|Worst Fear - Owner Illness|
My worst fear as a one man band finally happened... I got hit with the ultimate double whammy... Jury duty, then illness. And the best part is that I think I got the illness from jury duty.
This has been my worst fear since going full-time. Like many people here, I do everything. I mean everything. I often work 7 days a week. Without me, there is no business. There's no way to teach what I do. I wouldn't even try.
So first I get the jury duty. In my county, forget trying to get out of it. They're like Nazis. I've actually seen poor women with no way to look after their kids at home, burst into tears when the judge denies their excuse. They're ruthless. And the best part is... they expect people in my county to participate in this once a year, and the case you get 99% of the time is utter BS. This time it was some lady who was suing her neighbor, because in 08 she walked by their house, and she claimed their dog touched her hand with his wet nose through the fence, which scared her and made her fall down and hurt herself. You can't make this stuff up. Dozens of people setting aside their whole lives for this... I sat their with my mouth hanging open in complete disbelief.
So then a week later I'm just struggling to undo that nightmare, and go down for the count with some stomach thing that put me unconscious for days. I was actually delirious in bed, thinking I could hear the computer email notification in the other room, and convinced myself it was all the people complaining they hadn't gotten their orders. After not doing a single thing for 4 days, I was actually afraid to look. Luckily it was slow... I kissed butt on the few complaints and somehow dodged a major bullet.
What a way to make a living.
My sympathies go out to you. It's one of my worst fears as well.
However, the difference between a job and a business is being able to articulate our daily tasks in such a way they can be performed by others. There's a saying popularized from the E-Myth enterprise, "Work on your business, not in your business". Every task, no matter how complex we may think it to be, can be routinized so it can be performed by another. Truth be told, it's a lot easier to just manage our own quirks and do things exactly the way we want but long term it's not sustainable.
For small businesses it can take a lot of time, effort, and money to 'outsource' some of our daily tasks but it's critical for business growth. Over the past couple of years I've tried to familiarize at least one other staff member with the absolutely critical tasks that keep the business afloat. They might perform the task less well than me and take 5x as long to do it, but I know if I get struck by a car the business isn't going to go under. Senior management death or illness is a very real threat to businesses big and a small- it's why most corporation don't fly more than 2 executives on the same flight. Not to mention, it lets me take the odd long weekend holiday without fretting too much about the business ;)
Sorry if I sounded a bit preachy. Your story is a great reminder for all of us to make sure our businesses don't sink due to dire circumstances happening to us.
I am also in this same boat. Except I have a full time day job and two internet ecom sites. Thankfully I own all 3 so I can divide my time between them. I have trained my staff to do what it takes to keep things going but they are less than efficient. Doing everything yourself leads down a road best not traveled.
|Work on your business, not in your business. |
The OP is a sole proprietor; he has no staff, and no one to train on the everyday tasks. He works on his business, *and* works in his business. My operation is similar, although my spouse carries half the load.
During the recent economic downturn, I've seen a spike in the number of eCommerce operations operating in my space that follow this same pattern. The availability of cheap/free eCommerce software makes "setting-up shop" a simple weekend task.
Margins are slim, and losses are often covered by past savings, spousal support, or cheap credit. How do you compete in that space? Jury duty + sickness would put us under, if my spouse and I couldn't lean on each other for help.
|What a way to make a living. |
You described the worst-case scenario that all sole proprietors fear. I went from creating and running a 17-person engineering firm for 12 years (11 of those were successful), to operating an eCommerce business with my spouse from home (we are not drop-shipping; we carry $80k in inventory in our basement).
Having seen both sides, a bad day in eCommerce is better than a good day running a small business.
I dunno. I'd like to have an office with staff, take myself out of the trenches. But I tried that - with catstrophic results.
About 3 years ago we left our little home office for a full office downtown (well, as much as there is a downtown in this rural town I live in). Hired 2 admin people and 2 sales people. That would let me focus on link dev, marketing, and expanding our sales territory, basically cookie-cutter what I do.
Two years later I reassessed. 2 full time sales reps and 2 admins had less gross sales than I did working from home. So, less total income, minus pay for 4 people, office expenses, rent, etc. I went from a great living to earning nothing.
The problem I had was the sales reps. In my industry, sales reps are vicious, cut throat. I had one guy say "when I see a closing signal, I go for the jugular'. Holy cow, I don't actually even have any sales training. In any event, even when I found people that didn't slaughter our customers, they still couldn't keep up with me. One guy was swinging side deals with my customers on the side.
Plus, in all that I had to get up every day and show up at work at the same time, arrive first, leave last, manage people sitting on facebook all day, wasting time on personal calls, etc etc etc.
So we moved back to our home office and now it's just my wife as admin and me doing the rest. Much happier, more money.
THere's a cap to how much I can earn. With an office, it's technically unlimited. But my cap is high enough that it's hardly limiting to any type of reasonable lifestyle.
In any event, once in a great while I think the specific business doesn't allow itself to be repeated. Celebrities, public and motivational speakers, etc.
|I dunno. I'd like to have an office with staff, take myself out of the trenches. But I tried that - with catstrophic results. |
Having staff does not always require an office. I work in my home office in the country and have six employees in the Phillipines. Certainly the need for an office varies by the type of business. I do mobile apps so I am in ecommerce to some extent.
I'm not saying I am good at this myself yet, though. I'm still critical path on far too many things.
|The OP is a sole proprietor; he has no staff, and no one to train on the everyday tasks. He works on his business, *and* works in his business. My operation is similar, although my spouse carries half the load. |
Yeah, I've tried to get me one of those. No luck so far. In my part of the world, women think people like Lindsay Lohan and Kendra are role models. I dated a girl a while back for a while. She was sort of screwing around with one of those 'work three times a year' entertainment type careers. I think daddy was probably covering the rest. One day we were talking and I sort of hinted that maybe we could be a team if we ever ended up going to the next step... She could help with the biz once in a while, then do her other interests as well. Well... The look on her face... You'd think I just dumped a dead squirrel on the table. lol
Staff... I'd love to have staff. Closest I have come is a couple guys that stop by when they don't have anything better to do. There's no budget for more than that. And what I do is technical, so anybody that knows how to do it, would probably be smarter than me and just go make a nice 6 figure income somewhere, working for a nice fat government contractor company. I've desperately tried to job out certain manufacturing tasks, and any quotes I get pretty much eliminate all profit.
I agree... The drawback of it being easy to have an internet business, is that it's easy for everybody else too. The budgets are just going to get tighter and tighter, and like always... a lot of people will be forced to sink as low as the lowest guy will go. And that's usually way too low.
Personally, I think my savior will be some of the new affordable automation, like rapid prototyping and CNC. That stuff keeps dropping way down, and it's the kind of thing that can both save tons of time, and not cost you an arm and leg. But yeah, all you guys just battling it out for the best price and SEO, I feel for you.
But yes, it's still better than working for somebody else. For now.
I have found that the way to get out of jury service is to thank the clerk profusely for giving you the opportunity to do your public duty and assure him that you can be relied on to return a guilty verdict on all the evil criminals who are tried by you. This always leads to you being stood down.