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Expect to Get Half as Much and Take Twice as Long!

By Dr Paul E Adams |

"Small opportunities are the beginning of great enterprises." Demosthenes

There is a little understood nugget of business start up wisdom that rarely fails to test your faith and endurance. If you expect to earn a profit the first year, it will take two, and if you have projected a banner sales year-count on half of it.

The very rocky road to business success is a favorite topic of mine and I write about it frequently. Too many would-be-entrepreneurs refuse to believe the stats and the possibility of going broke. I was chatting with a fellow approaching his fifties and thinking of taking early retirement and starting his own business. We had much to talk about.

During the past five years I have written many a cautionary article warning of the financial risks of jumping into business using your retirement monies or home equity as the ticket price to entrepreneurship. And guess what -the eternal optimist and the immature narrow-minded don't believe it ... until later and they quickly find a scapegoat for their failure.

If you are thinking of a lifestyle change and using your old age monies to fund an adventure in senior capitalism read on. Perhaps I can help you avoid struggling to enjoy the golden years on your Canada Pension Plan. Let me pose some questions to you.

  • Why do you want to go into business – money or accomplishment? Or do you know?
  • What will you do if you fail?
  • Do you have play money that will not take away from your interment kitty?
  • As the odds of making it are only 2 in 10, what makes you think you will smell the lotus blossoms?
  • Do you know why most new business' fail?
  • Do you have detailed knowledge of a product or industry that will give you a leg up on betting the odds against success?

Think about these questions. Better your ego is bruised at the moment, than your old age bring days of remorse, boredom and self pity.

Try this, if you have no business experience, if you have no specialized background in a particular industry, market or product, I have a simple suggestion for you - one that if followed will test your business skills.

Two years ago I wrote a column about flea market capitalism. I suggested to hopeful entrepreneurs about to launch their small business career to rent a stall at the local flea market. It is a low risk way of jumping into business. All the elements are at hand, keeping financial records, managing your time, selling and getting a feel for buying and selling merchandise.

Best yet, you will find out if the demands of your own business are compatible with your personality and dreams. And here is the bonus, if you fail or find out that selling merchandise to customers looking for a bargain is not your cup of tea, not big deal - dump the I inventory, abandon the booth and consider yourself lucky. Your gamble did not wipe you out.

Here is a sampling of what you will learn as a flea market capitalist - you will be challenged with all the basics of entrepreneurship.

  1. Selling and Customer Relations. You will learn the art of handling customers and developing selling skills. You will learn how to handle objections, unrealistic demands, and how to be at ease with your customers. A few weekends on the firing line are all it takes.
  2. Cash Management. What better way to find out if you can handle cash and record keeping? Cash management is acting responsible with your most valuable asset. This is the test of entrepreneurship. You need cash to buy inventory, to replace sold merchandise, to pay your expenses - your "stall" has all the basics you must manage.
  3. Inventory control. To succeed you need the right merchandise. If you are out of stock you will lose sales. If you have goods that nobody wants, you are tying up your precious dollars. You will be forced to learn the skills of having the right merchandise for your customers - when they want it. If you don't, you will get bored manning a booth with little traffic.
  4. Pricing. The secret formula to all business success - profits! You will learn to price your products to earn you a profit; your first weekend of business will tell you if you sell to cheap or too dear. You will learn that sales volume does not mean success. What good is selling at prices that do not earn you enough money to pay your expenses and put a few dollars in your pocket? On the other hand, if your prices are too high, it will be a boring day.
  5. Location. A quick tour of a flea market will alert you to the prime spots - the spots with traffic. What good are your super-products at super-prices if no one looks at your merchandise?
  6. Competition. You will not be alone as others are attempting to "corner" their market. It is unlikely you will have a monopoly. How will you compete? You will discover there is more to competition than price, it includes, attractive merchandise, an attractive location, the universal "service with a smile" and presentation skills.

As you will discover from your adventure, all the pitfalls and problems of owning your own business will be thrust at you. It is an easy way to find out if entrepreneurship is for you. Do you have the talents and patience to manage a business? Can you deal with the problems? Does a good day excite you? How do you handle a bad day?

If you are thinking about taking the plunge, my words of caution may well save your money and your golden years. Saying no to a risky gamble is a yes to success.

Canadian, Eh!

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