You’re kind of harsh about start-up businesses….

Start Up Businesses - when they're not a great idea

Actually I prefer…”Tactfully Honest”

A friend recently told me that my attitude to start-up businesses was “kinda harsh” and I was a little surprised because we have quite a lot of new businesses as clients. But in truth, she’s right, I am a little harsh (although I prefer tactfully honest, but then I’m not a very tactful person) about new businesses. Why? Because a business needs to be started and carried out right, whether it’s a mum working from her spare room or a mining company. You need to be able to devote time and money to growing your business or it’s just going to drag you into debt or burn out.

The potentially wrong reasons for create a nascent business

To supplement the family income while your kids are little. This is the noblest and most common reason for starting a little WAHM business. Unfortunately, it means that there is NO money to start the business unless you’re willing to spend from the family budget, which, if the biz isn’t viable, defeats the whole purpose, puts stress on your marriage and adds to the stress of mothering young children. So if the business has no clear path to money making, you may have heard a “tactfully honest” opinion.

Because you REALLY need the money. If you’re just struggling to make ends meet, the idea of bringing in money from a business is great BUT you need to be able to hit the ground running with a viable income that will meet your needs. If you’re one week’s income away from homelessness, a job is by far the safer bet. Sure, freelance admin through Elance or similar will bring money in immediately but at $5 an hour, it’s not a long term plan. Sure, if you’re a sales whiz, a product based business is great but it’s going to take 6 months to build….by which time, you’ll be sleeping in your parent’s spare bedroom. You may be better off begging, borrowing or stealing enough money to get qualified in a suitable job.

Because you’re willing to do ANYTHING to avoid going back to a job. OK, so I totally understand where you’re coming from and there’s nothing wrong with HATING employment – about 90% of employees would agree. But hating the drudge of day to day boredom in an admin job….and hating the drudge of the day to boredom in an admin business are pretty much the same. Similarly, if you spent all that time working in classrooms and hated it and now want to mow lawns for a living, there is no guarantee a change of career will bring you any more satisfaction. It might be better to figure out if you hated your job or you hated your employer. If it was the latter, you might want to start answering ads with keywords like “fun working culture” and “work life balance” in the job description. If it really was the job, not the employer, then it might be time to see a career counsellor to understand all of your options.

Because you are good at craft. Who wouldn’t want to make a career of their art – it’s the most satisfying way to make a living. The problem here is distinguishing between a hobby and a business. The tax office puts a number on it (I think it’s $5000 a year in income but then I am crap at tax) but more than that, it’s earning potential vs hours spent loving creating something beautiful. If it takes you 8 hours to knit the most adorable baby bonnet that just makes people want to cuddle and cuddle…and the value in it is that time spent….then you need to be able to charge $160 minimum for it to actually create a viable business. Is that realistic? To be “tactfully honest” um, no.

Because your youngest is all growed up. So, your baby is off to prep. The government is starting to ask about your plans…. You don’t want your kids going to before school, after school, holiday care and every other “care” in between. For this, you will need a business idea that also runs to “school hours”. So that’s doable… now, think about what school hours really means. You’ve only got 9.00 – 2.30 (at most) to work. That’s OK, right? Plenty of time to get some solid work done… It is….except that when you run your own business and you don’t outsource (a cost most can’t afford at first) your actual billable hours are surprisingly low. For every billable hour, there’s hours spent doing admin, chasing sales, managing online marketing etc. With such limited hours available, earning even $20 an hour in a casual job at the local shops or doctors may work out better than working your heart out at home.

Because you’re good at Facebook. OK so, we’ve all seen these amazing brands that grow and blossom on Facebook. You’re great at Facebook, everyone likes your stuff…. The problem with becoming a “Facebook Brand” is that most Facebook brands target other Facebook brands. So, there is a very limited pool of money that needs to be spread around AND you’re at the mercy of Facebook algorithm changes.  Mercy is not a word most startups associate with Facebook!  So, being good at Facebook is a good start but you need to also be good at sales, marketing, website management, finance and all the other stuff… Finding cool stuff to post does not a business make….

So my humble apologies to my accuser and the micro-business community…. I did not mean to offend, only offer some “tactfully honest” suggestions about whether a start up is right for you.

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