In the beginning, my hobby: Electronic Prozac
Back in the 90’s, boy, does that sound old for someone born in the middle of the 20th century because when I was coming up, something in the 90’s meant 19th Century so, yes, I just had an ‘Oh, wow” moment. Anyways back in the 90’s, the 1990s, that is, AOL, Prodigy, and my local BBS aka Bulletin Board System were my hobbies. Rushing home from work, I would fire up my lightspeed fast 2400 baud modem and I am cruising far away libraries, arguing with Windows fans over why IBM’s OS/2 Warp 3.0 was better than Windows and downloading electronic versions of research papers, and playing Tournament L.O.R.D.
It was a rush and it was intoxicating for many reasons not the least of which I was able for a while, to be someone else in a land or lands that was somewhere else. It was admittedly and consciously pain relieving escapism because I sorely hated my job and wanted opportunity walked in and slapped me down, hard. I was fired.
Bouncing back, I landed a job as an OS/2 trainer for IBM through one of their contracting companies. My job was to go out and train Value Added Resellers on the benefits of using and promoting OS/2 Warp. We did an excellent job, moving 5 times as many copies of Warp as IBM indicated would save, EXTEND our job contracts. IBM’s version of saving my job included moving my family to Dallas, Texas. No, but thanks anyway. They probably feel they kept their end of the bargain; I do not agree.
Starting My Own Business: What Was I Thinking: First Steps
In my estimation, if you are going to start your own business, there are some groundwork got to haves that need to be lain in stone. First, have no partners. I will leave that for you to think about as I know thousands of business partnerships succeed everyday. Let me just say, like the fellow in the movie The Italian Job who did not like dogs but would not elaborate, I had a bad experience.
Second, you have to read some basic primers on starting your own business. The Small Business Administration has tons of free resources and yes, much of it is not applicable, but much is. Besides, wading through all those resources with eyes wide open will trigger a lot of thinking you may not have done yet and that is never a bad thing. Take a week, a month, or even heckfire until Christmas and browse the business sections of your local bookstores. Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million are the ones local to me. Some of your more niche oriented bookstores may not be the way to go. Many are too narrowly focused on the personal interests of the proprietor which is perfectly fine, but you need material to stimulate your brain and these stores often are too narrow in their in house collections. Barnes and Nobel and Books-A-Million all carry vast selections based on repeat sales (presumably because the books are helpful and recommended by word of mouth.)
Third, write a business plan. Go ahead, write one out freehand, outlining all the things you want to do and how you think you will do them. Define what and how you will make money and how you will get paid. Then run it past your accountant. After he gets through shooting holes in your plan, THEN go and find some business plan software, read books on the subject, and go back again for another evaluation to see what holes still need to be plugged. Don’t get aggravated at your accountant, either. He or she does not understand your dream and that is perfectly jake. Their business is not to understand your dream, it is to understand where your business is as a business so they can help you get on track. I say do it freehand first because that is the only way I know to make sure your dreams are the ones instilled in the plan and not just those you soaked up from reading business plan template language that will overwhelm you in your current naive state.
On the issue of accountants, that brings us to the whole issue of advisors. You need them. You will, in my opinion, need an accountant, a banker, an attorney, and once you get going, a financial planner, hopefully of the certified kind holding either a CLU or designation, my preference being the latter since they seem to be more service rather than product oriented, but again that is my opinion based on my time owning my own business running an Internet Service Provider as well as having worked in the financial planning side of the life insurance business for nearly a decade.
Fourth, make sure you really want to do your hobby as your job. I love computers, always have. My avocation became my vocation out of necessity. When I retire do you think I will be tinkering and fooling with PCs the way i am now? If your answer to your version of this question is not yes, you may need a new hobby, too.
If I have to explain it, it is maybe not for you. Still, here are MY reasons for wanting to work for myself. I like to work; I am at work these days sometimes more than an hour early. I hate traffic with a purple passion and go to great lengths to avoid it. No, there is nothing quite as special as hundreds of thousands of equally miserable and often desperately unhappy folks wrapped in 2100lbs. metal death machines hurtling through time and space up and down the freeways moving in the direction of where they do not want to go.
No one likes the schedule to which I seem to be born. 4AM until Noon I am on fire and full of energy. Working for myself lets me apply the fat part of the bell curve of my energy to my work. I like that. It is the only way you can truly call yourself a free person. If you find yourself watching what you say at work because you are afraid it will affect your job, do you really think you are living the life of a self-actualized, FREE individual? I don’t. You may think you are as free as the next person, but you are not. Your lifestyle is controlled by the size of your paycheck and your paycheck is controlled by another human being. Your choices in how to live your life is the interaction of what you need, what you want, and what you get paid.
How do I do this?
Decide if you are serious.
Decide what it is you think you might want to do and leave yourself room to change your mind
Explore your local bookstore business sections. You are not doing anything but letting your mind get used to the idea and letting books titles and covers inspire you.
Write out a business plan including everything you like about the idea of being in business for yourself.
Let an accountant look at it and have him tell you what you are missing from a business person’s point of view.
Take advantage of the business plan software packages and books that are available.
Re-write the business plan taking into account the books’. software, and accountant suggestions.
Have it re-reviewed.
Assemble your team of advisors: CPA, attorney, banker, and later on a financial consultant. Also, you will want a mentor who is successful as a business owner in some non-advisor related field.
Now, go make some money living your dream.