Lately, I’ve been thing about a lot of things that have to do with being a business owner. This month marks our 10th year of being in business; only seven have been full-time and we chose to make the leap to relying on our business for all of our income in 2006, which was roughly two years before the Great Recession struck. This means that it has been a rough handful of years, trying to make a full-time go of a business when there is very little work to be had. It takes a special kind of person to handle being an entrepreneur and I have been a reluctant one, but have learned to roll with the ups and downs of owning a business for the past ten years. You need a lot of patience, determination, a certain amount of being willing to take risks and a some craziness, I think.
One thing that has been on my mind for a couple of years is this: I am a huge supporter of the buy-local movement. We purchase most of our produce, meats and much of our dairy from local farmers, we frequent the local toy store and consignment stores, use a local bank and rent movies from our local store rather than use Netflix. (Since we don’t buy a lot of things other than food, this does limit our purchasing power.) However, even though I support this, I am always left with a small grudge that retail stores and restaurants get all the buy-local love (particularly the ones that are trendy right now: i.e. local food and wines). I am so happy to see cash mobs hit our toy store, the book store and other downtown shops, but tempering that happiness is the feeling that local service professionals don’t have anything equivalent. I realize that it would be very difficult to organize a cash mob type event for service professionals, but even getting more local support would be an improvement. It’s true that our business does have very good customers within our community, however, we also have many would-be customers who choose a lower priced company from the city or an item stocked at the chain hardware store. I am sure that many other service companies in this area have this issue as well. If you need a website or logo designed, please choose a designer in your community. Need your roof replaced, your home painted or a screen door built? I’m sure there are local contractors who really want your business, even if their price is higher than a national company. Get your oil changed or have your window replaced at a locally owned repair shop. Do you need a new table and chairs or a bench? Hire a local carpenter rather than hitting up the big box store. You’ll get something more unique and of higher quality. I realize that it frequently costs more to hire a carpenter to build a table, a local metal shop to build a screen door or a local graphic designer to create a logo, but it also costs more to buy locally produced meats, baked goods and dairy or to buy shoes or fabric from a downtown merchant. With increased business, your local mechanic, welder, graphic designer, and painter will have more funds to buy those shoes, toys and bread! Let’s remember to support all of our local business to have a truly strong and sustainable local economic base. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of local owned businesses, it really does mean a lot if you will spend your dollars at the ones that currently exist. It makes those businesses more viable and may encourage more brave souls to start a new business.
The other thing that I have been thinking about is how appreciative I am of all of our customers, in particular our repeat customers. They provide for us so that we can pay our mortgage, feed our family, and pay for our vehicles and utilities. The one thing that I find ironic is that our best, fastest paying customers are local, small businesses. Even though they have budget restrictions, they make it a priority to pay us in a timely manner. The customers who are slow payers are consistently large, multi-state companies with much deeper pockets than our local customers.
If you are considering starting your own business, my advice to you is to think about it carefully. There are many wonderful things about being your own boss but it can be incredibly difficult and stressful, too. And one other piece of advice is to tread carefully when doing business with attorneys.*