just start a business

Don't mean for the title to be clickbait but I've been honestly thinking about this a lot lately. There's a lot of really small service based businesses that have been bootstrapped by people who aren't of the highest intelligence. I completely understand the statistics of failing and all that - sure. But man whether it's just bootstrapping your way to building a small property tax business, the life seems so much nicer once you're there. I don't mean to glamorize it. But I've seen super non sophisticated and poor business owner/operators who are still making decent money because they stuck the time out and kept selling until they could hire. They're now in control of their time, can control their direction, etc. seems a lot more enjoyable then being a corporate drone making the same amount. And if it's not "intellectually stimulating" enough then that's on you.

Have you ever thought of this?

Comments (58)

15d
a-basic-name, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think about it all the time. I think it truly comes down to fulfillment and happiness. As someone who truly hated their previous job, to being someone who's excited to work everyday, It's important to do work that's meaningful and you enjoy- way more important than money. 
Being successful is about being good. You can be a very successful contractor, tradesman, etc. and likely- you'll be more successful at whatever you do if you enjoy it. 
life truly is too short to waste it doing something you don't enjoy. Don't be sucked into societies standard "success story". My god this world wasn't made to be as 1 size fits all as it is now. Everyone is different- most people would be happier Hunter gatherers than they are humans right now. 

13d
Pierogi Equities, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think this hits the nail on the head and partly addresses the point you and OP are leading to: finding fulfillment in your hobbies that you can turn into a profitable business. I think I can speak for maybe most people that they would prefer that vs working for someone else's dream, but unfortunately it takes a lot of time and dedication to first of all identify those passions, and then figure out a business idea if you decide you'd like to make money of it instead of it just being a passion project. The most realistic thing is probably somewhere in between (having time for both work and passion).

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 2
15d
doggy33, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds like you're a nick huber / sweaty start up listener..

But I agree with you. Many local businesses around me seem like they are leaving a lot on the table. For example, they don't answer the phones, website sucks, etc. Definitely opportunity there. 

15d
yodizzle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's ridiculous. I spoke with the owner of this property appraisal/tax reduction business and they've been in business 5 years. They had massive growth after just trying direct mail… their operations is so weak and they guy isn't a true business man. They're realizing 250k a month in revenue and have over 2 mill in collections. Idk it's interesting. I read this book called Buy then Build, talked about how old business that are taught new tricks have a higher return then new businesses with new tricks. It's interesting. The high finance bros seeking high salary and hopefully carry at some point by trading their souls can killlll at these places.

13d
Pierogi Equities, what's your opinion? Comment below:

it is cool to think about, it's PE at a very small scale, but in a way that you can optimize a lot of the operations seemingly very quickly

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

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10d
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I read buy then build. and the Stanford search fund study. and been listening to podcasts/youtubes of people in the game daily. 

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15d

There are lot of small business owners who make way more money than your standard PE bro… but it's a ton of work and the work is "shittier" than PE/RE. Like so much of the BS work at my firm is outsourced to other people. I mostly just get to look at deals, talk about doing deals, do research, make IC memos, eat comped lunch, take comped flights, go to fun outings with brokers, etc.

Compare that to owning a bunch of laundromats or gas stations, or restaurant chains, whatever. You've got to hire some pretty "rough" people, maybe take a shift or two to see how things are running, deal with boring FP&A, accounting, tax stuff, have to deal with crime, staff who don't show up to work (because it's a shit job), staff who do drugs, etc.

Maybe I'm thinking about the wrong kind of small businesses. Is there a small business where I don't have to deal with minimum wage workers?

15d
yodizzle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's an interesting discussion because you're right, but it's just perspective. If you're operating a business that's doing 2-5mill, you're not hiring A team players and the turnover is probably pretty high. But the "game" seems a lot more exciting. If you're working in the business that's not great/trading a lot of time to make more then the standard PE bro. But if you do think about the right business to be in, can bootstrap it for some time, and play the game of delegating and scaling - that to me will always be more exciting then working a job. Especially when you're selling your soul usually for the "high comp"

There are good business models out there that exist. I just think most people don't imagine the long play so they start a t shirt company or social media marketing agency because that's all they learned from a few YouTube videos. Idk just a thought discussion

14d
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Maybe I'm thinking about the wrong kind of small businesses. Is there a small business where I don't have to deal with minimum wage workers?

