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The new Great American Dream… or Nightmare?

Posted by Joann Marks on Friday, June 4th, 2010

The other day my oldest and most important client somewhat jokingly said I didn’t “love her” anymore; that she hardly spoke to me these days. Of course, relating to clients is very important and I took her comments to heart. So what am I doing that is so important I don’t have time for clients? The answer is simple — I am running a small business.

The “new” great American dream is to own your own business. More entrepreneurs launched new businesses in 2009 than at any other time in the past 14 years, according to a study released in May from the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity report. This could be due to the fact that so many people have been downsized that they feel the only way to earn a living or be secure is to be their own boss.

The problem is that it’s just not that easy! One of my favorite expressions is “you don’t know what you don’t know” and there isn’t one easy source out there that can feed you all the information you need to know in order to stay on top of the laws and intricacies to running a business – you find out when something happens how to handle it.

SO what was I doing last week instead of touching base with my (very important) clients? Well here is a little run down.

On Monday, I had back to back conference calls with my 4 managers so I knew what was going on in their departments that week and update our deadlines. A catch 22 for small business owners: you hire people so you don’t do all the work and then you end up managing people and creating another category of work for yourself. My company has 10 employees — not enough for me truly delegate everything other than working with the clients, but just enough to add a few hours to my workload each week dealing with them. You need to train them, mentor them, talk with them and, of course, manage them. Once you delegate things to them, you have to go over the results with each of them. This is why so many bosses fail to delegate because sometimes it takes the same amount of time to give the task to someone else then to do it yourself. Ongoing tasks can easily be assigned to an employee, but the weird things that pop up daily (and, trust me, they do) have to be handled and usually you are the only person left who can handle it.

Monday afternoon I spent over 3 hours researching the “use tax laws” in Michigan and discussing the inquiry we got from that state with our CPA and internal AP person. We are a service company and we don’t sell products so why would Michigan ask us to pay taxes in a state where we have no office, no sales, no employees? Because we issued some 1099’s to independent contractors to do in-store demonstrations in a few stores in that state. Each state has different tax laws. We can’t afford to go to an attorney on every issue that pops up and, unlike large corporations, have no one person who can deal with these things. So the small business owner ends up handling these issues one by one.

On Tuesday, I was dealing with my warehouse manager’s neck and back problems. We only have one warehouse manager and the fact her doctor put her on light duty meant the warehouse basically shuts down. We had to find a person immediately to go in and do all the heavy lifting plus deal with the insurance issues.

On Wednesday, I was dealing with another legal issue and this one was really fun. When we starting doing a lot of shipping, we began using a ship broker who was referred to us by another company. For the first 3 or 4 years, it was great – no problems and good rates. Then the broker, Doreen Dillon, sent out a change of company name correspondence assuring us that we would still be dealing with her, but she was working for a different company. It seemed to be business as usual, but then things got strange; she was using different shipping companies for each shipment, she was hard to reach, some invoices were coming straight to us saying they were not paid – she always had a plausible excuse for each. Finally, Doreen disappeared (with 2 years worth of payments) and the shipping companies started coming after us for payment.  It was and continues to be a nightmare; every few months another shipping company pops up and we have to settle with them. Basically we have paid TWICE for all the shipping that occurred during those couple of years. I put her name in this blog in case anyone reading this is doing business with her! Trust me, there are a lot of people who would love to find her.

Other things I handled last week included managing all our projects; making sure that nothing falls through the cracks and that we get everything done on time. We are also in the middle of redeveloping our website and working on a new part time PR position so we have one person monitoring all our social media, press releases and contact lists (something I pretty much handle alone at this point). I get hundreds of emails each day from clients and associates and make a point to respond quickly to everyone. I also invoice most of the projects myself because I do most of the quotes.

I feel extremely lucky (and proud) that we have been in business for 20 years and keep growing.  I hope other entrepreneurs find as much success as I have. But I laugh when someone thinks owning your own business is “freedom” and you can take off whenever you want to. My biggest piece of advice – realize it is going to be twice as hard as any job you ever had and then maybe you won’t be as unprepared for the demands that reaching the great American dream will bring. Oh and yes, stay in touch with your clients because you really do work for them.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 4th, 2010 at 3:48 pm and is filed under Small Business Advice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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Cosmetic Promotions: Retail Beauty Marketing
Cosmetic Promotions, Inc.
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Phone: 407-310-4839