Starting up your own business – you need friends in business

This restaurant in Kyoto needed friends in business to help with English translation

Building a small business is difficult to achieve all by yourself. You need friends in business as well. Indeed you can be self employed and put in a 10-hour day contracting your labour and expertise. But that is not building a business. It is buying a job. While you continue to do nothing but sell your own time, you place a limit on your income because there are on 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week.

Building a small business is a leveraging process that requires many inputs – human and otherwise. As your business grows, you move away from doing everything to orchestrating everything yourself. When you reach your ‘solo’ capacity limit, you can only create more time and capacity by engaging the services of other people.

If you don’t grow as demand continues to grow, you either turn away customers or cut corners, thus sacrificing product quality and service in an effort to keep up. It is at this point where the downhill slide to failure begins. It is also at this point where you are working under considerable pressure and stress.

To survive, you have no choice but to move your small piece-meal operation out of your back bedroom into an environment of improved efficiency where you can make more products in less time to fill your ever increasing orders. Of course this requires a commitment to additional resources and to a higher level of expenses, usually at a time where you are not brimming with cash.

Try to solve the lack of people problem before starting up your own business. Don’t launch alone. Gather a few helpers around you. Look to friends and family. You are seeking help to get you going. You aren’t necessarily looking for a full time commitment. In most cases, people will lend a hand if asked and if they are able.

Another point worth remembering is that every helper you find is an inbuilt marketer. If they believe in you and what you are selling, they will tell everyone they meet. It is a lot easier for your friends in business to recommend your business than it is for you.

For more tips on starting up your own business visit

Until next time!

Top small business ideas – when starting up your own business from home

Home office space - simple and functional

There are a number of things to consider when starting up your own business from home.  Here are six top small business ideas to think about when setting up from home:

1. Find a quiet work space

Whatever you are doing from home usually requires quiet time to focus and concentrate.  So the room you select should be the quietest or most remote space on your property.  It should also be a dedicated space.  An office by day and a bedroom by night won’t work for very long.

2. Consider your fit out

The fit out of your home office space will largely depend on the nature of your business and whether you will be meeting clients there?  I work from home but have a purpose built separate office at the back of the house.  It is good enough to receive visitors but I rarely invite people there, preferring to meet at a local coffee shop.  I find that coffee shops are generally warm and inviting and certainly more congenial and more relaxing for clients.

3. Hire local facilities

For those bigger ‘meeting & greeting’ occasions, check your local area for meeting rooms, conference and catering facilities.  Generally these facilities are used so rarely, it is cheaper to rent by the hour or day, even for office based businesses.

4. Shut out distractions

You must find ways to make a definite and solid transition from home to work.  It is important to minimise distractions.  This is not easy with children and a television.  Going to work in your pyjamas is a not the way to get yourself into a good head space for work.  Tripping up and down the stairs to and from the refrigerator every 15 minutes is also something to avoid.  I make the transition by getting dressed for work, leaving the house via the back door and arriving at my dedicated office about five seconds and six steps later.

5. Check with Council

Whether you can operate legally from your home depends where you live.  Every local Council has its own view on what they will allow by way of a home business.  Some encourage home businesses while others are very strict.  The most common considerations include traffic, parking, unsightliness, noise and signage.  It is important that you check the rules in your area with your local Council. 

Here is an extraordinary example:

The guy who lived next door to me a few years ago bought a new house and moved away but retained the house next door as his work premises.  He was an accountant.  The one or two visitors he had on any day parked comfortably on his large driveway and he had a very small sign by his letterbox, the purpose of which was to let clients know they were at the right address.  He was the quietest neighbour I have ever had, until one day a rival accountant who lived down the road but had offices elsewhere, dobbed him into the Local Council.  His business was shut down.  He sold the house and moved his business to commercial premises.

6. Tax considerations

A frequently asked question when starting up your own business is whether you can claim all or part of your home office expenses as a tax deduction.  You should check with your accountant because there are a number of rules surrounding this area.  One of the downsides to claiming home business expenses in Australia is that the extent to which you use your home as an income producing premises, you ultimately sacrifice part of your ‘principal place of residence’ capital gains tax exemption when it comes time to sell your home.

These top small business ideas are brought to by

Until next time!


