Launching your micro-business – some basics to consider

When you launch your own business your main desire may be to avoid the insanity you observed in your corporate life, but your survival as an independent business requires you to successfully address the same problems that your old company was trying to handle.

You old company may have been a vital and interesting place to work when it first started up, so how did it turn into a bloated organization full of hidebound middle managers and timid or resentful rank and file employees? (If this doesn’t apply to the wonderfully supportive organization you belong to, just skip to the closing paragraphs.)

A company goes from a challenging, freeform environment to an ossified hierarchy of dunces by following the easy path to becoming "more efficient". Statistics become more important than real results and it is a short step from that point to the routine fudging of the numbers and to substitution of rotely applied policy for judgement.

If you are starting a company or are planning to do so, here are some ideas you might want to think about.

People

It takes a great deal of courage to hire people on the basis of their ability to produce and to guide them so that they produce what is needed for the company to grow and prosper.

This means that you might be hiring people who do not have degrees and do not wear clothes well. Fortunately start-ups are often desperate enough that they ignore the conventional wisdom of hiring plastic people with diplomas from well-regarded schools. As a result, they often end up with a highly productive staff.

If you are used to hiring people to impress venture capitalists, you probably look for degrees and past positions instead of people who can produce what is needed in a shortest amount of time with a minimum of staff and materials. As a start-up you need people who can do the job. Credentials are secondary. Excellent references are essential.

Look  at what you need your people to do and choose them on that basis and no other. If your people need to interface with customers, make sure they are acceptable to the customers you wish to cultivate. Tattoos and face piercings may turn off restaurant and coffee shop customers but may be just the ticket in a souvenir shop.

Facilities

It is a truism that the building of their "world headquarters" is the point at which many companies seem to lose their way. As a start-up, you only need enough facilities to produce the goods and services you propose to deliver. Keep them simple, keep them inexpensive, and use the money you save to promote your goods and services by every means possible.

Work at home in a space set aside for work and you have the ideal
solution for many small business start-ups. If you have high-speed
Internet and VOIP phone connections, you are easily as advanced as most
cubicle dwellers. Add cell phones and you are able to stay in touch no
matter where you are.

Avoid the temptation to go bedouin. Trendy efforts to abolish fixed workspaces often result in disaster as they cost you time. Every time you have to set up or take down a workplace, you are wasting time you cannot spare.

Buy only the software you need. Every unnecessary application will be a millstone around your neck when you are trying to stay focused on meeting deadlines.

Buy only the machinery you need continuously, rent if you can for short-term needs. Borrow or work out an exchange where money is an overriding issue and the need is short-term.

Promotion and sales

"Doing my own thing" is a concept wistfully embraced by cubicle dwellers yearning to breathe free. It may even pay the rent, if you can persuade enough people to buy what you  produce.

A business of your own involves 50% selling with the rest of the time spent on producing, planning, marketing, documenting, bill-paying, ordering supplies, etc., etc. Selling is your primary job and all of the other activities will be for nothing if you can’t sell. Selling is not a necessary evil. It is the activity that determines whether you have a chance of making it at all.

If you like to create things, but don’t like selling, you will be better off working with or for someone who is able to sell.

My first piece of advice to anyone who is thinking of going out on their own is sharpen up your sales skills on someone else’s nickel before launching your own company.

There are more basics which you need to know before launching your micro-business, but I will get to them in future posts. The next post will address lowering the barriers to starting your micro-business.

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