Saturday, September 11, 2010

Musings of a micro-business person

Being in business can be pretty scary sometimes. These last few years have been nerve-wracking. It only seems to get worse.

Now, I don’t like being a complainer, and I won’t do it here, but my thoughts have been wandering towards becoming a “real” business. Larry and I have run a Mom/Pop craft business – rather successfully, I might add – for nearly 20 years now. Pretty amazing for two people who have no formal training in business management. When I was in high school, I really had no idea what the CVAE, DECA, KEY or even CAE clubs were all about. I truly had no inspiration as a teenager, no one to tell me how to achieve.

I learned all about achieving from Larry, my second husband. Now, of course, I have ambition out the whazoo, but I still lack a lot of skills on how to make all that happen. What I can see, however, are vague images of things that I know I need to know. I just can’t quite decipher them clearly. I see other rennies doing business, and I watch how they balance and juggle the craft/artist, accountant, marketing, sales, janitor, web mastering, shipping/receiving, research/development matrix. I sometimes wonder if they are just as confused as I am, or did they figure out some secret? Do they actually have any schooling in business? My sister and her husband formed a small business of their own and they seem to be doing very well, thank you. Is it really because they ‘played’ the game and paid all the licenses and permits, filed all the incorporation papers, set up all the payroll, applied for the business line of credit? All I knew how to do is make something, go set it out and hope someone will buy it. And buy it they did! It was the 1990’s and people just bought and bought and bought!

Eventually, it came to a severe adjustment. George Bush was in the White House and the Dot Com market had made it’s crash, balancing out the mad credit lending. While it was enjoyable while it lasted, I think the credit economy is trying to adjust back to pre-1970’s where people with good credit had credit and people with bad credit didn’t have credit and had to live on a cash basis, and not this blue sky concept that everyone is entitled to everything. One must work for what one wants.

Take Crystal Mountain. We have ALWAYS lived on a cash basis. It doesn’t have anything to do with our credit history (well, ok, we’ve incurred some medical debts), I just get scared about the ability to pay on a credit card. Larry and I are always saying that one should take calculated risks, otherwise you won’t ever leave the train station of dreams, but I am wondering if not sticking my neck out to pay debt has hampered Crystal Mountains ability to expand. Now I’m thinking that was a stupid question. Fiscal conservative is suppose to the be the model, right?

So all this rambling – I didn’t score well in my high school English composition classes either – is that I am beginning to see the value of getting educated in business management. True, I’ve learned a LOT in 20 years, but I keep thinking there is more to learn. There are lots of books out there, but even those can skip topics. I’ve learned a lot on how to manage people – still working on that too. I’ve learned about keeping records and filing taxes. What I am starting to learn about now is business plans, executive summaries, and a host of financial, number crunching, type reports that I haven’t got the foggiest idea on where to start. Year-to-Date Profit and Loss, current Balance sheet – I mean, Crystal Mountain is so small! I am at a loss on how to find those numbers. Our inventory isn’t on paper – it’s the “look on the shelf and order” method.

I wonder if it is worth taking out a micro loan just to pay some accountant to get my papers in order so I can apply for a small business loan? A loan for a loan. It sounds silly, some might say it is a plan. Naw, I think I’m conservative enough to just keep on doing business the way we have for 20 years. Anyway, I have a big faire coming up in 4 weeks and I gotta go make pretty, smelly things.