Can I Start My Own Small Business?

Can you start a small business? Of course you can. Anyone can start a small business.

Can YOU start a SUCCESSFUL small business?

Ah, that’s another question altogether. One of the hardest things a small business consultant has to do is tell someone they are not the right kind of person to own and run their own business. When someone asks me for help starting a business I always ask them “so tell me, why do you want to start a business anyway?”

Lets examine some answers I often hear:

“I want to get rich quick”. You may, in time, get rich but I can almost guarantee it will not be quick. In fact statistics show that 80% of all small businesses fail within the first five years and never make a profit, and those that do make it, do not make a profit for several years. The best you can count on for the first several years is probably paying yourself something less than you are making now.

“I don’t want to work as hard (or as long) as I do now”. You’re dreaming! You don’t know what working hard and long is until you start your own business.

“I’m a good hairdresser (or whatever) and that’s all I want to do, but I want to do it for myself.” Forget it. Plan to spend more time on things that don’t have anything to do with hairdressing than you ever will actually working on clients

“I can’t get a good job.” Stop and think about it. The very reasons you can’t get and hold a good job – lack of education or training, lack of people skills, inability to get along with others, lack of self discipline, etc. – may be reasons to suspect you will be less than successful at your own business because, believe me, with few exceptions you will need these skills to succeed.

“I want to build a business that my whole family can share.” Stop right there. Running a family business – without destroying family relationships – can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. What are going to be the responsibilities – and compensation – of each family member? Who is going to make the final decisions? Do different generations of the family share the same values and dream the same dream as you do? Do they even want to be involved or would they rather do their own thing?

“I want to be the boss!” – this could be a good reason – but only if you have a good business idea, the resources to get started, and you know you could manage the business and it’s employees efficiently and profitably and you – and your family – understand and accept the time, effort and money it will take to make it happen.

So — I’m suggesting you examine your motives before you jump into business. Having said that, there are many good reasons for going into business for yourself. Here are just a few:

You are a true entrepreneur, with the attributes to organize and assume the risk of a business or enterprise, have a business idea or dream, and the passion and desire to make that dream become a profitable business reality. This is your life, this is who you are.

You have a good business idea that you are convinced could earn you and your family a much better living than you could otherwise provide working for someone else.

You must work a more flexible schedule than an employer would permit, or must work from a certain location such as your home, because of family or physical reasons.

You have bumped into the ceiling at your current job and can’t get your employer to give you more responsibility (and compensation) or the position you are qualified for, and you feel you must “go it on your own” to achieve success in your career or profession.

You have retired and find yourself becoming bored with life or just in need of the stimulation of business (I’ve gone through that – twice) or your finances have changed such that you need additional income. If your prior experience and skills are such that you can apply them to a business idea this can be an ideal situation for starting again in a part or full time business.

There are of course, many other good reasons for wanting to start your own business and, if it’s for you, it can be the most exciting, satisfying and rewarding thing you have ever done.

So lets take a look at the kind of person most apt to succeed at starting a business:

Someone with a dream – but not a dreamer. Dreams don’t become reality until you get off your backside and take some action, so you’ve got to be an action oriented self-starter. Don’t kid yourself, nothing is going to happen until you make it happen.

A master planner / organizer. You are going to have to take that dream or business idea and get it down on paper – ultimately into a Business Plan. If you can’t organize your thoughts in order to express yourself, even getting your hands around that dream is going to be a problem, much less turning it into a business plan. Having trouble here – get some help. Contact SCORE. While there are many people who can help you organize your thoughts and begin to write out your Business Plan, SCORE is an organization of volunteers (get that – free help) who work with the Small Business Administration to help Small Business Persons (or “would be” Small Business Persons) needing some assistance. That’s my first plug for one of my favorite organizations.

A Self-Starter. As noted above, nothing is likely to happen until you make it happen.

A Self Confident Positive Thinker. You won’t believe the number of people who are going to pooh-pooh your ideas or tell you “you can’t do that” (and even if thy don’t say it, they are thinking it). Even your friends and relatives are going to be skeptical. You’ve got to believe in your idea and know you can make it happen.

A Decision Maker. You are going to have to make a lot of decisions under pressure and often without a lot of time for research. And – you’ve got to make the right decision most of the time

A People Person. From your suppliers, to your banker and your accountant, your (someday) employees and – most important – your customers or clients you are going to be interacting with people throughout your business day. If you are don’t have good people skills forget about going into business for yourself and work for someone who does.

Someone With Technical Knowledge Of The Business, But Not Necessarily A Technician. You may think that having knowledge about the business and the technical skills to do the job yourself would be the most important thing about running a business? You are wrong! In the beginning you are going to spend – at best – 50% of your time on actually doing the technical work of the business and 50% on organizing, managing, marketing, etc. etc. And guess what – as your business grows you are going to have to spend even more time on the non-technical stuff.

The right idea – The right reason – The right person.

So do you fit the mold? Is this person you?

If so, GO FOR IT! A good start would be getting some help and a good source of help would be SCORE. SCORE is an affiliate of the Small Business Administration that provides FREE business counselling to persons wanting to start their own business. Contact SCORE at and follow the link to your local SCORE chapter where you can request FREE, confidential, personal counselling help to get you started in planning your own small business.

Small Business Still Running Out to Retail Stores

Small Businesses in Canada are continuously running out to their local retail office store to purchase their computer supplies and accessories for their business. This practice is great for those businesses that need an ink cartridge or some DVD’s to backup their data, however, it is not the best practice for them to run out to purchase their next notebook computer or computer system.

