Paniced Business ManThis last week, the Salt Lake City Bookkeeping Blog had an article about the dangers of running a one-person business. They listed the dangers as:

  • Absence = Losses
  • Slow Growth
  • Losing Customers Hurts
  • No other perspective
  • Owner Burnout

And while there are elements of truth in the article, overall I found that it continues the myth of modern American business – in order to be successful, you have to be big.

Me2 Solutions has been working on a new series of podcasts entitled the Hidden History of Business – Ancient Origins, Modern Consequences. In this series, we are looking at some of the oldest businesses and companies in the world. Without revealing everything – we do want you to follow the podcasts when we release them – I can say that what we’ve found is that the companies that have survived the longest – by hundreds and even a thousand years or more – are always small businesses and likely family owned. Although family is loosely defined.

Let’s consider the points made in the referenced article and look at them from another perspective.

Absence = losses

Whether you are making money when you are at the office or dealing with clients depends upon the type of business you have and what you are offering in exchange for money. A lawyer, doctor, or plumber are really trading their time for your money. For them and similar businesses, absence does mean that you’re not making money. But what if you’re an author and what you are offering are books? Do you have be to present to sell a book through your web site or Amazon? The answer is no, you can sleep in your sleep or vacationing in Mexico. The issue is can you package what you offer in a form that people can buy without you being present?

Slow Growth

You can’t do everything therefore you won’t do much – that’s the premise. But is it true? I grant you that no one can do everything but who has to? Only control freaks will do everything themselves. If you are humble – hard sometimes for Americans to be – you can always find someone willing to help. Yes, it will likely cost, but it will be worth the expense. I had a client once that scanned building documents and organized them on DVDs for easy retrieval for his clients. He would spend one-two days taking the documents apart and scanning them on his home scanner. I challenged him to investigate how much time and cost there would be if he had a professional scanning service do the scanning. He came back two days later to announce that all the scanning would henceforth be done by a scanning firm he found.

It’s important to realize that even the remotest, loneliest entrepreneur is not alone. Even if you just use the US Postal Service as your shipping department, you have someone to help you.

Losing Customers Hurts

Yes, losing a customer hurts, but eventually you lose all your customers – from death if nothing else. Needs change and customers change. Perhaps it’s because I plan on losing my customers that I don’t find this point to be particularly important. After all, because we offer quality and management training, once a student has mastered the material I really don’t expect them to continue being a customer. I hope they become an enthusiastic apostle of our classes and courses, but I don’t expect them back as a student – at least not for the same class. The last thing I want my customers to become is dependent on me because that means that I failed in my promise to them.

No Other Perspective

I don’t know what world this comes from, because I get a lot of advice from customers, potential customers, relatives, and friends. Isn’t it interesting that everyone seems to know what’s best for your business and what you should be doing? Of course, I always wonder why they aren’t doing it instead of me.

The most important attribute for a business owner – any business owner – is to be able to listen to their past, current and potential customers. Because the only perspective that counts is the customer – the one who gives you money! Everyone else is just noise.

Owner Burnout

I remember a discussion I had once with a group of the “white hats” – foremen and general foremen – at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Someone mentioned burnout and one of the general foremen asked, “Why don’t we ever hear of burnout among the workmen?” It’s a good point because when a person knows what their job is, what’s required, where the resources are, and how to accomplish the job successfully, then there’s little concern about burnout. Burnout comes from the stress of trying to figure out everything as you go.

We had a client that had a very successful social media marketing company – a one-woman show. And she was getting burned out – until we showed her how to reduce the effort of managing her email messages. She went from being overwhelmed and thinking of closing her business to increasing her business and finally moving it out of her home.

What is often needed by the owner who is facing burnout is simply someone to look at how they are doing their work and figure out how to do it with less effort through technology, outsourcing or ignoring the unimportant.

Are you a one-person band? Do you want to grow big or stay small? Why?

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.