Business strategy implementation – to partner or not

This brand new business in Kyoto temporarily partnered up with two Maiko (appentice Geisha) to promote their products

At business strategy implementation time, the question of whether or not to take on a partner can arise for a number of reasons.  The most common include:

  • A shortage of cash at critical times such as startup and expansion
  • Loneliness or lack of confidence
  • A previous relationship that is appropriate to continue into business
  • A strategic need for a long term skill set

When starting up your own business, taking on a business partner is another way of saying that you want to give away or sell ownership of your business, together with a proportionate share of future profit and eventual sale of business proceeds.

It is common to hear of people who consider offering e.g. a web designer a share of their business in return for a website.  This is a big mistake to make.  At the outset your business has little or no value so it appears as if you are trading nothing for a service worth a couple of thousand dollars.

It seems like a good deal at the time.  However, when your business succeeds and grows, it will become the most expensive website on earth and a source of great regret for you.

One of your goals when starting up your own business should be to preserve as much ownership as possible.  If it’s absolutely essential to trade your equity to achieve short term goals, then consider a basic buyback option agreement that you can exercise later at your discretion (talk to your lawyer).

If you set out a valuation method (talk to your accountant) then you effectively put a future price on your equity and it enables you to buy back ownership of your business.  Do the math first because it could cost you more to put the agreement in place than it does for the service cost you are trying to avoid.

Partnerships, including company co-directorships, add another level of complexity to your fledgling business.  A person who knows nothing about your business could suddenly be playing a big part in your business strategy implementation.  They may not share your vision, passion or values.  They may force your business in a totally different direction.

It is for these reasons that partnerships have historically been a major source of conflict in business.  I have seen many businesses fold and disband over the years because the partners couldn’t agree on the time of day, let alone the important direction and management decisions.

If you do enter into a partnership for a strategic purpose, you should seek legal advice in regard to a partnership agreement or a shareholder agreement, whichever is appropriate.  You should also consult an accountant in regards to a valuation formula for buying and selling equity.

The goal of a written agreement is to clearly set out the rights and obligations of each partner and, amongst other things, how to deal with disputes, changing circumstances in the future, new partners, exiting partners, and sale of equity.

For more business strategy implementation tips visit

Until next time!


From employment to starting up your own business

Gassy Jack

Just me and Gassy Jack in Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Are you likely to find yourself in the same position as most when you are starting up your own business?  Most new business starters make must make the transition from full time employed to full time business.  The tricky part is the middle ground where you will juggle part time employed and part time business.

The problem arises because you lack the funds to leave your job on Friday and launch your new business on the following Monday.  It is also hard to leave job security and that regular paycheck behind.  So you hide your fledgling business from your employer and hide your day job from your clients.

Being caught in the part time middle ground can also affect your client communication because you are stuck at your employer’s place during business hours with little opportunity to meet with clients or use the telephone.  It can also adversely affect the quality of your work.  You are probably working longer hours and sacrificing sleep.  In this circumstance, trying to give 100% to both employer and clients can be challenging.

So here are a few tips to help you through.

  •  Find an appropriate transitional job where you can work 3 days a week, (preferably one that doesn’t directly compete with your new business). You will then have 2 full business days for client interaction and to concentrate 100% on their work.
  •  When you find the transitional job you need, be upfront with your employer.
  • Don’t tell clients that you have a day job but if they ask, don’t deny it.  I used to tell clients that I had a 3-day a week contract with a major client.  The day job was providing business training to insurance advisers, which was quite plausible because it wasn’t too far removed from the services I was offering at the time.
  •  Your life during the transition will become a lot easier if your business is 100% online.  That eliminates a lot of telephone and face-to-face contact.  However, depending on the nature of your business, this may not always be possible.
  •  Make email your main means of client communication.  Use web mail to reply to emails during the day when you are working your day job but only before and after work or in your breaks.
  •  Make phone calls during your lunch hour from your car (which can be a very compact office).
  • When starting up your own business, do the right thing by your employer.  Keep your activities separate and don’t abuse his or her business.

Until next time!


Starting up your own business – waiting for that one top small business idea

A busy fruit shop business at the famous Pike Place markets in Seattle, Washington, USA

If you wait around trying to think up that one top small business idea that will transform your life and make you lots of money, then you will probably be still waiting around in 10 years time.   

