Loneliness of the long distance business person - DOC by gabyion


									                                                                  Certificate III Small Business Management
                                                                                  Code No: 2304ACC May 10
                                                                   Western Business Enterprise Centre VUT

                          Loneliness of the long distance business person
                                                                                          by Ken Smithson
Starting and running a business often feels like a never ending marathon - for one runner.
But you don't have to be alone...
When interior designer Jenny Watson quit her job with a major multinational to go out on her
own she didn't know what she was letting herself in for. "The biggest problem is the feeling of
isolation. Of being alone," says Jenny. "When you sort your own business you don't have the
same relationships. You've got no-one to bounce ideas off or have the enjoyment of working
with a team where members like each other and have fit in together."
As a self-employed marketing consultant I know exactly how Jenny feels, and, many of you
reading this article will know too."
For the sole operator, starting and running a business is like taking part in a never-ending
marathon race. Almost every day there are hurdles to be overcome in areas such as
financing, marketing, debtors, creditors and, sometimes, just 'How do I pay next week's rent?'
Little wonder, then, that so many start-up businesses crash within their first few years of life.
It's by being constantly bombarded with these day to day problems that can cause self-doubt
to creep up at any time.
Take, for instance, an acquaintance of mine who developed a superb range of gourmet
sauces. Enthusiastically, Frank persuaded a number of delicatessens to 'buy. Then' he sat
back waiting for success. "I thought sales would go straight through the roof. I thought the
minute my sauces hit the shelves they'd sell straight out," recalls Frank. "It didn't happen."
After licking his wounds he started to analyse the situation. The product, he knew, was good.
The problem, he finally discovered, was in poor packaging. "You can't have a growing
business without dealing with the negatives along with the positives," he says. "You have to
cope with the problems, and turn them to your advantage."
The problem is that turning these negatives around can be easier said than done, particularly
if you're on your own. This feeling of vulnerability is further compounded when you have a
responsibility towards others, like a family to support or even a bank manager or a backer to
"If you don't put in 60 to 70 hours a week in a new venture, there's no chance of it ever
growing to any great size." Recent studies have shown that more than half of all small
business owners work at least 60 hours a week during their first year with 25 per cent
working over 70 hours. "If you don't put in 60 to 70 hours a week in a new venture, there's no
chance of it ever growing to any great size," claims Peter O'Connor, co-founder of the
successful Belmont Catering group. "You can't put in a 60 to 70 hour week without Saturdays
and Sundays."
Unfortunately, it's impossible to give that amount of time to a business without it having an
impact on the family. Many small business owners start out when they're around 25 to 40
years old... the time that many of them also start to have a family.
Working late and on weekends means little time is left for spouses and children. This lack of
family contact plus the stress of trying to solve the myriad of problems that beset every
business can so easily result in the tragic demise of the marriage, the business, and
sometimes both. So, is there answer?
I believe there is. Firstly, it understanding on both sides. Sometimes the business must come
first if want to be successful. It's that success that ensures your family’s security and living
                                                                                              Certificate III Small Business Management
                                                                                                              Code No: 2304ACC May 10
                                                                                               Western Business Enterprise Centre VUT

standard. To 'be there’ for your children you must gear your schedule around the family life,
even if it means getting up an hour or so earlier to get a little work done before everyone else
wakes up.
It is also important to maintain some contact with those 'sole traders’ who are in the same
boat as yourself. The interchange of business ideas, even joint problem solving sessions
with other people who have gone, or are going through same experiences can be a
wonderful morale booster.
It can recharge your batteries tremendously by making you realise you are not alone. A great
organisation type of business/social interaction is SWAP - Salesperson with A Purpose.
Despite its name, you don’t have to be a salesperson (although we all are!) to join. In fact,
many of my most successful and motivated friends are members of SWAP, which holds
regular meetings throughout Australia.
If you are not too keen such a group, then why not consider forming your own with fellow sole
trader travellers? Although it may improbable you can even get together with a group of direct
competitors for your mutual benefit.
A prime example of this sort of cooperation involves half-a-dozen Sydney car dealers and
you can't get any more competitive than that! Even though their dealerships are within a few
hundred metres of each other, and rivalry is intense, the group has banded together to form
what they call 'Auto Alley'. On an equal cost-share basis, the dealers regularly screen a TV
commercial inviting car buyers to 'Come to Auto Alley' and choose from hundreds of different
models. It's a powerful story that costs each dealer only a relatively small amount of money.
The same kind of joint promotion could be quite easily run by so many other businesses
which cluster in the same street or location. Instead we are all too often afraid of our
competitors. Afraid they may pinch our customers. What many individual business people fail
to realise is that close competition can be a good thing.
What consumers want when they go shopping for everything from food to motorcars is
choice. The bigger the variety they have to choose from, the happier they are. It's a proven
fact that people will travel many kilometres to an area where they know there are a number of
outlets offering the same type of goods.
In my own locality there is a small off-the-beaten-track street that has a chemist, a real estate
agency and six restaurants. Every night of the week parking is at a premium simply because
it's become known as THE place to dine, although among these eateries there are none that
could even remotely be considered 'gourmet'.
I suppose the moral of the story is that, while you are in business on your own, you don't
have to be on your own. There are so many others out there in a similar position who
perhaps have skills, experience and knowledge you lack. You, on the other hand, must also
have something to offer whether it be in the field of marketing, finance, selling or motivation.
There are times when even your fiercest competitors can become your greatest allies There's
only one way to find out. Go and talk to them.
                                                                  Ken Smithson is a marketing communications consultant. Contact (02) 486 3091.


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