Start the Right Kind of Small Business
by Brent H. Van Arsdell (2 November 2009)
There are several approaches to starting up a business. One approach is becoming self-employed or having a one-person business. In this situation you have a business where your success is often determined by the hours you work. Those hours can increase until you are exhausted. Such as business is often called a practice in professions like medicine and law when the person is in business for himself.
In my opinion, a better type of business to start relies on the work of others or some form of automation. Success is determined by finding the perfect mix of work and play, such that the hours you work actually go down.
If you take the right steps when you are planning, starting or growing your small business, you can steer it down the path that leads to more money AND more free time instead of the path that leads to more money but less free time. I base this on my own experience starting up a business.
Questions you may have include:
- How did I start my business?
- How do you set up a good system?
- What are some points to follow?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Starting my business
Several years ago, I started a small business selling Stirling Engine that I had designed.
Stirling Engine powered by heat from hand
When I first started the business, I was doing absolutely everything myself. I was in business for myself. Since then, I changed my business approach into one where I can rely on the work of others to make my business successful.
Based on my experience changing from having a business where I did everything to having a business that has other people doing much of the work, I can provide some guidelines for you to follow.
Getting a good system
So how can you either start a small business where you hire others to do your work or change your self-employment business into the type of small business that will give you money AND free time? There are several ways to do this, but here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Never do something that only pays you once, except to learn from it.
- Figure out a way to put your expertise into a small lightweight box. (If you want to ship your product, the box needs to be small and light.)
- Sell a physical product instead of a service. Doctors should start
selling vitamins and books about health while plumbers should start selling specialty plumbing supplies and do it yourself books about plumbing.
- Selling downloadable products online is best.
- Build new systems and tap into existing systems for automation. FedEx and UPS are amazingly well automated delivery companies, and all you have to do to use them is to get an account.
Points to follow
We are living in a machine age, where anything can be easily copied.
Success in this age will come most easily to the people who figure out how to do something once then put it in a box (or better yet online) and sell lots of copies.
Think about your business as a collection of jobs that have to be done. You have to sell your product, get paid for it, get the product to the customer and buy or make new products.
Try to make repeatable reliable systems out of every job in your business.
There are companies called fulfillment houses that specialize in warehousing your inventory, and then shipping it for you via UPS, FedEx or the Post Office when you make a sale.
Build a system for online sales. Web stores operate 24 hours per day and can be linked to your fulfillment house for a fully automated sales, credit card processing, and delivery system.
Now you might say, “Yeah, but you can’t do that in the log cabin business.” Well, if you want to be in the log cabin business, that’s fine, but you should at lest consider selling small models of your log cabins, that could easily be shipped.
The economy is really big, and you don’t have to work in all parts of it.
I started my business doing everything myself but soon found that it was better to create a system where I could simplify the process and hire others to do much of the work for me.
The next generation of entrepreneurs will have both money and the time to enjoy it. Join us.
Be smart about how you build your business
Brent H. Van Arsdell is founder and president of the American Stirling Company (http://www.stirlingengine.com/). He is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
While in school, he designed a compact Stirling engine and started a business making and selling the devices. His company now produces a range of Stirling engines and kits for science enthusiasts and students.
He recently wrote the section on Stirling engines in the three volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy. He has been featured on MSNBC as well as in the Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, CBS.COM, the History Channel, and the New York Times.
Resources and references
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Start the Right Kind of Small Business