ALC English Journal Topic January 2015

I Have a Dream…

I’m thinking about leaving the company I work for and starting my own business, but I don’t know where to begin or what kind of business to start. Would you give me some advice?  


This is a dream that we share! I first dreamed of starting my own business while working at Hewlett-Packard, but I knew absolutely nothing about how to begin! Now I’m celebrating the 14th anniversary of Wiefling Consulting, Inc. This wasn’t my first business, and there were many mistakes and discouraging times along the way. I’m hoping that you can learn from my experience on the winding path that led me from “wage slave” to successful business owner.

Start Small! Approximately 500,000 new businesses are started in the U.S. every month! Nearly 80% of them have NO employees aside from the owner. These one-person companies range from auto repair to bakeries to consulting services. Think about what kinds of businesses you could you run without employees. There are many!

Start Before You Quit! Get your business started while maintaining your steady paycheck. During a period of downsizing at HP my colleagues told me that I had a gift for career coaching, so I started a part-time coaching practice. I ran it part-time for four years while still fully employed.

Explore and Experiment!

Here’s a step-by-step process that you can use to bootstrap a new small business quickly. You might not make any money at first, but you will quickly gain plenty of useful experience for a small investment of your time and money.

  1. Do Your Homework – Learn about starting, running and growing a business by reading, taking classes, and interviewing entrepreneurs.
  2. Brainstorm – Make a list of the possible businesses you could start based on your skills, experience and interests. (Be sure to include some ridiculous ones that you think would never work!) Remember, the business plan for FedEx was initially harshly criticized as unfeasible.
  3. Seek Feedback – Ask a few trusted friends for their ideas about what kind of business might be a good fit for you, but DON’T pay attention to any discouraging comments!
  4. Experiment – Choose a business from your list that you could operate on a trial basis for 3 – 6 months. Pick a business name, create a slogan, give yourself a fancy title, and then print some professional-looking business cards.
  5. Spread the Word – Say “I’m starting a new business and would like to offer you a complimentary service/product in exchange for your feedback. I’d also appreciate referrals to others who may benefit from my help.”
  6. Delight Your Clients – Treat these non-paying clients as if they are paying full price, then collect testimonials from them raving about your business.
  7. Market your business more widely. A simple brochure, website, and periodic newsletters can be a great way to get started.
  8. Talk about your business as if it is already successful. Don’t mention the fact that some of your clients are not paying you! A painting by Monet is valuable even if the artist painted it for free.
  9. Learn from mistakes and “pivot” towards greater success.

Failure is a Step Along the Path to Success! As with any new venture, mistakes and failures are inevitable, but success is the reward for refusing to give up!

Leaving a steady paycheck takes courage, but this bootstrapping method can reduce your risk. Like me, it might take you 10 years or more to achieve success, but if I can do it, you can, too!

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