With today’s difficult job market the world of entrepreneurship is growing. More and more people are striking out on their own to try their hand at being their own boss. While it may seem glamorous at first, owning your own business comes with a unique set of challenges that test even the strongest personalities.
We had the opportunity to talk with Jim McManaman, a veteran entrepreneur who has built and sold several successful businesses in his long career. His first entrepreneurial experience was when he was just 12 years old, welding dune buggies, for friends and neighbours. “At the time I wouldn’t have thought it was a business,” Jim says. “I had a skill and there was a small demand for it.”
Put systems in place
Jim sold his first big business in 1996. It was a franchise of the California-based carpet cleaning company Chem-Dry which he ran for ten years. They were the top franchise out of 150 franchises in Canada for three years running and became a designated training center for people wanting to buy into the business. Jim is adamant that it was the processes and systems he had in place that made his franchise so successful.
“It was our processes and our customer service that made us the top franchise in the country,” he says.
Don’t be afraid to act
With any new business venture there is an innate amount of risk. Fear is the leading deterrent for taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and being comfortable with a certain amount of risk is important for anyone starting their own business.
“If there is anything innate to [an entrepreneur] it’s that they are more willing to take that risk,” Jim says.
While planning is a key component to starting a business Jim argues that it is how you execute that plan is the most important. Acting is key. ““You can plan and dream but until you act and start getting things done it’s not going to happen,” he says. The same idea goes for growing a business and getting ready for it to sell. Planning is great, but it is how you execute the plan that will get you the real results. “Just do it.” he says.
Nothing is perfect, fear is normal
Many entrepreneurs spend months, even years planning for their business launch, creating 50 page business plans and working and re-working their product or service. While planning is important it is just as important to realize that it will never be perfect. Things will pop up that you have not planned for and you will have to roll with the punches and make things work. "I’ve been guilty of it myself, trying to make everything perfect” Jim says. “It’s just going to get you stuck.”
"I’ve been guilty of it myself, trying to make everything perfect” Jim says. “It’s just going to get you stuck.”
Within perfectionism lives a lot of fear. Fear that you will be seen as an impostor or that your business plan won’t go as it should (spoiler..it probably won’t). We are born with two fears, loud noises and falling. As we get older our fear impacts us in different way. “Even someone who has a multi billion-dollar company has lots of fears along the way,” Jim says. "It takes real planning and mindset to get past that and stretch a little everyday.”
“Even someone who has a multi billion-dollar company has lots of fears along the way,”
Make yourself obsolete
The end goal of any entrepreneur looking to someday sell their business is to make themselves obsolete. The systems and processes that you have in place should be so airtight that if you stepped away from the business, no one would notice. Jim talks about the hub and spoke model where the business owner is the hub and his employees are the spokes. Many entrepreneurs run into this issue where all the work flows through them and the business can’t operate without them. “This is of no value to a buyer,” Jim says. “You want to make sure the business runs itself”
GIVE, don’t give back
Jim built and sold his last business in the small down of Kemptville, Ontario where he has become a valued member of the community. He is all for community giving but doesn’t prescribe to the idea that a business needs to “give back” to the people they service. “What did you take?” he asks.“If you had a business who gives phenomenal service and that’s all you ever do you don’t have to give in any other way. If you want to give – Just give.”
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are struggling with your business, no matter what stage you are at there is always someone who can help. There is a lot of shame in failure for business owners but there have been many entrepreneurs who have rebounded from struggle only to discover a path to success. “There are lots of small businesses who took a stab at it and gave up,” Jim says. “When you are having struggles and problems you are going to have to open up if you want some real help.”
Have a plan, keep it simple, act, overcome fear and open up. This was our take away from our conversation with Jim.
Jim is now the owner of Peak Growth Business Advisors, operating in the Ottawa area. He continues to spread his wealth of knowledge with his clients and the greater community.