Ten Things to Think About Before You Start a New Business

The tux fits perfectly. The boutonniere is jauntily pinned to your lapel. All of your friends and family are patiently watching and waiting for you… and then you see her, waiting at the other end of the aisle – it’s your new business.

Much like expectations of wedded bliss upon getting married, high hopes and expectations abound when you are starting a business. But, like so many others in life, starting your very own business is a lifelong commitment. Before making the plunge, here are 10 questions to consider:

1. Is it a viable business? This is the big one… that’s why I put it first. So many people rush into a business just because it sounds like a good idea or it’s something they really want to do. The question to ask yourself is “Do I really want to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on a hunch or a feeling?” The answer will come from your due diligence.

• The idea

First, is it a workable business? For example, you can’t mine for diamonds on Pluto. No one even knows if there are diamonds there, and unless you have a spaceship handy, you can’t get there. Similarly, you can’t grow oranges in Alaska. As much as you may want to, they just won’t grow there. Go to Florida or California instead.

Your business has to be based in reality. It has to be doable, and it has to have a large enough market willing to pay the price for your product or service.

• The market

For example, take a store filled with fancy dog collars. Yes, dogs wear collars. But will you really find 10,000 people a year willing to spend $100 for a bling-ed out dog collar in a town of 1,000 people? Doesn’t sound like a good bet to me!

As I stated above, you need a target market that is large enough to sustain you-plus the ability to convert enough of that market into customers on a continual basis.

• Profit Potential

OK, so if the idea is workable and there’s a market, that’s great. Next you have to see if it will be profitable. It’s not enough to open the doors. The only thing that’s going to keep those doors open is customers-lots of them.

This is going to require a little more work to figure out. You need to estimate as accurately as possible every single expense involved in this business-from the rent to the inventory to the marketing to the payroll, even the licensing fees.

Usually, you’ll have start-up and operating costs. As in, it takes $1.5 million to open the doors of a typical McDonald’s. What it takes to run it every month-that’s additional. And so you’ll have to make enough money every month to not only cover those monthly expenses but also to recoup your investment plus turn a profit. It can be a tall order! So that leads me to the other side of the equation-projected sales or revenue (the money you will be bringing in). Since there are so many hands in your pocket as a business owner (the employees, the taxman, the utility companies, your inventory suppliers… you name it), you get to keep only a fraction of every dollar you make. That’s why it’s critical to find out what that profit margin will be. Thirty percent? Twenty percent? Ten? The answer is: It depends on the business.

A&H Turf & Specialities: The Nuts and Bolts of Growing a Business

In 1984 Dave Anderson and his dad, Al, founded A&H Turf & Specialties just a stone’s throw from where the main building stands today. As the name implies, the business originally centered on irrigation supplies and equipment. Along with sprinkler heads, fittings, and pipe, A&H sold a few related hardware items, such as shovels, fasteners, and sandpaper.

By 1988, the business had expanded into power tools and hand tools. In the years since, A&H has expanded to stock and supply full lines of tools, hardware items and equipment representing at least 475 major manufacturing firms around the world. But rather than concentrating on how many products they can cram into the warehouse, showroom and surrounding acres, A&H has always focused on supplying quality products from industry leaders.

Quality Sells

A glance at the many shelves and displays in the main store says it all. Respected names, like Blum, Festool, 3M, Accuride, Rain Bird, DeWalt, Freud, Stanley, Amerock, Belwith Keeler, Schlage, Baldwin, Emtek, Schaub & Company make up the A&H inventory line. What you won’t see are the inferior quality tools usually found at famous discount centers.

Dave Anderson explains why: “We’re simply not interested in carrying the low-end imported hardware or supplies. It doesn’t last.” Tools and hardware that last and that get the job done has proven to be a good market, so far.

Blum hardware is a good example of the quality products A&H is proud to carry. Made in Austria, Blum hardware is very high end, world famous for its quality. Dave says that A&H Turf and Specialties has been seriously involved with Blum since the beginning. In fact, A&H sold the first Blum hardware and machinery available west of the Mississippi.

And it’s not just about selling products. Today, A&H continues to provide continuing education training from Blum to employees in contact with hardware buyers and installers. They can readily assist contractors and homeowners with the specs and tolerances required for proper hinge applications and installation.

Hardware in the Blood

Dave and his dad both had a good deal of previous hardware experience before starting A&H Turf & Specialties. Dave says, “I’ve been in the hardware business all my life, since I was 12. I’ve got 37 years experience in functional, building, and irrigation hardware.” And he’s not just blowing smoke.

Dave worked his way through college installing irrigation and sprinkler systems, having learned the trade at a previous job with a Billings hardware company. His dad, Al, was the general manager of Winter Hardware when Dave got out of college. They worked there together for a while before deciding to start A&H Turf & Specialties. The new company opened its doors in a rented building just about a block from where the business now stands.

Survival in those early days was not without hard work. Dave says that the product lines were developed one at a time, selling face to face, with many miles spent on Montana and Wyoming roads. Within a few years though, A&H was able to buy the land it sits on today. The first new building gave the business 15,000 sqft to work with. Expansion continued as sales improved and more products were added, until now A&H fills over 40,000 sqft inside space, plus the uncovered storage outside.

