I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Small Business Advice

Thanks mostly to the influence of Biz Guy (who, on this blog at least, is soon to be re-christened Guru Guy), I've been reading a lot about small businesses lately. I seem to have signed up for more small business newsletters than I knew even existed, so every day my email inbox pings with articles to read, webinars to attend, and links to follow. Let me tell you, you can just avoid running a small business altogether if you like, and spend all your waking hours reading about running one instead. It's probably cheaper to do it that way (but possibly not as fun.)

So all these super interesting and important people (who other people think are super interesting and important, hence why they get paid the big bucks) write a bunch of articles about how to succeed in small business. You have a small business question? Chances are there is an article about how to solve that problem in 'Three EASY Steps.' The interwebs ABOUND with small business advice, but all of it is terribly sound-byte-ish and headline-grab-ish....and I think it's high time someone wrote an article about what small business owners REALLY need to know (with apologies to Biz Guy, who actually writes great articles.) By the way, I don't mean for this to sound negative about business ownership- it's more me poking a bit of fun at those endless articles.

Want to run a small business? Here is emzee's personal guide to doing so, in at least 10 easy steps. The small print: please note, advice is in no paticular order, and I highly recommend that you seek the advice of a shit load of interesting and important people before embarking on this insane idea of yours. (And by "yours" I of course mean the business idea you have which is entirely unoriginal, but you think it's original, and that's really all that matters.)

1. It's going to cost you a shit load of money. It is VITAL that you start out by creating endless spreadsheets where you cost things out all the way down to the actual trash can and bags to line it (and by the way, I really did do this.) Look at the amount at the bottom of the spreadsheet and give yourself a MASSIVE pat on the back for making it come in UNDER the amount of money you actually have to spend on this venture. Then look at the total again and quadruple it. And then just add a few more zeros for good measure...and if you're lucky you will be in spitting distance of what you might actually spend. Like my DH often says, "the best way to make a small fortune is to start with a large one."

2.  Every company you read about that is an 'overnight success' is one that has been going for a long time, probably went nearly belly up once or twice, and the owner is as shocked as you are that they are now an overnight success. Believe me when I say that the 'Overnight Success Inc.' business owner, before they go to bed every night, is saying to themselves, "I can't fucking believe I got away with it! When are they all going to realise I'm just muddling my way through this?"

3. People say bad shit about you and your company, sometimes to your face, sometimes not. Deal with it - I find eating an entire block of chocolate generally does the job nicely. Either that or a tub of ice cream, or both. That and crying to your partner about it and re-hashing what happened at least a half-dozen times (more if you can get away with it.) I also think it's important to take the time to justify (a half dozen times or more) why you *totally* did the right thing in this situation and the bad-mouther is just a loser with nothing to do in their life but irritate you. Never mind that the loser has now also stolen several hours of your time (in whinging and working off the ice cream and chocolate in the gym.)

4. When you hire other people to help you out, you're going to be so bloody grateful you're going to want to kiss their feet every single time they come to work. Until such time as they stuff something up, show up late, irritate you, be demanding or moody, or in general don't do things as you would do them. At which time you'll probably still want to kiss their feet because you're so damn grateful that it's not just you by your lonesome doing everything. You didn't hire people to help, you hired people to keep you company as you ride the rollercoaster. Nobody likes being the loser by themselves with an empty seat next to them (the only exception to this is flights, where being alone is a godsend.)

5. The boss gets to do the crappy jobs, because the boss is the only one who gives a shit enough about the business to DO the crappy jobs. I'm not talking about stuff like washing dishes or floors. I'm talking about the details stuff - calling clients to admit you or your staff screwed up somewhere. Apologising publicly on facebook for posting a picture of a cake not yet delivered and thus ruining the surprise (yup, that was me.) Paying through the ass for express postage because something did not get ordered on time, and praying like hell it arrives by yesterday. Driving halfway across the state to pick something up from a supplier. Answering emails at 3am. Working 7 days a week. You, boss person, will work way harder doing much more difficult stuff than you EVER did as an employee. What's more, you're a total masochist so you'll probably enjoy it.

6. You will become hard of hearing, because you'll only ever really listen to half of what anybody says to you. You're either too tired to pay attention (emails at 3am, remember?) or you're too busy thinking about all the shit you need to do tomorrow (drive across town, order something express post) or frankly, you are so entombed in your little business bubble you could give a fuck about whatever anybody else has to say anyway. Oh, sorry, what? Did you say something?The house is on fire? Oh, that's nice dear. I *must* remember to pay the extra for the express post.

7. Your house desperately needs cleaning. You don't need to look around and check, just trust me on this one. If you can remember the last time you either changed your sheets or mopped the floor, consider yourself my hero.

8. Other people will think you are completely and utterly AWESOME for what you do, because secretly they all think you are totally SUPERWOMAN and they just wish the had the balls to attempt owning their very own slice of heavenly debt.  Don't disabuse them of this thought. Being perceived as Superwoman has it's distinct advantages, namely that when people come to your house they magically either don't see the mess, or just think that even Superwomen occassionally miss a spot (or ten.) It makes other people feel better when they see that Superwoman's house is a bit untidy. Makes her seem that much more authentic.(For anyone reading this who has actually been inside my house: Right before you came and right after you left, my house was as clean as a museum. Seriously. It was. I think you brought that mess with you.)

9. There are days you will long for normal employment. You know, the sort where there is a lunch hour you are expected to take (heck, even a lunch HALF hour.) And a regular salary which lands in your banking account with comforting regularity. And nice little extras like superannuation, holiday pay, sick days, and other people whose job it is to look after the joint and pay the big bills (including your salary.) There will be days when you really need to take a sickie (because, you know, you're actually sick) and you wish like hell there was someone to call in sick to other than yourself. In those moments you will temporarily forget just how soul destroying being an employee can actually be.

10. Time off. Wait. What? Sorry? What exactly does that mean? Oh, don't worry about it. It won't apply to you anyway. (And even if, per chance, you manage to geographically escape your business...you can't mentally escape it. You can try, though - good luck with that.)

11. Other people will seek your advice because they want to become business owners, too, because you are making it look just so ridiculously EASY. Pour them a long tall glass and help them to drink the Kool-Aid. You have a moral obligation to ensure you do not endure this madness by yourself. Bring your friends along for the ride.

and lastly....

12. It's way more fun being IN business than it is reading about being in business (even when it's a clever blog post such as this one.) Go and DO stuff - you'll be glad you did (in between wishing you had vacation time and buying stuff via express post.)


Miss Cocoapops said...

Michelle you are a Superwoman, I think you're amazing doing everything you do!!

Cindy Davis said...

I agree with Miss Chocolatepops, you're giving some very sound advice here. It's nice to hear from another female entrepreneur that isn't intimidated about the world and knows how to Get Business Results from her projects.