I previously asked the question “How does a small business start up get the advice they need to be able to Start-up ”. My specific example related to licenses and permits. Some are obvious. If you want to own your own building and construction business, you must have the required qualifications and whatever other permits you may need in order to build.
But some are less obvious. Do you need to be a landscape gardener to mow a lawn? No. Do you need to have completed a hair dressing apprenticeship if you are going to cut peoples hair (and charge them money)? I should hope so…
My little exercise of trying to help a client ascertain whether or not they needed any specific license to operate has been a real eye opener to the perils of the budding start-up operator.
During this experience I found that the process of identifying appropriate legislative requirements, and other relevant information quite arduous. Furthermore, it was representative of perhaps one of the biggest hurdles for a start-up to overcome.
The problem of course is not a lack of information per se, rather the inability to find it. The answers are of course out there. They must exist. However, the reality is that it is very difficult to find, efficiently at least.
So the issue is ‘not knowing’ where to look. Logic took me to the right places but incompetence of those people working in those places, coupled perhaps with my not knowing how to ask the right questions amounted to not only not being able to get the information quickly, but to this point, not being able to get the answer at all. It turns out after being past around to several government agencies, the first one I called was the appropriate one.
The outcome seems to be if you want it done quickly and you want to done right, take out your wallet and be prepared to pay. Like most things; doing it your self maybe free, but what’s your time worth?
I see so many parallels between business generally and this seemingly simple task of gathering information, which has of course turned out not to be simple at all. For one; outsourcing. As I mentioned above, I could find out this information myself (well, I haven’t yet but I am confident). But how long will this take me? What’s my time worth? These questions are identical when looking at outsourcing tasks. Could I do it myself? Can someone else do it better/quicker?
Another parallel I found was one of the cornerstones of the ethos of the company work for. In short, small businesses don’t have the information they need, the information exists but they can’t find it themselves, yet they can’t afford to pay someone to find it for them or consult/mentor them on the subject. This isn’t just true of my example but any other issue a business owner comes across.
I work for an online business coaching, training and mentoring service with cash flow forecasting software and other business accelerating tools. We offer these tools and resources online, some of which are free to try to help start ups as well as other entrepreneur’s and SME’s get the accurate information they need quickly.
The beauty of this is they learn the content themselves and it’s cheaper and quicker. Of course there is no substitute for one on one face to face mentoring, (and we do that too, at a price) but this is resource intensive and thus, comparatively expensive.
The difficulty during a businesses start up phase has positive effects as well as negative. Firstly this difficulty at the beginning can separate the wheat from the chaff. The serious business owner from the bored hobbyist.
If one could simply open the doors to a business on a whim we would have thousands of pop-ups coming and going, unfinished jobs, fly by night rogue traders and scammers, also well meaning yet ill prepared business operators. None of which should be encouraged.
Certainly one of the perks of having a plethora of legislation governing business practices is that it does weed out most of the people who aren’t realistically investing in a sustainable economically beneficial enterprise. One could easily argue if you fall at the first obstacle, which I believe is finding the right advice and relevant information to start-up, what chance have you in the challenging business environment ahead.
All that being said; is it too difficult? Is it unnecessarily problematic? Probably. I think the future will be in small business hubs such as this. Forums essentially. Any information that can be found on a forum must be taken with a grain of salt to an extent but it can certainly put you on the right track, save you hours of time, and perhaps thousands of dollars.
In summery, I find that the unknowns before starting a business can be beneficial in that it forces the entrepreneur-to-be to jump in and get their hands dirty, to find out the facts for themselves and if they aren’t willing to do that, they aren’t really serious about starting up. On the other hand, I feel that it is unnecessarily hard for those budding start-ups to get the right information efficiently (Time/Resource/Accuracy of information) and I wonder how many amazing enterprise have needlessly faltered at that first hurdle. How many fantastic concept businesses have been intimidated by this barrier to entry? What impact would these businesses have had on the industry or even the economy? Increased competition, bettered peoples lives, entertainment, green initiatives? We will never know.
If someone ever needs an idea of a business start up, the opportunity lies within starting up itself. Information providers are invaluable these days because there is so much information. Laugh if you will but Wikipedia is a fantastic resource that’s saved my skin on a few occasions, and it’s free…
As I mentioned my client and I are not out of the woods yet, and the issue is now more based around finding the time to find the information we need to start-up (or not). This is an extremely niche business and for mainstream concepts the information is certainly adequate and easily available. Some great starting points are:
NSW Fair Trading: for those who don’t like using computers: 13 32 20
The Australian Business License & Information Service: ABLIS.Business.Gov.Au/Home
Business.Gov.Au : Business.Gov.Au/BusinessTopics/Registration+Licenses
And if you need specific advice and you just can’t find it, feel free to give me a call (02) 9191 9681 or visit my profile for my details.
If I can’t help you? At least I will write a blog about it ; )