January 18, 2009

The E-Persons in our lives

Occasionally people come to me and ask about websites.

"Francis, I need help on making website."
"Well.. what are you up to? "
"I have an idea of something I'd like to sell online."

Usually it's cookies, sometimes it's t-shirts, a lot of times it it's services they want to offer. Most of these people have zero programming or html experience. If I told them paypal had an api to allow your site to create invoices and process payments they wouldn't even understand the non technical part of that sentence. When you get into the advanced parts of how the web works, they glaze over. I usually end up telling them about Shopify which can have you up with professional looking storefront with very little time and effort and as you go you can learn how to make it very pretty and you don't have to worry about the perils of doing your own web hosting. Personally I'd rather use that $20 a month for my own server slice and spend a lot more time and money on it, but that's not actually very smart if I wanted to grow a different business that wasn't web hosting.

The real problem they want to solve isn't "I want to know how to do a website." it's "I want to know how to start a business on the web." and the core problem there is usually "I want to start a business." which is usually formed around "I want to have more money". And wanting more money is not a bad reason to start with, but because you like to do something or make something doesn't mean starting a business around it is a smart idea. Most of the time your business will take you away from doing those cool things you like and force you to spend all your time doing something else you wont, running the business.

There's a book I love that will either discourage you or encourage you to start a small business. Either way it will teach you a bit about what you actually have to do to start. I tend to give this book to people who I think it will encourage, as it usually doesn't take a book to discourage people who would be discouraged. It's called The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber, and it's like $5 off amazon used so it's worth the money, Its worth the read even if you hate the author's writing style (figure a pound of gold in ten pounds of fluff), and it's worth your time if you ever thing you might want to go into business. The E-Myth being the Entrepreneurial Myth that a technician can take their idea/product and just start a successful business around it. Most people do that without learning how the rest of the business works.

His book of course is not a blueprint of how to start a small business, grow it, operate it, and sell it, it just tells you that you'll need one, and what it might look like. I'm rather new at this so it blew me away. The amount of planning and the possibilities you can come up with to make a business work is breathtaking. Its the kind of thing I love. It's something I'm going to have to write more about. Not to give advice but to share experiences. I can only tell you there's more to it then you probably know, but in sharing experiences you pool what you learn. =)


PS (It's been too long since I've been writing, feels good, but I'm also embarrassed at the writing style I presented above. It's a silly feeling.)

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