Thoughts on Starting a Business – Part 1

I lost my job in February 2002. It was another of a long series of layoffs. I was use to this; I made my living as a freelance technical writer and web designer.

Since then I haven’t had a full time job. I’ve done some freelance writing and web design work, volunteered for a series of political campaigns, worked in a book store, digitally edited music for dancers, sold stuff on eBay, worked in a supermarket, worked in a coffee shop, and taught English as a Second Language.

This has been an interesting adventure. I keep a positive attitude and believe this is an opportunity to learn and explore different options.

A few weeks ago I went to a job fair. I didn’t find any work but did find an interesting company that may change my life. The company is The Entrepreneur’s Source (www.theesource.com).

Their goal is simple – to help people who want to start their own business. This idea appealed to me. The one thing I learned from my layoffs and unemployment is that you cannot rely on full-time employment for money. Whether you do work for someone else or not, you need to find an alternative system to generate income.

My dad worked for the post office for thirty-seven years. He also had a variety of part-time jobs. My dad still tells me, “Find a company where you can work for twenty years and then retire.” Ironically, most of the companies I worked for folded long before their twentieth year of business.

I gave the gentleman from the Entrepreneur’s Source my phone number and agreed to have him call me in a few days. I thought this would be an interesting option to explore. Even if I did not do business with this firm, I would at least learn some useful things.

Our first conversation went well. We spoke for approximately 45 minutes. Part of the conversation dealt with my financial history but most of the conversation identified my goals. Why do I want to start a business? What do I expect from starting a business? What do I want to achieve? What type of working environments do I like? What type of working environments do I dislike?

I want my own business so I don’t have to worry about money, but more importantly I want to start a business so I can live the lifestyle that I want. This includes: having a business that does not tie me down to a geographical area, working with people, working with technology, and most importantly, allowing me the time and freedom to do the things that I believe in but provide little or no financial remuneration.

Geographical freedom is important to me. I currently live in New England, but don’t plan to live here for the remainder of my life. Ideally, I’d like to live for awhile in each of the fifty states. My hobby is photographing towns, cities, and their residents. I want to travel across the United States and photograph and write about America.

That is the reason why I like selling on eBay and writing. I can do these from wherever I happen to be.

I enjoy working with people. I like talking with people, learning about them, helping them and so on. That is one reason why I enjoy teaching.

Working with technology is important to me. I find it challenging and enjoy pushing the envelope.

I need to have the freedom to do the things that are important to me but provide me no monetary gain. Helping charities, volunteering, or donating my skills is important. While I don’t expect to be independently wealthy, but I do want the freedom to be able to take a day or week off to volunteer for a worthy cause.

Suddenly the conversation hit a rough point. The gentleman told me he was a big fan of franchises. I don’t like this “f” word. I’ve worked for some franchises and find them too restricting. You pay them money and they want you to follow their plan without variation.

I understand that when you buy a franchise you are buying their expertise and knowledge. I also understand that the knowledge they give you works. They have developed a plan that makes their business a success.

However, this type of environment does not work for me. I need freedom and flexibility. I don’t do well in tightly structured environments. Playing by the rules is fine as long as I have the freedom to occasionally change or break them.

I was told to keep an open mind. Why not? If you limit your possibilities to your own preferences and prejudices you can only succeed as far as your own knowledge will allow you. However, if you keep an open mind, you might learn something new and succeed in an area or way that you never expected.

I was also told that if I agreed to continue this business relationship I would have to agree to read about the suggested franchises, talk with the franchisers and talk with some of the franchisees. This is fine. I look at this as an educational endeavor.

Now the all important question! How much was this going to cost me?

A one-time fee of $300. My business coach makes the majority of his money if I purchase a franchise. The franchiser pays him a commission.

I decided to continue with this business relationship.

Our next phone call provided an introduction to three franchises that my coach believed fit into my profile. This is what I was waiting for. Would these franchises fit my goals or would the coach just try to sell me!

To my surprise all three franchises fit into my profile and met my goals.

The first franchise opportunity is ComputerTots (www.computertots.com) and ComputerExplorers (www.computerexplorers.com). This business provides computer education to children. In addition to teaching children, you also work with school departments as an outsource option to provide computer lesson plans and services to schools and computer education to teachers.

The second franchise opportunity is On-Hold Marketing & Communications (www.ohmc.com). They provide advertising and marketing recordings for businesses to be played when they put you “on-hold”.

The third franchise opportunity is Professional Referral Exchange (www.prorefx.com). This is a business networking franchise.

I am keeping an open mind. I certainly have questions and concerns but that is good. You never want to go into a business opportunity as in instant believer. Blind faith is blind.

I will continue to write about my experiences as I look to start a business. I don’t know if it will be one of these or if I will start one. Either way, we will all be more knowledgeable about the process.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me. Let me know which of the three opportunities you believe is best for me. Let me know if one of these opportunities might do well in your locale. I am seriously thinking of relocating.

I look forward to your suggestions.

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