Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Small Business Minefield

So,how did you get here?
Ten years ago I was retrenched from my nice ,comfortable, well paid job. I decided to start my own business- be the master of my own destiny, my own boss. I had many years in sales, marketing, diplomas from a top graduate university: all I needed to succeed.. Little did I know, and was never taught at university, that I was about to walk through a minefield. There is so much we the small business owners are not warned about. You won't find it in any of the books, so here are some of the traps I and many of my friends fell into ( or stood on: some went BANG!) So, if you choose to be a budding entrepreneur, here are some real-life stories that hopefully will help you survive. They may sound simplistic, but they are real. Never believe,"I would never let that happen to me!"

Robert's Minefield: Robert walked into a minefield after his second year in business. As is the case with start-ups, the first year or two see exponential growth. Life is exciting, your energy is boundless and best of all, money is coming in. Robert decided that this shop was doing well, why not open another? Soon the plans were in place, the premises leased and the exciting cycle started again. The working capital was of course supplied from the original operation which soon sapped the profits. As his time, enthusiasm and expertise were diluted, both businesses suffered: Robert suffered! MINEFIELD! DON'T GET TOO BIG TOO QUICKLY.
Tom's Minefield: Tom planned his business venture very carefully. As opposed to some, he bought an existing business, printing T-shirts. His minefield came from nothing HE did wrong. His one and only supplier had a fire and could not supply for his Christmas orders. BANG! By the end of January, the business closed. NEVER RELY ON ONLY ONE OR TWO SUPPLIERS!
Big Business is not the friend of small business: It is a goal of every small business owner to dream and chase that big order that will set the business rolling. The sale that will pay off all the credit cards, the children's' school fees and buy the wife that ring she has always wanted.
Craig's Minefield: Craig was beside himself with excitement! He had secured that sale that was going to change his life. He ordered the raw materials, the staff worked through the night, ( two nights in fact) and the order was delivered on time! The customer was presented the invoice. Cash On Delivery was the arrangement. The invoice was duly dispatched to head office.....then ....nothing. It had disappeared into the bowels of a paper eating monolith, 1000 miles away! After a week of detective work Craig finally got hold of the financial director. The answer was not what he wanted to hear," We have decided to pay you 60 days" BANG! The suppliers of the raw materials were not happy and cut his supply. Casual staff needed to be paid, he had expended all his resources to finance this one "dream" deal.Big business need no favours. If they do not want to accept your terms (in this case it should have been 50% with order), LET IT GO!
These are just a few of the mines in the field that we as small business owners have faced. More will follow in later blogs. It is essential that small business owners keep abreast of new ideas and developments in the SME world. I strongly suggest that all SME owners read, study and call on experts in the field.

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