I'm at a small business and help with one of my portco's defense management consulting projects and we just look on GovWin and bid on projects and none of these people are minimum wage employees- they are all experienced. I think it costs $6,000/yr for access, but there are a lot of opportunities on there. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 1
12d
pihyper, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What kind of firm do you work for? People who describe PE like the way you do are few and far between - I generally hear it referred more to as "pain tolerance investing" due to the amount of process work that you have to grind through to get a deal done. Especially if you're an associate, this minutiae falls disproportionately on you. This may be more of a MF thing though, so perhaps the move is to find a solid MM shop where one can have the lifestyle you described.

14d
RECONBOSS, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Starting your own business is rough. I've done so and I have friends from college who have also done so also - they are rich and I am BMI. Until recently. 

The problem with having a job is you really don't have any teeth, any grit. You're just a well fed slave with a limited skill set. You basically typecast yourself into a specific role and you have to play that role well enough technically or politically in order to survive. Lots of politics in jobs/offices. 

My rich friends route to running his own business was to work for 14 years in the industry and then venture out with $100k in operating capital and industry contacts that he leveraged for work. 

I never got to put that much time in the industry so I had to venture out earlier than I wanted to and with less capital than I wanted to but 8 years later I've only faced total collapse two or three times. The rest of the time is hand to mouth with incremental growth and set backs along the way. 

The hard part about running a business is figuring out the key elements (finding work, doing the work, getting paid, making a profit), doing the key elements, and out pacing your regularly re-occurring bills. 

During my time in business I've looked at the top leaders of an industry and I looked at their revenue year over year and each company is pretty much doing they same amount of business each year with slight increases or decreases. There are 100 or 200 such players. What that tells me is that the level of demand is never satisfied and just carries over year over year. What each business has been able to do is capture their portion of the demand through select clients, select regions or select niches within the industry. 

What does this mean for the little guy? For me it means the door is wide open for a small business with an above average level of sophistication to capture their own market share even if its on a small scale. 

I'm in the construction industry focusing on structural work: foundations, exterior walls, roofs, exterior doors and windows. We started out doing interior work but we learned the dynamics of that type of work and how it leads to bankruptcy. Basically with interior work you're the last guys in and you're the least respected - think the tile guy, the painter, drywall guy, etc. So when a project is running over budget and over schedule being the last guy and least respected skill wise can lead to you being an easy target for the owner to screw over. So we got out of that phase of the business. Now, we are very well respected with regards to skills and we are the first in so the budget is still intact and the schedule should be as well. You can read about this business dynamic but you won't believe it until it happens project after project. 

For my industry finding the work is easy for commercial work - there are companies who report on projects that are out to bid and all you have to do is pay them about $2,000 a year and they will give you access. For residential work you're going to have to do the whole marketing thing - website, business cards, t-shirts, direct mailers, brochures, etc. 

Doing the work is going to be the one thing you should already know how to do given this is your choice in business. If you don't know how to do the work I suggest you learn. Once you know how to do the work well enough to satisfy the customer, get paid and get repeat business from that same customer you're good enough to hire and train. Getting paid is going to be predicated on how you contractually engaged the client and your industry's resources for deadbeats. In the construction industry we have the ability to lien properties that we have worked on - except for government properties or if you waive your lien rights - if you have filed the required notices within the correct period of time. Now for the best part - making a profit. This is going to be predicated on your clientele and your service. For us commercial clients don't care about money as much as they care about getting the job done because once the job is done they can start making more money. Residential clients are trying to squeeze as much as they can out of every nickel. Typically. 

So our original business model was - not very well respected work, for frugal cut-throat clients. Our new business model is well respected work for clients flush with cash with no problems paying for what they want. - This transition was over a 5-year period and it was aided by industry people I met along the way. Basically I reached out to successful complementary businesses within the area and told them I would pay for referrals. It takes a little persistence but after a couple of months of reminding a salesmen at a concrete cutting company I was able to break into some really huge clientele: Target, Walmart, Burger Fi, etc. From here the sky is the limit.

