Starting a Business:

A Journal


“I just had this great idea! Let’s start our own business!”

“Hey, that is a great idea! What kind of business?”

“Well… I don’t know for sure, yet. The idea’s kind of new.”

The discussion that follows this particular exchange will center primarily on considering and rejecting various kinds of businesses and business opportunities.

After some time passes, the idea resurfaces and a suitable business venture is conceived. There are no details, no plans, nothing more than an idea at this point. Mind you, this part is thirsty work and calls for a beer. Or three. And because it is such a grand and lofty and fail-proof idea, it calls for a glass of champagne, a toast to the rousing success of this new venture… and a refill. This is also the end of forward progress for at least another week.

Week 1

You should spend all week thinking about your new business. Become so distracted with your regular place of employment, that all waking, conscious effort is devoted to this, your version of the American dream. You will undoubtedly at this point in the process mull over telling your current boss to “take this job and shove it”, ala Johnny Paycheck. You should discuss this idea with your wife.

Note: After discussing this idea with your wife, remind yourself that shooting her is not an option. You should mull over the viability of divorce.

Special Note: Do not discuss this idea with your wife, your wife’s girlfriends, your girlfriends, your buddies or your business partners. You never know when one or more of these groups will overlap.

Next, you should spend the rest of the week projecting numbers – not dollars, but an increased number of hours you could be home if your wife agrees to let you do this. Always use the word “could” indicating the possibility. That way, when you end up not being home that exact number of hours, her lawyers cannot sue you for breach of contract.

Week 2

Change the name of your company. Again. Assuming of course, that you have not yet registered the name of your choosing with any of the governing agencies that handle such things. It is not a problem to change once your name is registered; those agencies will be more than happy to assist you in a name change. For another fee.

Now, it is time to begin forming business plan. At first, this should be nothing more than vague references to possible places to market your idea and dreams of how much money you are going to make. Share these dreams in the form of hard facts with your wife. This calls for a little bit of research and a lot of imagination. Do the research yourself, don’t ask your wife to do it.

At this point, it is usually necessary to spend some of your money on the new business. It doesn’t matter where or how at the moment. Tell yourself and your wife it is an investment in your future. Correct phrasing for this is “Honey, it is an investment in our future.” Support this announcement with a generous bouquet of roses. She may not believe you, but she will accept the roses.

Week 3

If the idea has survived this long, you are well on your way to success. Work out a budget. Add up everything that you own, subtract what you absolutely need to survive, and plan on overextending yourself for the next five years. It is much easier to borrow money from a bank at this point, while you are just starting out fresh. The reasons for this are many:

  1. Hopefully, you are still gainfully employed and have an income.
  2. You have not yet dumped your entire life savings into your business, thus, you have collateral.
  3. If you own or are buying your house, you then have some equity in the property. That way, the bank is assured that if you no longer have an income, and no longer have any cash, they at least will have a piece of real estate to sell.

Take all your budget numbers to the bank. Work out some sort of income projection for your new business. The general practice for this is to “pull numbers out of thin air”. Banks like projections. Maybe they just like to see how quickly they are going to own another piece of property.

After sweating out an afternoon at the bank – pleading and groveling do not work – it is quite often good therapy to relax. Take your wife out to dinner. Save the receipt; you can count it as a business expense. Make a mental note: from now on, save every receipt you can. Pick them up off the floor at the grocery store. Ask for them at convenience stores and gas stations. Steal them from your neighbor’s trash. Get a receipt for everything.

When you hire an accountant, he or she can figure out which ones you can claim and which ones you can’t. You should argue loudly and logically for keeping the ones they want to throw out. You may just win on a few.

Week 4

This is a good time for some reflection. Look deep into your heart and soul, ask yourself “just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” If the answer to this is “I have no idea”, then you are ready to proceed with your business venture.

Begin talking about your business to all your friends and relatives. Tell them to tell their friends and relatives. They will all say “What a wonderful idea! I wish I was that brave.”

Pay no attention to their sidelong looks and the shaking of their heads. They obviously have a very low quotient of entrepreneurial spirit. Call your bank. They probably have not finished appraising your property yet, or determined just which loan officer is going to get it, but call them anyway. Let them know you are anxious to proceed. Tell them that you don’t really need the loan, you are willing to sacrifice your entire stock portfolio for the success of your business but you think an influx of investment capital is a smart business move; that it will open greater doors of opportunity to get the business off the ground and ensure its success quicker. They like to hear the word “invest”. This is called “bank speak”.

Start thinking about an office. This is not always a smart move when just starting out, but there is the matter of impression. You cannot present a proper image to your clients working out of your garage. And, if the bank gets your house, you lose your office as well. You really cannot present a good image to your clients working out of a garage belonging to someone else. With an office, you will still have a roof over your head for a little while longer, anyway.

Being in business for yourself is exciting and can produce great changes in your life. Your sleeping habits will change. As will your drinking, smoking and swearing habits. Your marital and financial worlds may be turned upside down. Preparation is the key to surviving these cataclysmic upheavals. Even though you may lose everything, you will be one of a small percentage of people able to hold your head high and declare to the world: I am an entrepreneur!