Can I start a business despite having no business training?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Dear Norm,
I’m an entertainer and a tennis professional with a sports-education business, teaching tennis through on-court musical tennis shows and specialty clinics. I want to grow the company, and I have the passion and the long-term vision to do it, but I don’t have a business background. Do I have time to become a businessman, or do I need to find people to grow the business for me?
David

Dear David,
My guess is that you have many more business skills than you give yourself credit for. You have customers, don’t you? You must have selling ability and marketing ability, and those are two of the most important skills a businessperson can have. OK, so you may not know accounting. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn the numbers, and it’s the numbers you need to know, not the technicalities of accounting. My advice is to go ahead. There’s only one way to acquire business experience: you have go out there and take your lumps. You can’t succeed without trying. At worst, you’ll get a great education for your next business.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Startups

Can a business man be happy as an employee?

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Dear Norm,
I’m a forty-nine-year-old career changer. I started a trucking business in 1975. By the mid 1990s we’d grown to twenty-eight employees, and I decided to sell, getting an all-cash buyout in 1997. After the sale I took nine months off, built a house, and began looking for a new career. Eventually, I landed a sales job in a computer business, where I had struggles with the owner. Having never been an employee before, I didn’t grasp the depth of the emperor’s-new-clothes mentality. I was fired after two years for failing to toe the line. After taking some time off, I’m back in the job market. I just wonder if I’m too headstrong to work for other people. Will I ever find happiness as an employee? Is there hope, or do they shoot old horses?
Bruce

Dear Bruce,
A lot of us are too headstrong to be long-term employees. I know I couldn’t work for someone else anymore, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t work with someone else. Think about becoming an independent contractor—doing outside sales, for example. If you really want to get involved in the management of a business, find a small company that wants and needs the help of an experienced entrepreneur. If that doesn’t work, start a business.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success

Can someone with my background start a business?

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Dear Norm,
When I was in high school, my father and I made furniture pieces that we sold at craft shows. The business could easily have grown, but my father didn’t want it to get bigger. Now my brother-in-law and I are talking about starting a furniture business that we’d build into a substantial company. Our problem is that we have trouble imagining ourselves doing it. How can two men from poor backgrounds get over the difficulty of visualizing themselves in a situation that’s so different from anything they’ve ever experienced?
Jace

Dear Jace,
It sounds as though you’ve already visualized the company you want to build. I think you actually have two other problems. First, you’re not giving yourself enough credit. You know more about business than you realize. Second, you’re looking too far ahead. Before you can have a factory, you need to have a business, and almost every business starts small. My advice would be to put together a plan about where you and your brother-in-law want to be in five years. Then figure out a good short-term goal. You might follow in your father’s footsteps, selling your furniture at craft shows. As you’re selling, you’ll make contacts. Tell people you’re thinking of starting a company. Some of them may be interested in helping you. Also look for a mentor who has built a business before. Being poor as a child is not an obstacle in business.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success

Do mistakes mean failure?

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Dear Norm,
I’m thirty-four years old, and I’m struggling to get my business up and running. I feel as though I’m riding on the edge of disaster, trying to hold the business together and build it at the same time. I’ve made mistakes in advertising, cash management, and just about everything else. You name it, I’ve blown it. I think my strongest attribute at this point is my willingness to endure pain. I’m just hoping my cash flow catches up with my stupidity before it’s too late.
Scott

Dear Scott,
Your e-mail takes me back to the first real business I started when I was thirty-three years old. I know exactly how you feel. Believe it or not, you’re going through an experience that you’ll look back on someday with a good deal of nostalgia. It’s an experience that shows what you’re really made of. I hope your business doesn’t fail, but if it does, you’re going to learn some important lessons, and I’m sure your next business will be a success. So hang in there.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success

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