But my business will be limited by my capacity to do the work, hire people to do the work or subcontract the work out. 

Once you perfect doing the work, hiring, subcontracting, you can focus on getting the work (marketing, pricing, negotiating) and getting paid. 

14d
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You're BMI? What does that mean?

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

13d
Pierogi Equities, what's your opinion? Comment below:

yeah I was trying to figure that out too

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

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11d
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:
RECONBOSS

Barely Making It.

Dude you can't just make up random acronyms…. smh

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 3
14d
TheBusinessAdministrationMajor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I posted this here before. Some business owners are dumb as rocks but they want to make money and are willing to put in the time and effort, and are really diligent about getting the most money they can of of their workers and customers, how else would they stay afloat? A lot of these people have some previous experience doing something before they branch out on their own, so it's not like they didn't have intimate knowledge of the business they're in before hand.

Some things that are big right now are HOA management companies, solar and energy contracting, and as always 3rd party services.

14d
ResMan, what's your opinion? Comment below:

 but they want to make money and are willing to put in the time and effort, and are really diligent about getting the most money they can of of their workers and customers

This is the key right here. People underestimate the importance of caring about money in entrepreneurial success. The successful entrepreneurs I know are wired this way and always have been. They like having money, want more of it, and spend more time than most people thinking about it. This is what motivates them to grind out long hours and push the envelope.

There are probably exceptions to this in things like tech and biotech, where you have extremely smart people who may be more on the intellectual side and come up with very valuable new ideas. But most successful entrepreneurs are moderately smart people who just really like money.

12d
famejranc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

1. I used to think it was this easy, I even made a post on here about how easy it would be to start a business (spoiler: it's hard), that post and my thinking was geared more towards startups (much higher risk of failing) but still I hear where you are coming from and have had similar thoughts until I realized...

2. most people who start businesses that don't fail have an actual skill, then they start a business where they can use that skill. if you don't have a skill but are trying to start a business, it will probably be harder if not impossible compared to if you already had some kind of skill and then started a business around the skill. if you don't have a skill you probably need $ (either your own money or someone else's money) to start a business or buy one.

12d
yodizzle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Absolutely agree. That's why in a way I wish I went to school for marketing and focused all my energy into that. Most of these serial entrepreneurs we see are good marketers who just partner with someone who can operationally grow the business while they scale the revenue. I'm hoping to get into commercial real estate down the line but hate knowing I'll be held to starting a real estate company down the line because that's where I'm skills would be. If I was a good marketer I could partner with whatever company. Every small shop I've worked at the one thing they were always struggling with was marketing

12d
IncomingIBDreject, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think more and more people are going to think about this (I certainly have thought about it as well), as corporate wages continue to stagnate and COL soars. The boomers worked hard at an office job and had multiple houses, solid retirement, etc. to show for it. Nowadays most corporate workers are going to struggle to buy even one house let alone multiple and a solid retirment. That and the ever increasing consolidation of many industries makes it significantly harder to climb the ladder. If you have 10 major banks instead of 50 or 100 for example, the chance of being in a role that has major decision making power is slim.

I know these arguments don't really apply to IB/PE, but a majority of IB people end up in corp dev/corp strat after a few years anyways, and once you do, you'll be that corporate worker I speak of. 

If you want to have a chance at making real money and getting into a decision-making role where you actually have control, entrepreneurship is becoming more and more appealing by the year to do so. 

Array

  • 3
5d
Ozymandia, what's your opinion? Comment below:
IncomingIBDreject

If you want to have a chance at making real money and getting into a decision-making role where you actually have control, entrepreneurship is becoming more and more appealing by the year to do so. 

I hear what you're saying but I also think it is a little misguided.  I mean, yes, if you start your own business you are in a "decision making role" but if you have no cash flow and aren't super successful, it's just the freedom to be constrained by a different set of factors.  Obviously there is value towards working for yourself and reaping the value of all the effort you put in, but if you're working 12 hour days because you can't afford someone to help take some of the workload, you aren't much better off than if you're working 12 hour days in a corporate role.

