Category: Starting a Business


When was the last time you were able to say that? Did you relish in it or just take it in stride? On Friday, I finally, completely won a battle that I have been fighting for almost three years. This was a professional fight that I did not want to fight, but knew in my heart I had to. I had a large client that chose not to pay Brand Event Marketing for their work. Mind you, they were and are still using and benefiting from the project that took just over a year to complete. (It’s actually one of the best websites I’ve ever created). As I continuously asked for payment, I was told by members of the professional community to just accept not being paid.  Some even threatened my partner, suggesting that his job (at a large company) may suffer due to my questions. I was told not to cross the CEO – anyone who has ever tried has not just lost, but brutally lost. But, have you ever felt so strongly about something that it’s like this pain that won’t go away unless you fight. Like you’re just not able to curl up and go away. I couldn’t. Everything in me constantly reminded me that this is why I went into my own business. To be ethical, to teach others to be fair, to do what is right. So, I hired an attorney (a quiet, unsuspecting shark) and we went to work. After she’d assessed the situation and the evidence, she acknowledge that she didn’t think this fight would go on for very long. It was quite cut and dry.

Ha – were we surprised. They began to attack my character, called me names (a con artist, a liar), made up stories about me, laughed in the corner of the arbitrator’s office as their attorney even questioned my academic accomplishments and just wrote me off. I can’t tell you how much this hurt, personally and professionally. I found myself digging harder into my other work so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions. Their attorney even attacked my attorney and said if they lost, he “would appeal up to the Supreme Court!” Well, guess what? I held my head up. I told the truth and I didn’t falter every time their attorney threw a punch. I just did what I learned in kickboxing in a small dojo in Raleigh. I bobbed, I weaved, I kept my hands up to block and I threw powerful jabs and cross punches when I needed to. I sustained hits that could’ve brought me to my knees, but I realized that this is what so many tribulations had been training me for. This is what God had been training me for (and I’m not afraid to say that in public anymore).

In the end, they lost. They appealed twice and lost each time. I was awarded more than just what they owed me. I was awarded interest from the day they received the original invoice. But, it really hit me that this fight was not just about the money. Did they owe Brand Event Marketing for our work? Yes, but it was also about teaching and learning. Everything we do has purpose and consequence. You may think you know the purpose and the consequence, but what you think you know can change in the blink of an eye. As I look back on the work and the relationships before, during and after the fight, I realize that in my narrow view, I thought this was about me, Brand Event and our work, but really, I think this was about and for my client.

So, today, I would like for you to, first, take a moment to quietly remember you have the strength to fight any battle that is given to you and that you choose to fight.We all have a little David inside that has a Goliath taunting us.  And, second, are you conscious of your purpose and consequences? Are you doing just enough to get by or are you working within the realm of your great possibilities? Are you just thinking of what the consequences are for you or are you considering the whole? Do you truly understand the ripples that occur from your words and actions?

I know that I’ve just won a great battle, but life really is your war. There are times of peace and there are times of battle. Your work during peace may be the catalyst for your battle, but no matter what, if you do what is right, say what is right, honor those around you and work with hope, then you will always win. Even, if it’s not for you.

In the earlier blog, we considered the questions that prospective business owners should consider as they think through the possibility of starting a business. Before we answer the questions, let’s create a profile of this possible business owner and the business that they are considering.

For this experiment, let’s say that the prospective business owner (Sam) is an experienced sales manager  who is based out of Western North Carolina and has a personal interest in yard sales, estate sales, auctions and general antiquing. Sam also enjoys refinishing furniture and sometimes, reselling the pieces. Sam does not have any professional experience in estate sale management. Sam has a MBA and values overall work-life balance. Sam has a personal interest that he/she would like to turn into a profession.

