From the time before I could even remember, until I was well into my teen years, my dad owned his own home-based business. I never really thought about it much until recently, when I realized that being an entrepreneur ran in my family, and I could probably learn a lot about running a small busniess from my dad. So I asked him if he could answer a few questions for my blog, and he agreed to do so.
I never realized that the recession in the ’80s affected my family so much. I was very young at the time (three? maybe four?), so I didn’t know what was going on. I know a lot of small businesses are hurting and worrying right now, and that’s very real and very scary. However, there is still hope to be found out there. After talking with my dad about his small business, I actually feel really inspired. My dad made a successful business during bleak times, and I know a lot of people are embarking on similar paths right now. Here’s some of Mr. B’s insights…
Why did you want to start your own business?
I started Renuco not out of want, but out of need. It was during the recession of the ’80’s. The company that I was working for laid off everyone except the secretary/bookkeeper.
Was it scary to start a business during the recession?
Yes! It was very daunting. We were in debt, with a house payment, two car payments and a young family. There would be contractors licenses and insurances to acquire. To be self employed also meant we would not be able to afford health insurance.
Unemployment was at near record high levels (much like today) so finding a job was not a viable option, and unemployment insurance would only be available for 6 months.
What are some things you did to make sure your business would succeed during a recession?
I pretty much flew by the seat of my pants, made a trip to the library and found a couple of books that were somewhat related to what I was doing, then went to Powell’s Books and found a couple more. While they were somewhat helpful, things were mostly trial and error. We were in survival mode, just trying to make sure we didn’t lose what we had.
One thing that was helpful was sharing jobs with my brother-in-law, who was another contractor. We would trade labor hour for hour on jobs where it was necessary, or beneficial to have more than one person on the job. As time went by, your mother began to clean rental units (as you surly remember) for some of the property owners I was doing work for. This was very helpful, too.
How did you come up with the name Renuco?
The type of work I was doing at the time was making new homes ready for occupancy, restoring apartments and repossessed homes. This later led to working for homeowners, commercial and industrial customers. It was sort of a play on “re-new”. It wasn’t as clever as I thought at the time; most people never made the connection.
Did you ever buy advertising spots?
Yes, from the very beginning I ran an ad in the yellow pages of the local phone book. The ad rarely more than paid for itself; most of the work came by word of mouth from satisfied customers.
Over the course of your self-employment, what is the biggest thing you learned about owning your own business?
Always do more than the customer expects, and always treat the customer with respect. You may be the owner of your business, but each customer is your boss.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome when you were self-employed?
Scheduling! In the service industry, everyone needs the job done yesterday.
What was the biggest satisfaction, or biggest reward you felt from owning your own business?
There is no single biggest satisfaction or reward. For me just knowing that I always did the best job I could for a reasonable cost, even if occasionally the job lost money.
If you could only give one piece of advice to those who are starting up their own business, what would it be?
Always provide the best customer service!