I guess at the end of the day it depends what you want.  I think corporate America still gives the best chance for making a lot of money for the least risk, so in a sense you are trading decision making power in your professional life for the freedom to have some flexibility in your personal life.  If you go the entrepreneurship route, you take on a lot more risk and you also inextricably tie your freedom of action in your "outside of the office" life to your freedom of action at your job.  If you hit it big, then you end up in an awesome spot.  But I'd be very curious as to how many small business owners end up netting mid six figures a year (to take a reasonably large salary) for themselves versus how many white collar office workers get there, and how long it takes each.

12d
chacharat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Excellent, excellent topic and I hope most users will pitch in here! We only get one life and we should do our darndest to live it as we want!

I have a couple of friends who managed to pull it off - muster enough strength to take such a leap of fate without it backfiring on them. The thing is, while exhilarating, the transitional period when they started taking actual steps and cutting ties with their previous employers and professional relationships was terrifying (they both describe it that way). I don't quite remember what they did before, but now, one of them is an artist, and the other got knee-deep into SEO and makes most of her cash building sites from the grown-up before flipping them. 

So, both of them are very financially independent now, but to be fair, their previous positions allowed them to spend time working on their true calling, even during billing hours. It was only after they were sure they could make it they went for the kill. Yet, having a "safety net" is only a detail that shouldn't put off anyone from fighting for their dreams. Sacrificing sleep and weekends seems like a low price to pay for a better life after several months...

12d
MonkeyNoise, what's your opinion? Comment below:
chacharat

Excellent, excellent topic and I hope most users will pitch in here! We only get one life and we should do our darndest to live it as we want!

I have a couple of friends who managed to pull it off - muster enough strength to take such a leap of fate without it backfiring on them. The thing is, while exhilarating, the transitional period when they started taking actual steps and cutting ties with their previous employers and professional relationships was terrifying (they both describe it that way). I don't quite remember what they did before, but now, one of them is an artist, and the other got knee-deep into SEO and makes most of her cash building sites from the grown-up before flipping them. 

So, both of them are very financially independent now, but to be fair, their previous positions allowed them to spend time working on their true calling, even during billing hours. It was only after they were sure they could make it they went for the kill. Yet, having a "safety net" is only a detail that shouldn't put off anyone from fighting for their dreams. Sacrificing sleep and weekends seems like a low price to pay for a better life after several months...

lol I know someone as well who has multi-million net worth for SEO literally from building simple word press sites for clueless small businesses and then BS content writing to drive traffic. You can go online and people will tell you the market out there is dead but it isnt, there are so so so many small businesses that dont have much of a digital presence.

The skillset needed there isnt even SEO, it's sales. The services offered are basically BS but the margin is huge

12d
Waterfalldown, what's your opinion? Comment below:

When I was in pwm lots of the richest individuals owned boring businesses but had a great lifestyle. 

I feel like there's a ton of opportunity out there without the need for large amounts of capital like a few posters mentioned SEO. I see people making money doing lead generation, blogging (scaling to then have a writer), and copywriting. None of those really require capital. 
 

5d
TheBusinessAdministrationMajor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You're all talk but no action.

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5d
Pug, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Is it specifically the macroeconomic environment and looming recession that make this a bad idea right now?

I'm launching my own thing (I'm a developer so I'm building it out right now) regardless, because it seems better than continuing to hate my life in bureaucracies, but just curious of your take.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” - Nassim Taleb
  • 1
5d
Ozymandia, what's your opinion? Comment below:
yodizzle

But I've seen super non sophisticated and poor business owner/operators who are still making decent money because they stuck the time out and kept selling until they could hire. They're now in control of their time, can control their direction, etc. seems a lot more enjoyable then being a corporate drone making the same amount.

You are falling victim to survivorship bias.  Even the "non sophisticated and poor business owner/operators" who made it to the point your are describing are still statistically in the minority in the sense that they've survived at all.