Today’s small businesses are often purchasing the wrong computer system for their business. Many times when meeting with small businesses during my travels and inspecting their existing infrastructure, we are still finding many Windows XP Home or Media Centre computers that they have purchased for their business at the local retail office supply store. The sales people at these locations may lack the business technology training to properly understand what a small business needs and how business affects technology investments. The small business world is definitely different from the home or SOHO marketplace.

The business decision maker is often upset when the IT professional has to pass along the bad news that their existing systems need to be upgraded or the operating system replaced when they hit that critical point in their business that the need for a server in their business is identified. Computer Professionals that focus on small business often struggle with this daily, the need to inform the business owner that their existing systems will not be able operate effectively in a Windows domain with a home based operating system adds additional stress to their daily job.

The original reason why they went to purchase their latest computer at the retail store was perhaps the immediate gratification of getting a computer system that they can use today or out of urgency that they need something immediately. Small Business today, needs to start planning their technology investments wisely instead of spontaneously purchasing or impulse buying. This is where the Microsoft Small Business Specialist can assist them to ensure that they are investing in the right computer systems to allow their business to thrive with the right technology solution.

Where can small business turn? Business owners must find a trusted technology provider to assist them before they run out to the local office supply store. Microsoft has a great website for business owners to find that trusted resource at An experienced small business specialist understands what a small business requires and will recommend the correct solution, even if they do not have a server today, a small business specialist has the skills to plan for the future. The Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Vista Business Editions are what a small business needs to ensure that are ready for grow, so when the day comes that they need to invest in their first server, they can purchase the server and it can easily fit into their existing investments.

What prevents the home or media versions from working in business? These versions of Windows were developed with scaled down functionality to work in the home market or to work with your entertainment systems, sure they will run all the software that you purchase for your business, however, they lack critical business functionality like logging into a Windows domain network, file synchronization and they lack the additional security features found in the Professional and other business editions of Windows XP and Vista.

The Small Business Specialist community needs to continue its effort in educating today’s small business marketplace to ensure that they are investing in the right technology solutions for their business needs. Small Business consultants can leverage the Business Assessment Toolkit to paint the picture for the small business on their exact needs and ensure that they are investing their dollars wisely in technology.

Where Can I Get Funding to Start My Small Business?

It’s been a rather rough few years for the small business community since the Wall Street banking crisis and real estate collapse sent shock waves around the world. It was as if lending just hit a brick wall and stopped. Worse, of course was the fact that several large specialized lenders filed bankruptcy, for instance CIT Group. Luckily, American entrepreneurs and small business folks are a tough crowd, and they have perseverance known round the world. They will find a way, or they will make a way, but don’t ever count them out!

And with that said, and if you are looking for some business financing, well, you don’t have to rely necessarily on conventional banking to make it happen. After all, most community banks are not lending much because they need to watch their minimum reserve requirements, no small bank wants the FDIC to show up on Friday 10-minutes before closing to help lock the doors for good – and too, with interest rates so low, and uncertainty in the economy well, it’s not always such a good risk anyway for the bank.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment, as they look at potentially another huge Tsunami of foreclosures, and nearing the drop dead reserve requirements, they don’t want to be next. If you were running the bank you’d see their point. Right now many small business are not applying for loans, mostly because they don’t believe they can get them but also because they are worried about new health care rules, higher energy costs, and the dreaded double-dip.

However, it is also historically known that the biggest fortunes have been made at the bottom, and that the best time to start a business is after the big shake out of a recession, leaving fewer competitors or those still going so weak they can’t expand into the bounce of the bottom and the uptick of the rebound. Thus, now perhaps is the best time to go for it, or to expand, as prices are low, equipment vendors are willing to deal, and everyone and their brother is ready to work hard again.

Speaking of equipment vendors willing to make deals, they are also very apt to carry paper, finance, or help you get approved. Often, installation, and even service contracts can be worked into the deal or a lease. Other vendors for inventory may be willing to float billing terms normally unheard of, and as you know inventory can be a big chunk of change if you are in a retail type business.

Another good place to look for financing is through new or used vehicle loans, and then including truck bed bodies or equipment into the deal – or custom graphics or signage wraps for company vehicles. You may not have considered this but if you set up a computer system, you might be able to include a phone system, furniture, alarm system, all into the vendor financing.

There is also the potential of customer financing where customers put up a down payment on services, or products. Or if you have a signed contract from a corporate customer, you could try going to a receivables lending group or factoring company. The terms maybe tough on you, but if that’s what you need to get going, why not do a little dance – call it the entrepreneurial shuffle – or flying by the seat of your pants. It might be better than getting a cash advance on a credit card using one of those little checks they send out to get you to bite to trap you into indentured servitude or economic enslavement.

Many entrepreneurs will take out second mortgages on their homes, or get a home loan, and whereas, that might not be possible for you today, it might be a way to pay off your higher interest loans as the mortgage industry returns to full steam and the economy recovers. And if you are a solo-professional consultant type or working from your home, using a home loan to upgrade an office fits with a good use of money. Maybe you might do some alternative energy upgrades also at the same time and take the tax credits for those as well?

Most business coaches and small business consultants will suggest tapping into your retirement reserves temporarily, borrowing from your 401K, but before you do this know the tax consequences if you don’t get the money back as required by law, and it is different for different plans and uses too.

You see, the problem is that so many folks think they need to chase down a venture capitalist to get funding or go find an Angle Investor. Believe me that is work, and you could spend 8-10 months trying to get that done and meanwhile the recession will have ended and you will have missed out on the greatest opportunity and timing of several decades.

Besides chasing VC dollars and the odds of getting funded considering the small number of deals they actually doing right now doesn’t make sense – and giving away proprietary information in venture capital contests probably isn’t wise either. Please consider all this.