Friday, January 8, 2010

My second business adventure, custom computers.

After my two partners and I put to rest the T-shirt business I spoke about in an earlier post, I was able to add to what I had already learned. My mental gears never stopped spinning. In fact, they were spinning even more because I could see the potential. I could see how it could have been done better and had learned from mistakes that had been made.

I have noticed over time that a couple of key things happen in a person's growth process. One will learn from their mistakes and also self evaluate to determine what things need to stay the same and what things need to change. In my case, I had added to my bag of business knowledge and also realized that the T-shirt business wasn't quite right for me. It was obvious that there were very successful people and companies making great money in the T-shirt business. For me, it just wasn't quite my cup of tea. It was exciting to go through it and learn from it, but I would not have been happy trying to make a successful business out of T-shirts.

One thing to keep in mind, regardless of working for the man or if you are the man, try to be sure that what you are doing is fullfilling. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, it will generally not be worth the trouble in the end. You could be making tons of money, but if it is from doing something you hate, eventually the money become less important.

So, with my bigger bag of tricks and my sights set on new horizons, I found myself starting a computer business with a friend and my mother again. At the time, my friend and I were working in the same software company. In our tinkering and exposure to computers, we realized that we could put these things together with ease and had a pretty good understanding of how the components worked together. Starting a business building custom computers seemed like a good opportunity. I love computers. So, for me, this seemed like a really good fit. This was in the late 90's if I remember correctly. This was a time when there were not a lot of people with computers skills. The internet was really taking off, but people were still fairly new to using them much less putting them together. This meant that we possessed a key component to success. We could do something that only a small number of people could do.

This business worked pretty well for a while. Once again, it was a situation where we had to work with a very small budget and we had limited time to work on the hardware. It worked though. It really worked. We spread the word about what we could do and we started getting orders from friends and associates at first for full custom builds to minor fixes and maintenance. Our profits weren't very big, but we did actually make profit. Now some might see small profit as no big deal. In actuality, any profit is pretty amazing considering most businesses operate at a loss for a year or more before they start to show profit and those businesses are considered successful. So, eventhough it was small scale, we had done some things right. I was personally proud of this because it was a sign of moving in the right direction. I had taken the things I had learned and got to taste success because of it.

Despite our small success, we still had to eventually close shop. The interenet really started to take of in terms of business. A number of companies popped up that did the same thing that we did, only they were able to do it on a larger scale. We had a chance to talk to some of these companies and discovered that they really only made pennies on the dollar for their profits. The key though was that their volume was far bigger than ours so a lot more dollars were coming in for them, so their pennies really added up. On top of that, because they could operate at a larger scale, they were able to offer more services and hardware for less than we could if we were to remain profitable. Our options at this point were either to try to get the loans and backing needed to compete with the big boys or close shop. I didn't feel comfortable yet competing with other businesses at that level. I had not yet learned enough and felt that it was a great risk to take.

This is not all a bad thing though. I learned even more about business and got to taste a little bit of success even more so that with the T-shirt business. Another added little bonus was that we got to be on the radio one time. It was a spot of time on the radio where a regular host would take calls about general computer problems and information. Through an acquaintence of ours, we were offered a chance to sit in on this show and talk to the host and respond to listeners and depate on computer related topics of the time. If I remember correctly, we got to plug our little business too. So overall, more knowledge, success, and some worthwhile experience more than made this a rewarding opportunity.

More to come...

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