I’ve been asked as part of a school project to write up some of my learnings from running my small business whit.
What were your original motivations going into the business?
I outlined my motivations in detail here in the most expensive spreadsheet. Its a story about how someone quoted $200,000 to build me a spreadsheet.
How did the owner identify the business opportunity?
At the time, there was a particular type of software that many engineers were using in my field, however none of them were trained to use it adequately. I had 3-4 years experience using the software and saw an opportunity to teach it.
What market research did the owner undertake before commencing the business?
Before I’d even written any training material or hired staff, my first step was to attempt to sell the training. I contacted a large engineering firm in New South Wales and managed to sell a $20k training package. Money in the bank is the best and most accurate form of research.
Explain how the owner used any innovations or specialisations that set them aside from competitors
At the time, our competitors were focussed on other areas of training, and ignored the opportunity that I saw. It gave us a period of 1-2 years to develop our reputation and course material. Our course is highly specialised, and only attractive to a small subset of all power systems engineers.
What personal characteristics or skills does the owner believe that they have that enabled them to manage the business
You must focus on what is important, and avoid activities that aren’t necessary to earn money. I have some modest ability to sell, more than the average engineer at least, which is important, having the best product won’t automatically qualify you to be a success.
What were the short (first 12 months) and the long (first 5 years) term goals were set for the business when it first began
My first goal was to convince someone to pay me at least $1 for something I’d made. It seems strange that I thought like that now, but it was important to me at the time. In 5 years, I’d wanted to have sold our training to all of the large engineering business in Australia something we achieved much earlier than that.
Identify any sources of support and advice that the owner has relied upon during the set up and ongoing running of the business
When I left my job. A senior manager gave me this advice “Just make sure you have more money coming in than is going out.” I laughed, at the time I had no idea how important this simple sounding advice was. I think about it all the time now. It is important to find other entrepreneuers that you can regularly talk to, it can be a lonely road otherwise.
Does the owner believe that the federal or state governments have supported the business, in what ways?
Not really. I can point to a few things I am pleased with though.
- Doing business in Australia is easier than in the US (I own a business there too)
- The small business superannuation clearing house was great for me. It reduced the time I spend on superannuation compliance.
Any suggestions that government should consider to further support the business and entrepreneurship
I’m not generally in favour of financial support to small business. From where I stand, having not received any money, it seems like picking winners - though I would change my story if selected for money. I’d much prefer something like a 15% tax rate for business like they have in the US. Or for the government to improve their IT systems so that it isn’t a pain to file things.