What it’s really like to start your own business
Working for a living is part of life — as are the grumbles and groans about bosses, processes, red tape, and how easy it would be to do it better. But any small business owner will attest, being your own boss is anything but easy.
So why do people do it? Why strike out on your own? Endless reasons: perhaps money, independence or the satisfaction of building something from the ground up. I have often thought about starting a small business, but the fear of failure really gives me the chills. What happens if I lose all my money? My house? While it’s not the path for me, it is the time of year when making a fresh start is on a lot of minds. I spoke with business owners who recently began their own enterprises and saw a common theme: Despite the fears and concerns, they decided to embark on this path anyway.
Dustin Maples of Remco Contracting and Kevin Mcafee of Inland Inspections LLC both started their businesses in 2019 in the Spokane area – but that’s where the similarities end. Geography, family, money and ethics prompted their decisions.
Maples and his family were tired of living in Arizona. They wanted a different kind of home life and chose Spokane because they had family living there. “We had no financial backing, no money saved up, and here we go,” Maples said. Maples resigned from his job, and “two days after that, we were in business for ourselves.”
Mcafee’s search for change was prompted by seeing things slip through cracks and working for less money with bosses who had lower professional standards.
“I just wanted to be my own boss and make sure that I can do the best job for my clients that I can.”
A Big Risk
According to the Small Business Association (SBA), in 2018, there were more than 30 million small businesses in the United States, and more than 50 percent worked out of the owner’s home.
You may have heard the saying, “Most businesses don’t last more than five years.” It is much more complicated than that. In fact, 30 percent of small businesses fail in the first two years, and only half of those survive past five years, while only two-thirds of that cohort make it to 10 years. A scant 25 percent of small businesses actually make it 15 years or longer.
Both Maples and Mcafee realize the deck may be stacked against them but haven’t let it slow them down.
Mcafee says learning from the ground up what it takes to start a business, particularly all the licensing and insurance required for his industry, was intense.
“There was no one else to lean on or fall back on,” he said.
He had to overcome his fear to walk, cold, into a realtor’s office with his marketing materials. Mcafee’s wife is a pastry chef, so he always takes cookies – a popular choice when meeting new clients, realtors and contractors.
Maples started his fabrication company in Washington state, he said, where he could have the opportunity to learn the business as well as network with people in the area. The challenge he encountered in the early days was doing everything himself. Literally everything. Ordering materials, setting up jobs, doing the accounting, taking the phone calls – you name it. Now his biggest issue is employees.
“It is really, really hard and expensive to have employees here,” he said. “That has been difficult.”
A common thread runs through the stories of both new business owners: Research and relationships are key to success. Being present in one’s community is important, both face-to-face and online. Mcafee specifically points to the importance of good reviews.
“It helps you as a small business to not get lost in this industry with so many other businesses who do offer the same services.”
“It’s a good tool for me for future business. It makes me feel good to know that they are happy with the work I do.”
Their advice for others thinking about making a fresh start on their own?
“Don’t be scared, do your research first before you spend the money, and be prepared for bumps along the way.”
“Educate yourself and relationships within your community matter,” said Maples who owns Remco Contracting and Fabrication. “You can learn a lot from others, and they can learn a lot from you. It’s a win-win situation.”
Both owners’ passion and drive for success isn’t a surprise, and while time will tell if they’re among the glory stories, they both believe pulling back the curtain to allow others to catch a glimpse of what it’s like to start a small business is part of their commitment to community.
A new small business will test its owner; the trials and tribulations along the way should make them stronger.
Both Maples’ and Mcafee’s businesses are accredited with Better Business Bureau. They are each committed to trust, integrity and doing the right thing.
I encourage everyone to get out in your community and find out more about small businesses like these – many of them are right in your backyard. Dive deeper to hear their stories of perseverance and commitment, as well as their devotion to their communities and customers. Small businesses are the economic engine in this country and are integral to the health of our economic landscape, now and for years to come.