What To Discuss Before Starting Your Home-based Business

I recently read an interesting article in the January 2013 Inc Magazine by Meg Hirshberg titled, “What to Discuss Before Conceiving a Start-up“. The premise of the article is that before embarking on your own business, whether a home-based web design business or any other, you and your significant other should (or must!) have a frank conversation about the business. This conversation should not be a polite sales pitch that you give your spouse about how wonderful things will be.

Rather you should address issues like, what happens if things don’t work out? If you can’t conceive of ever failing, you should think seriously about it. I’ve been in business long enough to know that the more something is a sure thing, the more likely you are kidding yourself.  Technology is volatile and if you think you are going to be in this for a lifetime, you are setting yourself (and your spouse) up for a surprise ending some day.

Sometimes what is worse than failing is just not succeeding. You are fighting to pay the bills. Some days you win, others you lose. A year goes by and you are still “just about there”. And another year… and another. Are you willing to acknowledge that your business is just not going to do what you thought it would? When would that happen and how would it play out. And what would you do after that?

How vulnerable are the assets of the family? Do you have a house? A car? Anything? What happens when that annoying client turns mean and sues you personally because their e-commerce site died for a day or so and, in their deluded mind, they feel they were on the cusp of making millions that day. Have you incorporated your company to protect your personal assets? Are you still liable because you tell clients you own the corporation, instead of protecting yourself by being a member or managing director?

Do you have, or are planning to have children? Some frank discussions should take place regarding how you will make sure you allocate enough time for them as well as your spouse. If your web design business is run out of your home, how will you separate your business from the need for attention that every child demands while you push to complete a project in time?

What does your end game look like? Are you going to run the business for 5 or 10 or 20 years, make a huge profit (you hope), and then sell it? If so, how will that play out? Or do you view it as a business that will carry you into a nice retirement project where you can continue to build and repair websites in between shuffleboard games? Take that a bit further and discuss what happens if you get unexpectedly squished by that Mack Truck barreling down the road? Is there any way to salvage the customer based you’ve developed so your spouse can either sell your business or, if there is any interest, take it over so as not to lose everything?

The article that Meg created is well written. For many of us, we had to learn many of those lessons the hard way. The advice she gives is good and the article is a good read for anyone starting out.

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