by D Kelly Irvin, 1995, Emerald Ink Publishing, $19.95
Almost daily, the news media relates stories of successful businesses that "started from scratch". These rags-to-riches stories are a standard part of the "American Dream". Lets' say you have invented and patented a widget but for various reasons no one has bought the patent or requested a license to manufacture the item. You refuse to accept defeat and contemplate starting your own business even though you have meager resources. Is it still possible to become part of that American Dream? This book may help answer that question for you.
After a career in banking, the author became president of Schroeder Design and Engineering. As a banker, he dealt with hundreds of people in just your situation. He may pop many of your balloons, but at the same time he believes it is actually possible to build a successful business without borrowing money. In fact, most of the book is devoted to that very concept.
Like the captain of the Titanic, you may feel you are prepared for any situation. However, unexpected traps abound. For example, the author notes how virtually all of us grew up in houses with peaked roofs and serious maintenance was required only about every 30 years. But most stores, office buildings, and factories have flat roofs that require maintenance every five years (or less!). If you rent, lease or buy a flat-roof building, you will be glad you read his pages on the risks and liabilities involved.
Unless you have invented the equal of the Xerox machine or have discovered a cure for cancer, bank or venture capital financing is seldom available to you. The answer may be his "starting partial operations". He likens it to "expanding your hobby into a part-time job".
Like the roofing problem, he gives down-to-earth advice about telephones. He suggests "the last people on earth you want to ask for advice on this subject is your friendly local telephone company". He further suggests how you can buy a $1,000 telephone system for $100. He also passes on his hard-earned experiences with fax machines and photocopiers and gives advice about dealing with CPAs, lawyers and the IRS.
He describes how he went from being computer illiterate to being very knowledgeable. He offers a seven-page glossary to clarify the mysterious terms and abbreviations of cyberland. This may be of great value if you are over 50 and still have not accepted the fact that computers are here to stay and that they are now part of daily business operations.
Contemplating manufacturing? He notes that some states actually seem to be anti small-business. He cites Michigan and New York for the "rapacious taxation of small businesses that have driven factories out".
While having a written business plan is not mandatory if you are not going to borrow money, he recommends writing one. If forces you to do research about the cost of machines, office equipment, etc. He includes a 57-page sample business plan at the end of the book.
Most business books fail to mention the most frequent reason businesses fail. Surprisingly, it is "the introduction of a spouse or child into the company". It is this sort of real-world information that makes this book well worth the $19.95 price.