As a fellow business owner, I know a few things about you.
1. You are a leader, not a follower. If the pack is going right, then you are probably going left,
2. You tend to like things done “your way”. I mean, who can blame you since you ARE right most of the time ,
3. You are a bit of a risk taker. How else do you explain taking the leap and starting your own business?
I know all of this because I am you. I’m a business owner myself so I know how we think. And though the above qualities make us bold and tenacious business people, they don’t always make for great operations people. So, here’s some straight talk. Get your business act together.
I work with business owners all of the time who want to grow their business with federal, state, local or corporate contracts. When I talk with these businesses about their work and start asking questions to see what certification would help to achieve their goals, I get to see behind the curtain. And sometimes, it’s a real mess! Let me provide a few generic examples.
I began talking with a prospect in March of 2018 who was asking about 8(a) certification for their business. One of the prerequisites for 8(a) is that the company be in business for 2 years. The company was working and advertising themselves as a business but they were not officially registered nor were they reporting the income as business revenue. I provided them the information they needed to properly register the company; but they were hesitant because they were concerned about what that would do to the history of the “business” – really a side hustle – they’d been running for almost 10 years. Fast forward to today, April 2020, over 2 years later. The business still has not formally organized and therefore doesn’t have the legal documents needed for certification. Lesson # 1: One or two years from now, you’ll wish you started today.
Another prospect came to me a while ago inquiring about WBE certifications. I talked with the company and was impressed with the work they were doing with some local municipalities. However, I discovered the legal name they were using was for another business one of the owners had. The problem was that the work the company was doing was completely different than the name suggested. It would be like having an accounting firm doing business under the name of XYZ Doggie Daycare. It just doesn’t make sense. Lesson #2: Consistency is key.
Neither of the companies in the aforementioned examples were bad businesses; they were just missing a foundation. I oftentimes see companies that have no foundation and no structure. The business is being held together with toothpicks and Band-Aids. When I see companies like this, I have to lovingly tell them to get their house in order before I can begin working with them.
The foundation is the most important part of any building. Without a foundation, the house or building you are in now would eventually collapse. Now it may not happen immediately, but structural issues will inevitably and completely destroy a building. The same is true of the business you are building. Make sure you protect your investment by shoring up the foundation if it’s weak. The clear and consistent message I’ve gotten over the past 9 years of helping businesses is this. Lesson #3: If you don’t treat your business like a business, no one else will.
Myra Smith Cisse
Program Manager, Independent Contractor
Government Contractors Association