Is it Getting Harder to Start a Small Business?
While Precise Investigation has been operating for nearly three decades, I have done my best to ensure that the company doesn’t grow beyond its means – taking on more customers than we can manage and ultimately becoming impersonal. I can’t stand it when I want to speak to someone that I deal with regularly, and I have to go through six other people or countless emails before I can get the information I need, so I have always made certain that I don’t end up doing that to my clients. With that, Precise Investigation is somewhere in between a small and medium-sized business and, as such, I have technically been a businessman for some thirty-odd years.
Over that time, I have seen legislations change, new pieces of literature introduced and the tools available to the public advance and evolve astronomically.
For any small business these days, one might think that it’s simply a case of getting your mind wrapped around a really good idea, investing a few bucks into a cool website (or build your own) and then start advertising and bringing in customers.
It really used to be like that, up until a few years ago anyway – albeit if you wanted to go as “legit” as possible, you’d also need to spend a few more bucks on registering your business, getting all of your tax documents in order and perhaps even setting up a business bank account.
Unfortunately, however, those days seem to have drawn to a close, with the online tools that were once incredibly powerful and readily available now becoming ever more expensive, less user-friendly and less “powerful” in their capabilities to help you achieve the results you’re after.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Setting up a website:
Websites are and always have been an expensive thing to build, especially if you are looking for your own coding / development and a team of experts behind it to ensure it stays functional and up to date (a very important thing to do). With that, within the last decade, a number of free website solutions have become available, such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly and even GoDaddy, where users can create their own “beautiful” sites for free.
Pfft. It’s not free. The free versions are riddled with advertising and limit you to the most basic features of the service.
In all honesty, if you opt in to go “professional” with those services, which might include removing the advertising; adding your own plugins, like booking features, contact forms, restaurant menus; using your own images and videos and connecting properly to your Google analytics, for example, you are likely to see “free” become a few hundred dollars.
Added to this, when you register your domain and set up the “professional” account, you’ll also be lured into additional plugins that you might not even need, all of which are billed from your account on a monthly basis.
The average cost to get started professionally using a “free” web builder, from what I’ve seen online: $200 per year + plugin costs + email setup and administration costs. I must mention at this point that the Precise Investigation site was not built using one of those services – I opted for custom coding from a professional development team. Sites made by the pros can cost anywhere between a few thousand, to a few hundred thousand dollars, depending on what you need!
When Wix.com first started, I remember the average “pro” account and site set-up would set you back around $100 AUD… oh how times have changed.
Skype used to be an independent company that made calling the world cheaper and easier. Recently, Microsoft bought Skype out and amalgamated it into the Microsoft Live suite. While that might sound like a good thing, that change has brought a lot of issues with it.
Firstly, Skype’s prices have become questionable. It used to be evident that Skype was one of the cheapest and most reliable options for people looking to do international business. They made it easy by allowing people to set up professional-looking profiles and making pricing packages clear and affordable.
Nowadays, you can’t create corporate accounts on Skype without setting up a Skype Business account, which I’m sure you can guess, costs a few bucks.
Don’t get me wrong, the most basic packages are still pretty cheap – but you’ll get a shock as to just how limited those packages are.
Facebook seems to be giving Skype a run for its money though, so keep your eyes peeled!
Again, advertising has never been a cheap service to integrate into any business, but there was a time not so long ago when Google Adwords (Google’s primary source of income and their main advertising platform) allowed customers to reach huge numbers of people for relatively little.
The same can be said for Facebook and LinkedIn’s advertising – just a few years ago, you could opt to reach hundreds of thousands of people for a few dollars, but to hit those same numbers these days, you can expect to pay in the hundreds (or even thousands) depending on your industry and the potential size of the audience in question.
Printed advertising has remain pretty unchanged, although the demand for it has drastically shrunk, which should mean lower prices… but no. You’ll still be expected to fork out a good load of cash in return for relatively low audience numbers – and don’t forget, it’s much harder to track printed advertising conversions than online advertising. At least the big boys in the market have made it pretty easy to see just how effective your marketing is.
Scams and Fraud
You wouldn’t think that scams would be a relevant point to bring up when talking about building a business, but actually, if you’re an Aussie, it’s a very pertinent point to make. Australia is one of the world’s most scam and fraud-affected country, with over $100 million being stolen from our residents each year – and that’s only the reported incidents!
Scams and fraud have ingrained themselves into our lives, finding their way into our inboxes and social media accounts, popping up as ads when we surf the web, and even appearing as inter-office communications between directors and accountants. Whether you receive dodgy calls, postal letters, emails or face-to-face visits, you are very likely to stumble over a scam or other case of fraud pretty quickly, if you haven’t already, and it’s incredibly important that you be prepared for it when the time comes.
Failing to look a little deeper into the people you employ, the products or services you buy or the people you “help” could land you in a great deal more trouble than you bargained for. I dealt with a client last year who ended up going bankrupt after starting his business and employing his partner to help out. She later decided to blackmail him, stealing all of his clients’ information and threatening to send them sensitive information unless he paid her a handsome sum. He did, but she went overboard and drained his accounts before disappearing back into the ether.
We tracked her down in the end, but she still caused irreparable damage – something to consider before instilling your trust and personal welfare onto others.
While many of these things affected me and my business as we grew over the years, my team and I have managed to get a stranglehold on things and make a success of it – there are, however, countless businessmen and entrepreneurs who fail every day, and a lot of the time, it’s simply due to the poor financial decisions we make earlier on.
I’d be very interested to hear what experiences you’ve had over the years and as to whether you agree with me that things are getting more difficult for the average Joe, or not!
Nonetheless, happy humpday!