Inventing a new mousetrap is not the way.  However, becoming a mouse expert, and solving mouse related problems in a humane and environmentally friendly way is a concept with much brighter prospects, if of course mice are your thing. 

There are plenty of opportunities around that will make you lots of money.  It’s a matter of choosing what’s right for you.  So follow your interests, do some thorough research, find the demand and get going.

The fact is that not all ideas and opportunities will interest you.  If that is the case, then you will probably find it hard to get out of bed each day to go to work.   You will not make money if you don’t apply yourself.

The process of choosing ideas to start a small business is not unlike making decisions in years gone by about what you wanted to be when you left school.  Some school leavers just know.  They want to be a doctor, a lawyer or join the police … or whatever it is. 

Other people aren’t as specific as that.  All they know is that they want an office based job, or one where they are outdoors; or one that involves meeting people; one that involves working with their mind; or one that involves working with their hands.   Others still can only define what they want to be in terms of what they don’t want to be.

Think about your strengths and your interests.  What are you good at both at work and away from work?  What kinds of things really fire your interest?  What do you do with your leisure time?  What gets you talking passionately from the heart? What engages you in an interesting conversation?  The answer is in there somewhere.

Starting up your own business doesn’t mean that you have to invent a new gadget.  You only have to sell people what they want, regardless of how many other competitors there are.  Your ideas to start a small business could involve ways to improve an existing product or service or an innovative ways to combine products and services.

It doesn’t take much to create a business edge.  Your top small business idea might be as simple as building a reputation as being an expert, being trustworthy, being on time, or being friendly.  Consumers are not fools but they are generally easily pleased with ethics, politeness and good value for money (please don’t confuse at with cheap).

 Until next time!


Theft in small business

One of the common complaints I hear from owners of small businesses is that employee dishonesty runs rampant.  These complaints come most often from busy cash-based businesses like shops and cafes.

Some owners learn to live with an ‘acceptable’ level of dishonesty, having come quite cynical about the possibility of total eradication.  They treat the loss just like another business expense.

Opportunistic theft of cash often arises because many people have the mistaken belief that only the wealthy are in business.  The logic is that they can afford it and if any more justification is needed, it is that the thief is underpaid and overworked.

Serial theft seems to occur when people become bored, disinterested or disillusioned.  Access and opportunity, combined with lack of supervision, lack of systems and lack of employee accountability can create the environment for systematic dishonesty and deceit.

One of the golden rules of business is not to entrust anyone with sole guardianship or sole access to cash.  Two people and separation of their duties is a classic cash handling safeguard, because it is much more difficult for two people to collude in dishonesty.  However, this is not always possible in a small business, so you must look for symptoms.

As a Business Consultant who has walked into many businesses as ‘Mr. Fixit’ on behalf of banks and remote owners, there are a few classic symptoms to look for.  One is identifying any person who never takes a day off and never takes holidays.

Serial dishonesty needs to be covered up and the perpetrator will never risk anyone else looking at what they have been doing.  The reason they give for not taking holidays is always the same.  They would have you believe that they are so busy and so caring about your business that they can’t afford to take time off.

Hence, the irony is that it is often the person who appears to be the hardest worker, the most trusted and the most dedicated to your business, who is ripping you off.

Until next time!


Interacting with staff

The goal of leadership is to have people follow and support you.   It is not to force obedience, although some days with some people, that appears to be the only option.

The power of ‘positive influence’ is a much more valued attribute than the ability to simply ‘boss people around’.  The development of people skills will always enhance your power of positive influence.

It’s hard to respect a lazy or arrogant leader, so develop a desirable ‘presence’ and to be admired for something in your working life.  One way to develop that is to be very good at something.  In that skill area at least, you can be regarded as an expert and be seen to be leading from the front.

As a leader, you must have confidence in yourself and it helps to be happy with who you are.   You should always have what is known in Aikido terms as a ‘beginner’s mind’, which means having a mind that is always open to learning and new ideas.  As soon as you think you know everything, your mind becomes closed to productive communication, knowledge and opportunity.

