this business school is self-study

Getting started

Going into business for yourself is not difficult even in California. It is more challenging in California to be sure. Many industries are regulated, from massage therapists to for-profit education, automotive repair shops to metal fabrication. But in a tourist haven like San Diego there are no shortage of small retailers and cafes as well. Just like the rest of the United States, small businesses are the major employer in San Diego County.

From a 2019 article, a survey of five hundred small businesses in San Diego with fewer than 100 employees, found that more than a third were women-owned and ten percent of the total were veteran-owned. In another local online journal, in 2017 there were 60,000 businesses employing fewer than ten people. By the numbers, it sounds like starting my business as a both veteran- and woman-owned should have room to grow.

Our business is among the fortunate start-ups that earned a profit in the first year (2019), but we had a market that needed our particular service and skills. But this market has limited growth potential, so we may find we want to develop other services. One such service – that fit naturally in the market we are already serving, is fingerprinting. In California, as in other states, to work in education, in healthcare, in finance, and other specific industries require employees to undergo a background check including taking fingerprints. The process to start a business required six months including applying, obtaining a background check, approval and obtaining specialized equipment. At this point, we needed to get more business savvy.

In 2020, my business partner and spouse went back to school. It was a suggestion of a friend to seek advice from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office in the East County. From that first meeting, we realized that we needed to become educated in how to efficiently run and grow our businesses. Training is offered for free. That office, like hundreds across the country are funded by grants from the US Small Business Administration. Mentoring though, puts the responsibility on the business owner to do research, form theories, and then test them. Our first tool he provided – that I had never seen before – is the Business Model Canvas (BMI).

homework

A first lesson is learning potential customer segments for my services. And the value proposition for each potential segment.

Playing with fire

harder than it looked on YouTube

The one thing that a Navy career, and a subsequent life in an engineering industry, gave me is an appreciation for tools and their uses.  As a result,  I have been able to learn over years, homeowner maintenance skills that I have put to good use.  Sometimes these skills are out of necessity and other times, as a result of being unwilling to hire a “professional” – who probably could do a particular task more efficiently but at a cost to my pride and wallet.  

I learned that earlier in the year when my air conditioning system shut down unexpectedly.  I inspected what I knew, but then found – when calling a serviceman – a dog-hair and dust-choked filter had caused a pressure switch to trip.  At considerable expense for that lesson,  I then decided I would research all my home systems for maintenance and repair information that I could reasonably do myself.  Fast forward to this past week.   All our large appliances in the kitchen have failed in turn over a few years.  We were hanging on till we became “empty nesters” (the kids were extremely hard on our kitchen).   We purchased new refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher.  But because the last time I had replaced leaking water valves  I wasn’t thinking what working appliances needed  I had no means for the installation crew to hook up  icemaker or the dishwasher.   And the man the company sent to install my new microwave told my wife the unit had greater dimensions than the old one to be removed.

Of course, this was partially correct and partially, B.S.    In the case of the microwave,  the installer was likely tired, irritated or unmotivated to actually “look” at the unit.  When my wife and I went back to the store – talking with the salesman also – the floor display was a HALF-INCH larger in depth and height than the original.  It would have fit without any modifications!  But the installer took the new unit away with him.   I still need to get him back. As for the line to connect the dishwasher,  apparently the issue was a little more complicated.  Because the stock water line was four feet shorter than required (new kitchen have the dishwasher next to the sink and not adjacent like my  1960’s-design) a new hose about ten feet in length is needed.  

I put the new dual-outlet valves on the existing pipes under the sink so I would not totally foul-up Thanksgiving plans my wife had.  The cobbled together work leaked requiring a big roaster pan catch basin, and frequent draining for the past few days.   That is where my love for tools, an engineering sense, and YouTube comes in.   Today while my family was out of the house, I removed a stubborn piece of copper pipe under the sink and then brazed on a new section.   A few technical difficulties resolved by a quick visit to the hardware store – for some advice,  a section of flame-proof cloth for welding;  I also borrowed my son’s fire extinguisher at his insistence – and after a couple tries:  Success.   With full water pressure back on this evening there have been no leaks and no desperate calls for a plumbing contractor on a holiday weekend.

Tools any Bronze-Age craftsman would love

Both dogs, Dexter and Comet – who normally hang around at my elbow ALL the time I am in the kitchen – were NOWHERE to be seen. Maybe they didn’t want to be witnesses to me setting myself on fire?