Also, you may have more financial knowledge and be more "sophisticated" in that sense, but for a lot of small businesses that isn't super important.  I think that in finance-oriented jobs we get an outsized focus on marginal returns.  Your average business owner isn't focused on generating a few dozen bps of marginal value in the same way that a PE firm would be.  A lot of the success small business owners have is in just executing on whatever job they're doing - there isn't any "sophistication" required.  Yes, a plumber might benefit from bulk ordering materials and saving an additional 5%, but that isn't making or breaking their business.

The point being, entrepreneurship is really hard and I don't think the average person on these boards understands that.  Intelligence is great but it only gets you so far - being a good salesperson, or having a particular skill, will get you further than just brains.

4d
MonkeyNoise, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree that intelligence, especially white collar/corporate intelligence, can only get you so far.

But the 'survivorship bias' is bunk. You take a guy who can repair HVACs and is hard working and 9/10 times he will succeed if/when he starts his own business. Everyone acts like being an entreprenuer is some 1 in 100 success story. Sure to have a unicorn start up, or reach certain net worth, maybe. But if you have a skill most will pay you for it really is quite 'easy' and 'hard' at the same time.

4d
Ozymandia, what's your opinion? Comment below:
MonkeyNoise

But the 'survivorship bias' is bunk.

That's bullshit.  Of course it isn't bunk.  Something like one in three restaurants fail in their first year alone - I don't see why the numbers would be strikingly different for any other industry

You take a guy who can repair HVACs and is hard working and 9/10 times he will succeed if/when he starts his own business.

I mean, you can assert this all you like, but I don't see why it has to be true.

Everyone acts like being an entreprenuer is some 1 in 100 success story. Sure to have a unicorn start up, or reach certain net worth, maybe. But if you have a skill most will pay you for it really is quite 'easy' and 'hard' at the same time.

You need to make enough money to live.  And if you want to say "okay, most people who start a small business will make a go of it" and define that as "making a profit" then sure, maybe that is true.  But to actually be successful you need to be able to pay your and your family's bills, and I'd argue that you need to do better than you would if you worked for someone else.  I'm not at all sure that 9/10 HVAC repairmen who start their own business are doing better than they'd be if they took a salaried position for an established company.

These boards have a romanticized view of what small business ownership really looks like, because everyone imagines themselves in the position of the guy who owns the place, has 5 employees, and is comfortably turning over a few hundred thousand a year in net profit.  I'm not going to say that is impossible or even unlikely, but that takes a ton of hard work and sleepless nights to get to, and even then I don't think that is statistically likely.  It's all well and good to go on and on about the "freedom" that ownership brings, but everyone here is doing that from the comfort of a job that pays them well above the national average salary and they're longing to not be tied to their desk or their MDs erratic schedule for turning comments to a pitch deck.  The average person, I'd guess, is far more concerned with taking home a few thousand extra dollars a year so they have some financial security than they are with having the freedom "to make their own decisions".

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3d
rickle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Didn't read the whole thread but thought I'd add my perspective as someone who has "just started a business" 30 yrs ago. 

It takes a different type of person to be successful. Not about your knowledge, traditional "skillset" , or any of the other things that make for a good employee. Ultimately it takes a certain risk profile and a "can do" attitude, resiliency, and the ability to act NOW! It takes action, the more the better, and as quickly as possible. Learn from the mistakes and move on (without repeating them). Really doesn't matter what type of business. Whether it be a product or service, you need to solve a problem. Do something better, cheaper, or fill a void.

The other key for a business to grow is to learn how to "work on your business, not in it". Most fail at this miserably as they are not really entrepreneurs. Most will just do the job they previously did as an employee. The plumber open up his own shop. The baker gets in to retail baking. Most fail because the trade isn't the business. The business is the business.

2d
SafariJoe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Et facere dolor voluptate in nam quo qui libero. Aperiam hic tempore enim deleniti minima dolorum. Praesentium ex est doloribus eveniet nisi. Qui ea iusto molestias quod rerum ut.

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SafariJoe, wins again!
1d
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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21h
curiousandcurious22, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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