Guest Post by Ronn Hanley:
My home based clients don’t do business with me because I know more than they do about computers, networks, and servers – there’s always someone who knows more about those things and my clients know it.
They do business with me because I insist on making the interactions with them reasonably pleasant. They are happy to see me coming and know that I’ve helped them in the past and will do what I can to help them now. Many of them understand that I can’t solve every problem, but they’ve grow to understand that I will do my best. I make it clear to them that they aren’t simply numbers on a spread sheet. I enjoy helping even when things are blowing up in our faces and the world appears determined to stay in disaster mode.
Here’s the problem though, on average, home based businesses can’t offer enough work to build and sustain a full-fledged business – a business that I can use to act as an employer to others. Don’t misunderstand, I know that there are brick and mortar stores that have built a reputation for working on systems brought from people’s homes, but realistically, how many home users or even small offices have the capital to pay for recurring managed services?
A few weeks ago I was working on an idea to help me get new business and something occurred to me.
I’ve been maintaining a bit of a fiction (I’ll explain in a bit). There are two ways to look at how you are doing business. If you’re like me, you’re the chief cook and bottle washer. You’re also the head steward, bean counter and sole tax payer. This is fine in the short term, but this method – known as working IN the business, is just that, short term. It’s not sustainable in the long run.
The primary reasons it’s not sustainable are pretty plain, there isn’t enough of you or hours in the day to go around. It really doesn’t matter how much you bill per hour, over the course of months or years you will eventually burn out and then where is your business?
When I say that I’ve been maintaining a fiction this is what I mean. I realized a while back that I can’t keep up this pace for long. Where I need to be is developing new business leads and products. I need to be sitting down and creating proposals for new clients and building stronger relationships with existing clients. I need to employ others to help grow this thing I’m doing. This is known as working ON the business and it’s what a true entrepreneur is all about. The other method is just being ‘the computer guy’.
But NONE of that will happen the way I am doing things now. I am spending 10 to 12 hours per day working IN the business. Yes, I’m making money and taking care of my family, but like I said earlier, it’s not sustainable. I hope that you’re in business to do more than make money; hopefully you’re trying to build something that didn’t exist before, something that will last and be a benefit to your community. In my opinion, that’s the true purpose of small businesses around the world.
I came up with the concept of Grow Or Die two weeks ago and put those words on a piece of paper on the wall right behind my center monitor. It’s the first thing I see when I boot up in the morning and the last thing I see when I go to bed at night.
Kind of melodramatic?
But consider this, if my business isn’t growing what is it doing? If I’m not growing, what am I doing?
Look at the following facts:
- The SBA and Census Bureau both report that on average 1 in 3 businesses fail in their first three years. (I start year three this coming January)
- Some of the reasons for failures are poor marketing, poor business planning, poor management, and lack of clear objectives. (Ummm… yep)
- Some small businesses fail because the owner fails to understand and adapt when their market changes causing them to get overtaken by their competition or lose too many customers too quickly. (Watching it happen to local businesses as I write this.)
Some or all of these things could quickly end my business or your business and put us right back in line looking for a job. And, really, who wants that?
Guest Post by Ronn Hanley: Ronn is a technology enthusiast from way back, during the dark ages of the Arpanet and the Purple monochrome monitor screens. His first computer was a Commodore PET and his first laptop was the size of a suitcase. Despite that, he loves computers and technology to distraction and has been working in the tech world for almost 10 years full time, currently as the owner of a Desktop and Network support company in Atlanta, Georgia.