Small business ownership is not glamorous. My first office was a 12 x 12 room with a small window below ground and a single overhead light in the center of the room. It wasn’t the corner office with a view, rather it was a bedroom office in the basement of my house. I could manage without a view, but the light, was a problem.
Studies show that light makes us feel optimistic. Well, I had plenty of optimism I was living my dream of business ownership. But the light issue was beginning to affect me.
I tried to remedy the problem with a pole lamp and a small desk lamp, but neither did the job. I needed light from corner to corner, so I installed a fluorescent light which helped me manage.
Problem #1 averted.
Being the salesman, shipping clerk, customer service and accountant doesn’t leave any time for a day off. And, I realized quickly if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t selling. If I wasn’t selling, I wasn’t getting paid. I didn’t take a paycheck for granted, but after a month with no break and realizing I am now married to this company, I decided being a one-man band was a problem.
Recognizing the problem is one thing, solving the problem is another thing and question arose.
Could I afford an employee?
Where would they work?
Could I really keep them busy?
Who would want to work for tiny little Pinpros?
It took me 4 months to get over this hurdle when Libby convinced me that Christine our neighbor, whose kids were in school all day, might be interested. My biggest challenge was believing people would want to work for tiny little Pinpros. I made the inquiry and she accepted and became my first shipping and receiving clerk. It worked because I only needed 5-10 hours a week and she was ok with those arrangements.
A part time flexible employee had minimal risk, but a full-time salesperson was another story. Hiring a full-time employee triggered every concern listed above. I’ve come to realize it’s a common concern of most small business owners and often the the very thing that stifles growth.
Hiring another sales person had little to do with the amount of work and more to do with wanting to be flexible and have time off. It took me 3 more months and two unforeseen events to push me over the edge to eventually hire Dale as the first full time employee.
Dale was a friend from church. He had lost his job, had a growing family, and had just lost a newborn child. I knew he needed the job and was trying to help him, but I believed he had the skills and I trusted him. Years later, Dale still remains at Pinpros.
The second event was an impulsive purchase of Inolacastings (see below). With a second company to run and manage I needed help handling the sales and Dale would take on that responsibility.
As they say, if you build it, they will come, rings true in my case. Pinpros grew and grew and I hired other employees – it was just getting over the “what if?” question that solved this problem.
When I left SymbolArts as the owner of Pinpros, I agreed to pay them a management fee to store my equipment, inventory and manage my production. For 7 months it worked well. However, eventually they wanted the space and asked me to leave. This was a problem.
The basement office in my house could barely hold me let alone equipment and inventory. I had no choice but to find office space. I was actually excited about getting an office, but nervous about all the associated costs. Managing yourself is one thing but being responsible for extra expenses becomes a little more daunting. 11 years at SymbolArts had given me the experience, but there is a certain pressure about putting your own money on the table.
Luckily, I located a 1377 sq. foot space in Layton behind Little Caesars pizza, signed a 3-year lease agreement with some trepidation but was glad to be 2 minutes from my house.
This was a natural solution to a natural problem; the challenge was bearing the burden of the bill.
It was a 600 lbs. press, and I needed to move it from Ogden to my new office in Layton. It made me anxious, even more so than hiring an employee or leasing office space. No truck, no fork lift, and no friends with that skill set. It was a problem.
But, when it’s your own, you don’t have a choice, you figure it out.
I discovered that what was big to me, was little to big item mover companies. But $600 later I found a company.
On the day of the move, up rolls a flat-bed semi with a single fork lift on the back. It certainly was enough to do the job, but I admit I felt stupid given the press only took up about 10% of the flatbed.
Getting it out of SymbolArts was no problem. Getting it into Pinpros was a problem. SymbolArts had an overhead garage door to drive the fork lift through. Pinpros had normal storefront double wide glass entrance doors. The fork lift was not driving into Pinpros.
$600 did come with a little ingenuity as I discovered. The movers lowered the forks on the fork lift as low as possible. And then by putting the press as far out on the forks as possible were able to push it through the double doors onto the floor of the office. On the other side a pallet jack was used to maneuver it to the right spot.
I now know how to move a 600 lbs. press. The next time I moved, I sold the press and required the buyer to move it. Repeat problem averted.
One day while sitting at my desk I received a solicitation to bid on an Oklahoma company. Having been through an acquisition and wanting to grow, I was intrigued. 6 months later I was the owner of a spin casting company called Inolacastings. They made similar products, offered made in the USA, and had fast turnaround, all things I liked. I was smitten, which triggered that impulsive feeling, and failed to do adequate due diligence and that created the problem.
After buying the company I discovered their biggest customer was no longer ordering and their product didn’t have the quality I expected. These two things ultimately resulted in me selling the business just under 2.5 years later.
2 other problems surfaced at Inolacastings.
First, was financing the acquisition. Utah banks refused to finance as it wasn’t in their footprint. And Oklahoma banks didn’t want to work with me. Eventually, I was able to secure a loan with the bank that served Inolacastings.
Second, managing a new acquisition from afar was a bit challenging. Transferring ownership, setting up legal documents, training employees on a new system, and developing a costing method to price the products all required me to travel back and forth which affected my focus on Pinpros.
I admit I was impulsive with this acquisition, but as I do with all difficult things, I look for the positives.
The acquisition forced me to hire another employee, which proved beneficial long term.
The acquisition produced tax write-offs that ultimately saved taxes in the early years helping me to pay off the loan early.
The acquisition taught me about spin casting, pewter, zinc, mold making and product costing.
The acquisition impressed upon me the importance of due diligence
The acquisition taught me to avoid being impulsive on decision making.
It was a year of learning and some learning comes best by solving problems.
Each problem conquered instilled confidence in me.
Each problem solved added knowledge and experience to my skill set.
And, if given the opportunity to go back, or change anything, my answer would be a resounding no.
Ownership for me has been great! But I learned it still has its challenges.
I was convinced for years I wasn't a writer - so I didn't. Now I'm older, and I have a strong desire to write - so I do. The blog Craig A Fry is my way of sharing with the world (but mostly just documenting my thoughts) things I've learned from Business, Personal Life and Spiritual Insights.
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