Blogs by William Manchee
2 - Defending the Small Business - Doomed From Day One
10/11/2008 8:30:07 AM
Due to the current economic meltdown, Attorney/Author William Manchee's has decided to share his insights and experiences, acquired from 30 years practicing law, as to why small businesses fail and what can be done to help them survive.
Many small businesses are doomed from day one—not from competition or the economy, but from their owners. From the moment they proudly frame their first dollar made and hang it on the wall, it is just a matter of time, days, weeks, or months before their business fails. When the doors open, they are full of excitement and hope, and expect only wonderful things to happen to them. Unfortunately, their destiny is already decided because they have no idea how a business should be operated.
I have a friend who is an amateur pilot. He loves flying and has a small plane that he meticulously maintains and flies on the weekends. He has logged hundreds of hours and I feel very comfortable flying with him. If anything were to go wrong, he would know what to do. I, on the other hand, know nothing about airplanes and if he were to have a heart attack while we were flying together, we would be in serious trouble. Sure I’ve watched him fly the plane and it looks pretty easy, but the reality is that flying a plane is a very complicated and tricky business. Odds are I would crash the plane and we would both perish.
Many businesses look deceptively simple and people think they will be easy to run. Rarely is that the case. Running a business without training and experience can be as tricky and dangerous as piloting an airplane for the very first time. Yet every day thousands of entrepreneurs embark on new business ventures with a vision but without a plan, with hope but without a realistic likelihood of success.
One of my old clients, Roger Blake, is a plumber. He and his wife, Jane, have been running their small plumbing business for years. They do primarily subcontract work for home builders and have a good reputation. Jane handles the day-to-day operation of the business and Roger oversees all the actual plumbing.
Several years ago there was a period of six or eight months in Dallas where new construction almost came to a standstill. During this stretch Roger and Jane got behind on their mortgage payments and lost their home. Jane was so upset about it, she left Roger to do some thinking about the future.
Roger was lost without Jane. Not only did he not know how to run a business, he didn’t have time to do his and Jane’s job too. Both Roger and Jane were necessary for the business to be successful. So I told Roger he had three choices: to reconcile with Jane, hire someone who could do what Jane had done for the business, or learn Jane’s job and work 18 hours a day.
In today’s world opportunities abound for learning how to run a small business. The libraries and bookstores are full of books on the subject. Colleges and private institutions provide classes and training on almost every aspect of operating a business. The small business administration and other government agencies also have books, periodicals and training on various aspects of running a business. These educational and training opportunities require a time commitment, however, that may not be feasible. This was the case with Roger.
Roger and Jane eventually reconciled. Unfortunately, by the time they got their business operating smoothly again, they were way behind on their bills and had little hope of catching up. To give them time to recover I suggested they file a chapter 13 debtor adjustment which is a form of personal bankruptcy in which you are allowed to continue to run a small business. Under chapter 13 they were able to keep their creditors at bay and pay out what they owed over five years.
During this time I suggested Roger learn everything that Jane did for the business in case for any reason she couldn’t perform those functions in the future. It wasn’t that I was pessimistic about his marriage, but I wanted him to appreciate the contribution she was making to the business and to take her more seriously. Then if she did leave him, he would be able do her job until he could hire someone to take her place or find a new partner.
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6 - Defending the Small Business - Giving it away. - Thursday, October 16, 2008
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4. Defending the Small Business: Suffocation - Tuesday, October 14, 2008
3 - Defending the Small Business: Looting - Monday, October 13, 2008
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