Today's post will be a retrospective on a recent side venture of mine, my own technology services / consulting company, JimmyCan LLC. I'm a huge geek and I love helping people with technology and have recently been hearing more and more tech support horror stories from major companies. This really made me angry in hearing about techs stealing customers data or trying to sell side services before fixing the main problem or even worse the ones who don't even get the original problem fixed but are told to upgrade.
Thus JimmyCan was born. Keep reading for the tale of my little baby.
I am not a business man or an accountant or a designer but yet here I am now and in a way am. JimmyCan was an idea I had for quite some time. I've always wanted to startup my own tech support type company but never followed through. I usually made up excuses such as no time or too much risk and then went back to my normal daily routine.
However the more I thought about it the more and more it made sense to finally do it. The need was there and I could also do it while I keep my main, paying job. Davak and Quinn (Tech-Recipe founders/owners) encouraged me on my path and recommended to me an amazing book, Rework by 37Signals that further encouraged me on my way.
I realized that the main thing about my company was that I wasn't out to make profit or strike it rich; I was out to help people and slowly gain clients. This of course meant that I also didn't want any employees and wanted to keep the company small and flexible. Adding employees adds another level of complexity in regards to benefits, taxes, salaries and personalities. I touched out to my pal who just graduated law school and had him help me draft the necessary paperwork to become an LLC and also apply for a State Tax ID which is needed for a company checking/banking account.
Next up, I purchased a Google Apps account to use for my Phone Number, Email and even Website. I didn't need a fancy website or want one; just a place to post services and rates and some contact info. I also setup a twitter and facebook page for the company and am sure to be active on both.
Payment-wise, I use Square and their Credit Card reader for credit card payments and also setup a Checking account to use to keep finances seperate from personal (easier when tax time comes around).
Marketing? My marketing is old-school and mainly by word of mouth and references.
Its been about two months since I opened up shop and things are going at a nice and slow pace. Just a few things I've learned thus far:
You don't have to grow at a crazy rate to be successful, your probably better off learning the ropes by yourself and slowly. Risk when its just you is minimal, can you learn to do that yourself?
Don't spend money on things you don't need. Do you need custom letterheads and paper? Do you need that flashy Flash based websiteSpend your money on things that will help you do what your company does. Learn how to run your company by yourself and that way when you do hire someone, you know exactly what to look for in an employee and if they know their stuff in the interview.
Don't overwork or overtax yourself; its good to be ambitious but don't burn out. Break up your tasks into smaller, digestible pieces and you'll sleep much better. If you can't do it, just tell them you can't.
Don't quit your day job. Are you that sure your going to make it 'big'? I personally don't expect barely make a profit this year but see it as a start to where I want to get. What about insurance? 401K?
Love what your doing and be sure your actually helping people in the process. Sell yourself as a human not as a company. I hate companies that look down at their users / clients. A happy customer is the best marketing you can ever get, it creates a reputation (money can't buy that)
Create and find a workflow; I finally found mine. I use my new Macbook Air and Pages to create my forms and then save them onto DropBox so they are accessible on my Nexus One or iPhone or iPad or Windows PC. I then use my square reader to take credit cards onsite and then email a receipt to the customer and print a pdf of receipt to attach to Pages invoice. Keeping it simple is the easiest way to be productive; use an intelligent/logical folder filing system on your computer or Dropbox.
Network. Help out the right person and you could stumble upon an untapped audience. Think of someone that deals with tons of businesses each day, for me its my doughnut guy. He knows everyone in the area since they all come and get doughnuts there.
That's about all for this post. So remember, follow that dream but be realistic about it.