A good leader seeks to include people and their opinions rather than exclude them.   Information is to be shared, not an instrument of power to be withheld.  At times, confidential information must be kept secret and sensitivities respected however, telling some people and not others, based solely on favoritism, creates unhealthy division.

Employer – employee relationships should be based on mutual respect.  However, you are never going to please everyone all of the time so just be true to yourself.

Being true to your self usually means being straight forward, honest and ethical with staff.  People need to know where they stand with you, and it is not unreasonable to expect the same in return from your staff in exchange for a reasonable salary.  However, this does not mean that you must be everybody’s friend.

Until next time!


Create peaks in your business life

If you are creating your own peaks then you really can’t spend too much time in the valleys. Here are 8 great ideas to help your thought process in generating happiness, interest and excitement in your business life.

Reset your goals each year and ensure there are some short term milestones and thus reasons to celebrate throughout the year

Give you and your team a reason to get out of bed each morning with performance based incentives.  Think carefully about this one!  Your ‘team’ extends way past your employees.

Research something new.  Always have a new project on the drawing board.  Plan it, research it, roll it around the group but don’t make it too complicated or unwieldy

Reward yourself by giving.  The act of giving will usually make you feel good.  This doesn’t mean you give away money or your emotional energy. Give a client a thank you; give an employee your trust; give empathy to someone having a bad day, give a pick-me-up gift, give your attention and interest to a person’s offer or suggestion.

Find a reason to celebrate – e.g. a birthday, a milestone reached, a goal kicked, good news, a good deed

Pay yourself – if you are being paid just like everyone else to do a job in your own business, you will be more inclined to get on and do it.  Feeling like the poorest but hardest working employee is debilitating.

Short ‘help-me’ meetings – can lift the spirits at any time.  The help can be for your self or for someone else.  It can be small informal chat over coffee about a problem, a suggestion, a concern, or an opportunity.

Go to a business seminar or network function – the aim is to learn something, to be inspired and/ or to meet someone.  These meetings are full of like-minded people, just like you, who are there for exactly the same reasons.

Until next time!


Quit living in the past

Forever replaying the losses of the past in an endless loop is energy draining. Loss of relationships, loss of customers, loss in negotiation, loss of money, loss of opportunity and loss of face are events that we would like to re-live and change the ending.

Typical emotions are anger, frustration, vengeance, sadness and hollowness.  All these emotions are negative and draining.  And the major problem here is a reluctance to move forward until the mind has sufficiently dealt with all of these past losses.

It really holds you back.  It is easy to get stuck in a rut.  After all, who can be innovative and creative when full of anger and frustration.  Your business needs innovation to continue to grow.  You need to manage your emotions to do what needs to be done.

You must find a way to live easily with the past.  If it means making better decisions, then do that.  Seek advice from others, take your time deciding, do some more research and think through the consequences.  Do what you need to do but when you make your decision, be prepared to accept the consequences.

If you do this you won’t feel so regretful later and hopeful avoid the endless loop replays of despair. That will make it a lot easier to stay focused in the present and get some work done.

Until next time!


Focus only on what you can control

You will waste a lot of time and energy trying to control everything and everyone around you.  In fact, you can’t!  The only thing you can really control is your self – your own attitude and behaviour.

People can behave in any way they choose but all you can control is your own response.  And it is important that you do.  When others behave badly, it is a strong temptation to respond with similar behaviour, particularly when rudeness or aggression is involved.

Our non-thinking response comes directly from Ego.  We don’t want the other person to get away with their inappropriate outburst.  But meeting rudeness with more rudeness and aggression with more aggression only serves to escalate to situation.  Abuse and violence can quickly result from a poorly chosen response, where calmness and soft words could have diffused it.

When you employ someone, you may be tempted to believe think that for the amount you are paying them, they should work 24/7 and that you should own their soul and their children as well.  The fact is you don’t!

You can’t control other people’s feelings, desires and emotions.  You can make them go through the motions of performance but you can’t make them put their heart and soul into their work.  You can talk, cajole and influence but you can’t make them care about your business as much as you do.  You can make working for you an attractive choice, but it is only a choice.  You can’t stop someone from leaving you.  When people want to follow their own path, ultimately you must let them.

The best you can hope for is to influence the actions of others but you will never own anyone or control their thoughts.

Until next time!