Starting a business

by Mr. Cheap

I’m always attracted to the idea of standing on your own two feet and running a business where your compensation is directly in sync with your productivity, and the only person your beholden to is your customers. I’ve tried starting a fair sized venture (a software company that I devoted myself to full-time for about 2 years, and part time for about 4 years) which unfortunately never reached the point where it was even possible to support myself on.

Thoughts are constantly bouncing around in my head about how to escape the 9-5 grind and live the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. I’m honestly not after a “get-rich-quick” scheme, but would rather just live life on my own terms and be able to do what I think is best/right instead of being told what to do by someone else.

Real estate investing has worked out well along these lines, however my approach seems to be quite capital intensive (especially in Toronto right now, the rent:price ratio just doesn’t work out very well for land lording). I would need quite a bit of cash to buy enough property to make even a meager living on (although as time went on I suspect my standard of living would shoot up).

I came across an interesting list of 20 things NOT to do when starting a small business. It prompted a bit of a debate in the comments. I think I agree with the original post, that for a small start-up business, keeping costs at the absolute minimum is a good idea while you test whether your business actually works or not. I think that might have been part of my problem, I kept rolling along with my business and didn’t test whether I was on the right track (and make corrections) enough.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1

I’ve never started a business myself but from what I’ve seen from others, it appears that it is very hard to make a good living with a one person firm unless you are some kind of highly paid consultant. If you’re making a product or offering a service you probably need to expand and have employees in order to make more money. This of course takes capital and involves a lot of risk.

2

4P: Yes, basically my business attempts have always been of the “high paid consultant” variety, and you’re right that they’re easy to start up, low capital and low risk (basically you’re a modified employee).

Small product businesses seem to naturally become snake-oil peddling which sucks (I have no interest in cheating/deceiving people even if it makes me a buck).

3

I think that it all depends on the business. I started my own business in 2003 (I am a medical professional) and it definitely cost a lot of money to start it up. Luckily, I did not need expensive machinery but renting an office, furnishing an office outside my home (a must!), and marketing was not cheap. Looking back, there are things that I might do different next time around, but some of the basics would remain the same and it would still be fairly costly. Additionally, I disagreed with most of the “20 things not to do when starting your own business” article, at least for my specific type of business.

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