Starting Over

(First published in the CAD++ Newsletter in late 1995)

A curious thing happened to me while I was on my way to write my next Garage Entrepreneur column… I suddenly gained the freedom to start a new career.

As some of you may recall, the company I started back in 1988 was acquired by another company earlier this year. (I’m leaving company names out of this column to save everyone on my end some grief.) As time went on, it became apparent that there were increasingly greater philosophical differences between myself and the new management on how to manage the company. Well, after a couple months of wrangling, we came to a mutual agreement, part of which involved my leaving the employment of both the company I had founded, and the new parent company, and becoming a short-term consultant to them to help smoothly transition things over.

Freedom is a Mixed Blessing
Now, after over 7 years of building a company, and being involved in day to day corporate operations, managing around a dozen employees, I’m a free man. It’s kind of a weird feeling – a little sad, like something’s missing, and a little happy because countless opportunities await.

For years I’ve been giving out free advice on being entrepreneurial, and now I have a chance to take new advantage of my own advice, and start a new entrepreneurial venture. I should point out that I’ve chosen the route of entrepreneurialism instead of looking for a “real job” because one thing has become eminently clear to me in the last few months: I make a lousy employee. I need to be my own boss, and control my own destiny.

The Garage Entrepreneur Revisited
Most of my previous columns have assumed that readers have already started their own businesses, either on a full time or part time basis. My recent emancipation makes it clear to me that many of you may not have taken the big step yet, and so, the next few columns I write will try to cover the basics of starting a business from scratch, much as I and my wife are doing now, again.

For those of you who already have businesses established, some of what I’ll be writing about may be old news, but I’m willing to bet that I will bring up new aspects of old things you never considered (or knew about), so stay tuned.

Why Start A Business?
There are several possible reasons that someone might want to start a new business. Here are the ones I’ve seen:

Opportunity. They think they see or have a great new opportunity and want to pursue it.

Self-Management. They don’t like working at someone else’s beck and call, and think that running their own business will give them the freedom to do what they want, when they want.

Emancipation. They have lost their job for one reason or another, possibly having quite a nice severance package, and think “What the heck, let’s try something new.”

Pride. They want to prove to a particular person or group of people that they can be successful on their own.

Naivete. “If he/she/it can create a successful business, how hard can it be?”

Wealth. They think that it’s a great way to get rich quickly.

Adventure. They are sick of doing what they are currently doing, and want to try something new.

As you should be able to tell, some of these reasons imply that the person doing the reasoning may not quite grasp reality. However, most entrepreneurs I know usually combine a few of the reasons above to give them their drive and determination to succeed.

For example, when I started my previous company, Opportunity, Self-Management, Pride, and Wealth were my basis for venturing forth on my own. I thought I saw a great market opportunity (consulting/programming for high end PC graphics boards). The market existed, but after about 9 months, I realized that I wasn’t going to achieve Wealth by just consulting, and hence we (I had hired someone by then) determined that we’d need products to sell to make more money on a regular basis. Self-management and pride provided determination, but would have been useless without Opportunity.

Self-Management soon proved to be a misnomer. I worked longer, harder hours, with less freedom from responsibility, in the company I had started than I had as an employee. So, keep in mind, unless properly executed (virtually impossible unless you can afford not to spend all your free time working), Self-Management is a trap.

For my new company, Emancipation is the dominant one (I don’t have a job anymore), with Self-Management being a driving force behind it (I don’t want to be employed by anyone, and I can afford to take it a little easy, so it’s not a trap, I hope). In my particular case, I’m fortunate, in that I have time to try to figure out what my Opportunity is, but I wouldn’t recommend that anyone normally go out and start a new business without some Opportunity being present.

Next Month
That’s about all the space I have this month. Next month, I’ll cover the necessary traits an individual must have to survive as an entrepreneur, as well as safe ways to start a business without a whole lot of risk or exposure.