Computer Software & Business Method Patents In India

India, like European Union, does not allow patents for inventions related to mathematical or business method or computer programme “per se” or algorithms. The relevant provision under the Indian Patents Act reads as under:

CHAPTER II
INVENTIONS NOT PATENTABLE

3. What are not inventions.- the following are not inventions within the meaning of this act,–
(k) a mathematical or business method or computer programme per se or algorithms;
The Section makes it amply clear that algorithms are not patentable in India. Though as per the Indian Patent Act, mathematical method, business method or computer programme per se are not allowed. The draft patent manual defines how inventions pertaining to above should be handled by the Indian Examiners and lays down parameters under which such inventions shall be patentable in India.

The proposed patent manual defines computer implemented invention as any invention the performance of which involves the use of computer, computer network or other programmable apparatus, or an invention one or more features which are realized wholly or partially by means of a computer programme/ programmes. Further, patent manual defines Computer programmes as a set of instructions for controlling a sequence of operations of a data processing system which closely resembles a mathematical method. Computer programme may be expressed in various forms e.g., a series of verbal statements, a flowchart, an algorithm, or other coded form and maybe presented in a form suitable for direct entry into a particular computer, or may require transcription into a different format (computer language). It may merely be written on paper or recorded on some machine readable medium such as magnetic tape or disc or optically scanned record, or it maybe permanently recorded in a control store forming part of a computer.

Though proposed patent manual emphasises on disclosure of mode of operation for inventions involving apparatus and necessary sequence of steps for process related invention, yet it lays down categorically that a hardware implementation performing a novel function is not patentable if that particular hardware system is known or is obvious irrespective of the function performed. It manifests that for such kind of invention insertion of method steps in apparatus or some dependency shall be required to make them non-obvious.

Vintage Door Hardware Business

While many people drudge away during their morning commutes and sit idly behind computers all day at jobs they hate they are oblivious to the vast spectrum of creative independent ways that there are to make a living – this article will focus on the unique niche business of vintage door hardware distribution.

Wherever there is demand for a product there is opportunity to profit from satisfying that demand. When most people think of retail products they are most likely to think of high end products (flat screen televisions) or products that they frequently use in their daily lives (plates and glasses) but the reality is that pretty much every item people come in contact with (outside of nature and government services) is the end result of someone selling and providing that product with a profit motive. The same individuals with the tunnel vision that keeps them unhappily pushing papers around a desk Monday through Friday from nine to five are the same folks that are not allowing themselves to see the plentiful opportunities for increased freedom, earning, and career satisfaction.

For the individuals that aspire to chase ambitious entrepreneurial endeavors the surprising things most often holding them back are their own thoughts and ideas. Prosperous notions and ingenious money making ideas are all around each and every one of us during our every day lives. Our failure to recognize and more importantly capitalize on the opportunities that are right in front of our noises is due to an inability to see the micro picture.

The macro picture that includes the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow can quickly become overwhelming as thoughts of supply chain management, clients, distributors, and billing systems rapidly become too much to oversee in our heads. Further review can lead to a frequent road block known as “analysis paralysis” where there are so many ideas being worked on and processed at once that our mental tolerance is essentially over loaded and the system is shut down due to hyperactivity in much the same way that a circuit breaker is tripped to prevent total electrical disaster.

The real secret to success in any business venture is to find a niche where there are minimal and preferably no competitors. This, my friends is the secret to making serious money. Can you make money in mainstream organizations by keeping your head down, working hard, and progressing up the corporate ladder over a lifetime? Sure you can. But there are so many easier ways to make anywhere from a comfortable living to an extraordinary amount of income and contrary to popular opinion achieving such fulfilling success does not require being the smartest person in a room full of smart people. The situation worth pursuing is the endeavor that only requires you to be someone of moderate intelligence competing in an industry otherwise dominated by peers with below average intelligence.

The broad notion of targeting business opportunities that are lower profile and subsequently less competitive is a dynamic idea that is often best capitalized on in the areas you would least expect. This article is titled after the little known business of selling vintage door hardware because this is an excellent example of finding opportunity in the most unusual of places. The vintage door hardware business is much like any business model. The idea is to buy low and sell high. There is demand for vintage door hardware wherever people are renovating existing homes or offices, building new homes or offices with a desired vintage look, or are repairing/replacing vintage hardware that for any number of reasons has been damaged.

Having now grasped the most basic concept (buy low, sell high) and armed with a greater understanding of the demand for the product the final question you should be asking yourself is how to get a hold of this limited resource in order to profit from reselling it to the end consumers identified in the earlier target market analysis. The answer to this question can be resolved in much the same way any business issue can – by being creative. There is money to be made in finding unique solutions for consistent problems.

The most popular place that vintage door hardware distributors acquire their product is at construction sites where existing structures are being demolished or completely redone. In many instances the door hardware may even be tossed aside as garbage free for the taking. This scenario quite literally sets up an occasion where one man’s trash is in fact another man’s treasure. In larger more metropolitan areas where there is actually some competition (albeit generally not the national best and brightest) vintage hardware distributors bid on projects whereby in exchange for an agreed upon compensation they will have the right to take over the discarded vintage door hardware resulting from a large scale rehab project. In this way the free market sets the going rate but it is no where near the efficient market that high profile commodities like oil trade on, this is the benefit of being in a business that does not attract top notch competition.