eat it up.

    I lift things.

    I'm not even kidding.

    That's all I can say, for now. ;)

    I am very excited to see your son's presentation, if he'll let you share it with us. Very Excited!!

    What a good dad you are.

  2. I worked for an Internet Marketing company for years, and it was very common to hear people say they wanted to have a business but didn't know what to sell.

    I guess it has to be something you're interested in, good at, maybe even passionate about. Would make it a lot easier to do if you have an interest in it.

    I should do some work on my own, but I get stumped by all of the accounting, paperwork, and what not. If I had someone to take care of all that, I could run with the business.

    But, when I get down to it, I suppose I'll have to do most of that stuff myself. Just a mental block I need to get by.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. great post. see, my thing is i want to find a way to live sustainably in Belize. it's not that different from starting a business.

    perhaps you do consulting work? in fact, a psychic said you might???

  4. Penny: Sometimes the very best businesses are the simple ones. You perform a service, collect your payment and go home. What could be better?

    Trooper: I would be interested to know more about your experience in internet marketing, programming, etc., if you are moving down this way later this year. I am always looking for co-venture situations and perhaps there might be some synergy there. If not, it was worth a shot, right?

    Jen: I imagine Belize is much like Panama in that officially you can't really work as an employee. However, depending on the regulations, you might be able to start a business, or do consulting work under contract. Possibly, even bartering could be effective. You trade one English lesson per week for some fruit and vegetables, or a chicken. Or teach basic computer skills. Or allow people to use internet access in exchange for something. I don't know enough about Belize or the specific area where you own property, but I'm sure there are ways you can make some money or barter services in return for goods.

    By the way, Jen... I have been told that I am inscrutable. I wonder if that veneer keeps out those mysterious psychic waves as well?