The article in the Pensacola News Journal showing the decline in business investment “Top 10 sales fall to $80M” painted a pretty good picture of slowing economic conditions and increasing uncertainty surrounding business investments.
Multi-million dollar projects are one thing. Businesses with those kinds of assets have people, if not departments, to tend to the details. But small business, really small business, the mom and pop venture, is one sector that can benefit with just a little assistance from local government. And the assistance I’m speaking of does not cost a dime.
There’s no better motivation to start a small family business than to find yourself unemployed. Current unemployment figures show there is plenty of opportunity for a new start-up for someone with a passion for a business or product for which there is market demand. Employed or not, you have way more potential to succeed than you know. Being unemployed may be all it takes to make up your mind to jump in with both feet to start your own business. Been there, done that. And there’s no greater satisfaction that I’ve experienced in the workplace than when the workplace is your own.
Depending on the business you have in mind, you may need more than one license, permits, and inspections along the way. You’ll have to comply with city, county, and state laws not only from the financial angle, but also from details like building codes, fire codes, and ADA compliant features that may be required. There are tax issues, federal, state, and local. There are insurance issues if you have employees. Having prior knowledge of these will save you time and money.
Let’s assume that after losing your job, you don’t have a boatload of cash to take your time in getting something going. You cannot afford to start paying rent for months on end while getting things ready. Inspections by various departments and jurisdictions may be required. Some of them must happen in a certain order. Learning this the hard way will cost you something that you can’t replace, time. And you can’t afford the financial setbacks you’ll incur for failing to comply with necessary details, beginning with the loss of business for not being able to open when you expected to.
So you have an idea of what you want to do. Maybe you took the extension courses offered by the University of West Florida on starting your own business? They are good, and inexpensive. For me it was like a college refresher course condensed into a few weeks. Maybe you’ve already run a business, but it wasn’t your own? Maybe you have a college degree in business or management? Those courses are helpful in a general sense, but do not cover the mechanics of what you will need to do in a legal sense, and in what order, before you can open your door for business.
You have a site selected that would be conducive to your business plan. But where do you start? Where do you go locally to get the ‘official guide to opening a business?’ That’s where the city and county can help. And there’s not been a greater need for this kind of help in decades.
Attracting big businesses/employers to the area is fine. Something the government should try to do. But let’s also try to develop the small business potential that is already here.
Update 1/24/2010: This post was reprinted in the Pensacola News Journal on the opinion page as a Viewpoint: Right time to promote small business growth