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Running a Business is Easy, Right?
[September 01, 2006]

Running a Business is Easy, Right?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Larry Kesslin, President, 4-Profit
Everyone thinks, what a great thing it is to be the owner of a business. The American Dream! I can tell you from personal experience that this is not always true. When it works it is great, but very rarely does someone start a business and then create enough value to get out. Many business owners are the lowest paid employee in the business, with a second mortgage on their home and no real way to get any money out of the business without starving its growth ability.

When you work for someone else's company you think how easy it must be to do what your owner did, and that you could build a better company, until you try it for yourself. I have never found anything more challenging in my life than building my own business over the past 11 years. I spent the first nine years of my business career with two major corporations, Westinghouse and GE, and a small technology reseller. I spent close to five years at GE during Jack Welch's heyday and thought I learned a lot about running a company. I thought it would be easy on my own. What an awakening!

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade the last eleven years for anything, but they have not been what I expected. I have developed a deep appreciation for people that have built great companies; it is not easy even if you are really bright. The main reason, there is just too much to know and too many critical decisions to make and too much to do.
As the leader of a growing business you need to deal with issues ranging from marketing strategy, to human resources and finance. In addition you need to be on top of industry trends and relationships with your major suppliers. You need to manage money like a hawk and make sure you collect from your clients. All of this to ensure that all your staff gets paid before you do. I know many business owners that are not only the lowest paid person in their company, but they many times struggle to make payroll!
So why is this? And, what is there to be learned from our experience? To start with, if you own a business, find help. Surround yourself with really bright people that have been down the path before you. Find a mentor, a coach, and/or a peer group that will allow you to learn through other's mistakes rather than making them all on your own. Making mistakes can be very costly. Join your industry trade associations and/or YEO (Young Entrepreneurs Organization), YPO (Young Presidents Organization), TEC (The Executive Committee) or a “Let's Talk Business” program. You can never have too much feedback. There are very few businesses that fail for unique reasons, learn what mistakes others have made and try to avoid them.
In addition, you need to be a life-long learner. You should read and become an info-holic. Books, audio tapes, Web sites, newsletters, conferences, tradeshows, seminars... these are just a few ways to stay on the path of learning. You can never know too much when you own a business.
Next, we would suggest that you take time to get out of the business and get away. Most owners that we talk with spend all of their time working “in” their business, not many spend time working “on” their business. Be different, take some time away and let your thoughts run free. Spend time writing and getting your thoughts out of your head and down on paper. Communicate them to your management team and your employees.
If you are employed by a good business owner and you think it would be easy to do it yourself, please do your homework and understand what you are getting into. Understand your tolerance for risk and your access to capital, should you need it.
Finally, I would take some time to develop your plan. You started your business with a specific goal and for a specific reason. So, write it down and review your plan on a regular basis. Remember, a goal without a plan is just a dream!
Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]. I look forward to your feedback.
Larry Kesslin is the President of 4-Profit, a highly focused advisory services company working exclusively within the IT and telecommunications channel. He can be reached at [email protected].

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