Happy Birthday Lanterns Light turned 7 What I have learned.

Hi! I want to fix your computer
Hi! I want to fix your computer

Seven years ago the company I was working for fell apart. About an hour later I had Lanterns Light LLC started at least onp aper.  This company was started as a lifeboat, I was getting married in February, the bills needed to get paid, I thought let me get something going till I found a job. Seven years later and I am still doing this and I really don’t want to do anything else.  So I thought I would share what I have learned in 7 years of running the most agile computer company I think you will ever see.

Yes you do need your own domain. 

When I started out I used my g-mail account for everything and it worked with the people I knew already and family.  However I found that when I started looking for new clients that when they saw my g-mail address they cooled down a bit.  You see the biggest advantage of a g-mail/outlook.com/yahoo.com  account is it’s disadvantage, they are free.  So any Bob, Jack, or Paul could create an email address in 5 minutes that looks like yours.

 
Tip: No you don’t need to build our own email server. Google, and Yahoo have business services for a custom domain, also if you need enterprise quality email you might want to take a look at hosted exchange. (Call and ask me about that) 

Bigger is not better

I started Lanterns Light LLC, in the worst economy since the great depression.  The reason it worked is because I stayed small.  I picked up many clients because much of my larger competitors fell victim to the economy.  They were top heavy with too much overhead, (rent, power, payroll, fleet vehicles) to sustain when money got tight.  I was mostly working from my home, and my other offices (see You got an office thats great I got 5.html), my car was paid for, I was able to re-use allot of what I already had, and I was my only employee.

Also many of my newer clients were happy to be talking to “the owner” of the company (me) instead of a field tech that they may never see again.  This meant I could build a relationship with the client many I still have.

You are going to need accounting software

Like my email account, I was using software to manage my personal accounts, Quicken home and business and it worked when I started my company. It was fairly easy to create invoices and I was able to download transactions from my bank.  However my accountant (Yes you need one of those too) kept pushing me to Quick books.  Which took some getting use to.  What ever your company does your going to need a way to create invoices, track expenses, and track your clients. Also you are going to need some help setting up the accounts you will need.

Tip: you are going to need to talk about what is and is not tax deductible for your business. Also ask your accountant a lot of questions about what accounts stuff should be booked against.  Also don’t be surprised that some of the answers don’t make sense.

You are going to need a computer (A real one) 

Let me say that yes you can do allot with a tablet. I run a good chunk of my business from my smart
phone. But when it comes down to it you are going to need something to run real software, something with a real keyboard and something that can hold more then a few GB worth of data.
So you have one of those? Great, we are not talking about that one you share with your spouse your kids and the cat right?  Yeah, it’s going to be a bit rough if  you can’t get your invoicing out because someone has a book report, or that cat won’t stop making You Tube videos of herself looking cute.
Tip: Unless you need some very specialized or advanced software, a solid desktop built in the last couple of years will cover the basics. When in doubt get a desktop or laptop with the best CPU. Ram, HD, even video can be upgraded later.  

No you don’t need a Fax

I think I have had to fax something twice in the last 7 years.  Both times it was because my father needed to send something and he didn’t have an email address. Scanning and emailing does exactly the same job, and it creates a file you can archive and backup, letting you getting rid of the bulky document.

Tip: If you really need to send/receive faxes there are online services that will send faxes and receive them forwarding them to your email. Also unlike a fax email is its own documentation of when it was send and to whom. 
 

In fact you really don’t need paper. 

I have had a small malfunction printer for a few years now.  I don’t print anything. Its mostly there for the scanning and for my wife to print coupons to it.  Every once in a great while I will have a client that wants a hard copy of an invoice or something that they can mark up.  7 years and I think I have used maybe 1 1/2 reams of paper.

Tip: In one of my previous posts I talked about Cam Scanner to handle receipts.  Take  advantage of paperless billing from your vendors if available.  I send all my invoices and quotes by email as PDF files.  

You don’t have days off

Being an owner is a 24/7  job. You wake up and you wonder about what’s in the accounts, how is your FB marketing doing? Who should I reach out to today? do I have enough cable for Thursday? Did I send out the invoices? I have these and about 40 other questions between my bed and the coffee maker first thing in the morning. This was not too big a change for me, since I worked in the service industry for a long time growing up. To me a holiday or a weekend was just a day that tips were a little better.

Tip: The best part about a having your own business is that you have the final say on the calendar. Try to schedule time for your most important client, you.  Don’t think of it as time off as much as maintaining a business asset such as a work truck or a machine. 

You are going to hate your mailbox

No I am not talking about your email, I love my email its where I hit a button and the useless and the spam are sent to digital oblivion. Where I have filters to keep junk mail to a minimum. No I am talking about that box out in front of your office that United States Post office insist you have, and every day I dream about taking it out with my car. If you have ever wanted more Junk mail, start a business.  Vendor catalogs, Credit card offers, subscriptions to “trades” that I had never heard of. The only saving grace, every now and again a client sends a check.

Tip: I really don’t have a tip for this, just remember that body work is expensive. 

You are going to need to build relationships within your industry. 

They’re not your competition, they are your new clients. I have subcontracted work for many of the other computer repair companies in the area.  Also NEVER bad mouth others. When you do that you are not elevating yourself; you are just devaluing your industry and making yourself look petty.

Tip: Face to face networking is a bit hit or miss.  I am cautious of these big networking groups that requires huge commitments of time and money. I have been the guest of these many times and I almost always ask myself if there doing all of this how are they running there business. 

I am not a business expert. Even after 7 years I am still learning. I have worked with some incredible
people. I have gotten really lucky and I have seen so many other business that I have picked up a few things along the way.   Lanterns Light LLC is here to help you with both your business, residential, or home business needs.

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