Thursday, December 20, 2007

Business Owners

In the past couple of days I've run into a few business owners. What's ironic about this, is that just a few days before this I was complaining to someone that it's hard to find these elusive individuals. Apparently, I was wrong.

The first one I met at Toastmasters. The guy runs a heat pump/air conditioning repair company. While not the kind of business I would probably be good at, just talking to him about how he started his business and how it has evolved was inspiring and educating. Apparently, years back, he was out of work and running out of money with a wife and three kids to feed. So he had to do something and he had to do it fast. He told me that he didn't like fixing heat pumps for apartments and preferred individual residential houses, but when he started out he needed an income fast, so he did whatever work he could find. He always gives his clients a 10% discount of the cost of any work he does, and has built up a client el from word of mouth and the basic advertising he does on the truck he drives. While I didn't ask how much money he makes each year, he said that he has enough business now that he only does private homes and not apartment buildings anymore.

I guess the lesson to learn is that you just need to keep plugging away, working on doing a good job and building a reputation. With a good enough reputation, the word of mouth advertising, which is increasingly becoming the only form people trust, will grow your business. Also, you shouldn't be worried about competition, since by doing a good job and making a name for yourself, there will be enough people willing to pay for quality work to keep you happy.

The second one turned out to be a coworker of mine. Apparently he created a small software client, a web service that it sends messages to, and a website where people can sign up for the software and service. It all seems simply now that he has it in place, and there are lots of ways for him to expand his services. The wider benefit from it, other than the added income, is that putting in the time and effort to make the business has taught him new skills and kept him sharp in different areas. I'm not sure how much money it pulls in, but an automated, subscription based service seems like a perpetual money making machine after the upfront cost and effort.

I guess the lesson to learn is to keep practicing to keep your skills up, but find a way to do it that benefits you outside of just your job. With a little bit of foresight and the willingness to put the time and effort into learning new things and making something that could be useful, not only do you gain confidence but you can gain comfort as well.

I'm glad to meet more and more entrepreneurs because it challenges me to keep going. Also, they are very open and encouraging, willing to offer up advice about what they did or what to avoid doing.

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