I started my business in 2001, quit my day job in 2004. It’s a lot easier to get things going now than it was then. Let me count three ways they’re different. I hope this reflection encourages you to step out into your entrepreneurial dream.
Then/Now #1: Investment Capital
Like a good small businessperson, I paid my state fees to register a nonprofit in Colorado. Some more fees to the state to register an LLC for my publishing. I spent a chunk of change for a 501c3 lawyer. I jumped through the hoops that I needed to jump through in order to set up Training Minds and Monument Publishing. And I needed to mail my marketing pieces out.
That was a lot of money to set myself up for success. Going back to work and a 9-5 job was very often a temptation for me. Rather than making my pay and budgeting accordingly, I needed to make much more than a job in order to pay for all the hoops I needed to jump through.
Today, a person can Google anything. Legal advice is cheaper than it ever has been. Incorporating takes hardly any effort at all. Marketing is practically free. Hands down, the expense to start a business venture is much, much cheaper.
Then/Now #2: Business Image
What was most of this money spent for? To look like I was a big company. In reality I was buddies with a bunch of great debate coaches who lived all over the country, but I made it sound like we punched in the same office every morning at 9 AM sharp. I referred to my garage as “the warehouse” and the desk in my bedroom as “the office.” I was trying to appear big, when in reality I was trying to get business off the floor.
Today, I have little to hide. People will find me out on my Facebook easy enough.
Back then, I was maintaining an image of a big organization with a staff of people. It was just me. My kids helped me stuff orders. I outsourced my printing. Realistically, this is how most entrepreneurial ventures start. Someone gets the gumption to meet a need out there, so they clunk along and try to meet it. Over time their business develops.
Then/Now #3: Shifted Trust
But there is a new freedom today that I wish was around back in the day. Entrepreneurs don’t need to “fake big.”
Back then, being an entrepreneur was somewhat shameful. There was a distrust of raggedy entrepreneurs. They were too dreamy or risky. No “serious” businessperson would give someone like me a fair shake.
Almost the exact opposite is true today. There is a distrust of large corporations. The customers of the social generation want to follow my Twitter and get to know why I love speech and debate so much—way before they buy a product.
And I’ve changed, too. I’m fine with a customer commenting, posting, sharing, tweeting, etc. In 2001 I would have been weirded out if a customer got too close. It’s different 12 years later. My customers are my friends, and—more than ever—I want to make sure they are pleased with the products and services I provide.
What do you think? Do we live in a better world for starting a business?