Estate Sales are similar to garage sales in that they are selling people’s items, however, an estate sale is different from a garage sale in that a professional group typically runs the sale. The profits are split in a previously agreed upon percentage between the estate owners and the professional sellers. Keys to success in this business is the ability to organize and be organized, recognizing  possibly rare or valuable items, strong advertising and selling skills and a good rapport with people. This is a quick overview just to give us a foundation for this project. There would, of course, be greater detail if this were an actual market research project.

Now onto the overview questions. The first draft of these answers can be formatted in any fashion that is easiest for the prospective business owner. For this experiment, I’ve initially formatted them into a word doc. Take some time to look then over and assess what you can surmise from these answers and we will discuss further early next week.
CASE STUDY_Estate Sale Management_online

 

Yesterday, we began a conversation about what it would take to start an estate sale management company. We discussed the business questions that one should ask when considering starting a business, however, I wanted to circle back and make sure that there is an understanding of the self discovery that needs to be fully enabled during this process. When you start a business, it is your baby. As I said in an earlier post, the business becomes all consuming when you are not focused on other important tasks. When deciding to embark on a new business, regardless of scale, one must examine their stamina, ambitions and fortitude in being an entrepreneur. Why is this business important to you? What do you hope to gain from this business? How do you view success in this endeavor? Are you able to make the strong decision to let it go, if necessary? Are you being honest with yourself about the time, the emotional investment, and the mental challenges that you will face to move forward? Are you really an entrepreneur or just someone with a good idea? I bring these questions to you as a budding entrepreneur, but they are also important life balance questions. Anytime a life-altering decision is being made, you need to consider your emotional, physical and mental readiness for the challenges that lie ahead.

The questions that I linked to yesterday are important questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re ready from a business perspective – and I will answer those questions later today, as I promised; however, before you answer those questions you must KNOW that you are personally completely ready to take the leap into a decision that will change the course of your life. It will all be positive and grow you further, but it will not be easy. Are you really ready?

Over the next few days, I am going to give a general overview of how to start a community business. Within this conversation, I will try to answer some of the most popular questions and explain why certain steps are taken. I have chosen to focus on a start-up that will provide mobile services to the community. Specifically, managing estate sales. I’m sure some of you are familiar with HGTV’s Cash & Cari. Cash & Cari follows “estate sale guru Cari Cucksey [as she] combs through her clients’ basements, attics and garages in search of hidden treasure. And once she and her team have organized and priced the entire contents of the home, they hold an estate sale right on the premises.” (HGTV) Since we all have or know someone who has lots of stuff and the idea of treasure hunting for money seems kind of cool to me, I decided to let this be our fictional new start-up.

We’ll get started by considering the answer to one of Brand Event Marketing’s most common requests: PLEASE help me figure out where to begin. How do I get started? That is a loaded question because it doesn’t have a simple answer. It always finds its way to what, when, where, why and how. What is the business? Where will the business be located? Who are the clients? Where are the clients? How do you communicate your product/service to and with them? Why is the service/product important to the client? When are the deadlines? As we begin, we will list all of those questions and answer them honestly. This is the self- and business- assessment that can be the difference between failure and success.

The Small Business Administration is a great place to start the process. They have some great tools that will help you make smart decisions. As I go through this process, I will begin with their 20 questions to ask before starting a business. Additionally, below are a few more questions to deepen your thought process. (Competitive Analysis)

  1. Have you thoroughly listed all of your direct and indirect competitors?
  2. Have you done your homework and gathered accurate facts and figures on your competitors?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors? We will discuss this in more detail in another post.
  4. Is there a segment of the market that your competitors are overlooking?
  5. Are there services that your competitors are not providing for their customers that you could provide?
  6. Are you pricing goods or services competitively in regard to your competition? Make sure to explain why you are able to price higher or lower than your competition. Undercutting competition with price is not always favorable.
  7. Do you have the finances required to build a business in a competitive market?
  8. What is your competitive advantage?

Tomorrow, I’ll answer those questions for the Estate Sale Start-up and then, we’ll discuss the next step.