So, imagine you have this to-do list:
Hire a CPA
Hire a lawyer
Hire an insurance agent
Form relationships with multiple manufacturers (in case one can't do a job when you need it)
Meet with the Small Business Administration
Interview current business owners to get advice
Find a local business mentor
Now pretend that you've never done ANY of that stuff before, your business partner is not around to help you, you've just moved to a new place so you don't know many people, and your mind easily runs away with all of the negative stereotypes you didn't realize you had about lawyers being mean, accountants being shady, manufacturers being cold and demanding, etc, but it doesn't matter what kinds of fears your mind manufacturers for you, because the industry you're entering is a seasonal industry and the on-season is about to start, so you need to get up and running quickly!
Digest all of that for a minute, and you'll get a feeling similar to the one I had going into the past few weeks.
I know I keep talking about how excited I am about our business, but I've also felt overwhelmed, intimidated, and downright nervous at times. Fortunately for me, my belief that God is in our business has helped to make me steady, brave, and confident even in the face of my nerves.
Over the past few weeks, I've met or spoken over the phone with 14 small and mid-size business owners, two CPAs, two representatives from the Small Business Administration, three lawyers, three insurance agents, 11 manufacturers, and about 5-10 contacts within the cycling industry. Tomorrow, I'm meeting with the Small Business Administration again and two more CPAs, and then on Saturday, Nathan and I are both meeting with another business owner.
This daunting schedule full of important meetings makes me think back to a sign we saw on our bike trip...
As out of my league as I felt, coming out the other side of all my "first encounters" with these types of businesses and people, I have to say that I am totally amazed. Shocked really. I have met some of the most AMAZING people! So kind, so interested in talking to me, already willing to go the extra mile for me when I am SUCH a newbie. It's incredible really! I was never expecting anything like this (probably because of my manufactured fears, thanks to my imaginative mind...).
For example, I left a message on one manufacturers voice mail saying that I already had the information I needed, so he did not need to return my phone call. Well he called me seven times (seven!) just to get a hold of me (I was always on the phone when he called). When we finally did connect, he told me his plant could not work with us right now, but he just wanted to offer me some advice to help prepare and protect our business as we get started. He had nothing to gain, but he was still looking out for my best interests. Wow!
Another manufacturer told me to come by later that day so we could talk. I told her that Nathan and I were still figuring out how we wanted to make our product, so I didn't have a pattern or prototype yet, and she said her company had some materials that might help us design and create a great bag! I couldn't believe she wanted to brainstorm with me and help me when I wasn't even close to being able to sign a contract!
I called a real estate lawyer to ask for a recommendation of a small business lawyer. This real estate lawyer not only gave me a recommendation, but also came to the meeting I had with the small business lawyer he recommended just to make sure he had matched me with a lawyer best suited to my needs. This guy probably bills his time at $200+/hr, and he came to this meeting he didn't really need to be at just to volunteer his time to help me!
Seriously, woah! (Another sign from the trip!)
And the list goes on! The CPA I'm meeting with tomorrow is pretty busy, but she was willing to squeeze me in "next day" (I just called her today). An insurance agent I spoke with welcomed me to Fort Wayne and even gave me a list of churches to visit! The small business lawyer I met with (who I haven't sign a contract with or anything), not only gave me a recommendation for a CPA and an insurance agent to meet with, but also personally got in touch with them on my behalf to tell them about our business and make sure they would be willing to help me! One manufacturer sent me a special bible verse in an email, and another, who is about 3 hours away was willing to drive and meet me at a halfway point just so I wouldn't have to come all the way to him and use up my gas!
I have had one amazing encounter after another with professional people from all over the board! I could seriously go on and on. I haven't even told you any of the great stories about the business owners I've talked to or the people in the cycling industry who have helped me out!
I HAVE had a few meetings that weren't stellar...but I can only think of two. And out of the 40+ meetings I've had so far, that's hardly any!
I remember when Nathan and I got back from our bike trip, one of the things that left the biggest impression on me was the kindness and helpfulness of the people we had met all across the country. A lot of our friends and family were worried about the mean and scary people we'd meet along the way, but I am excited to tell everyone that we didn't have ANY bad encounters; America is full of great people! People like June who are willing to stuff two fully loaded touring bikes and sweaty bikers into her car on a windy, dusty day, in the middle of narrow street that's overcrowded because it's being used as an emergency detour from the main road. And THEN, she even made us a candlelight dinner with wine and fresh vegetables from her garden! (And the wonderful stories like hers could go on and on too!)
I feel the same way right now about lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, manufacturers, business owners, and the Small Business Administration - THEY ARE SO GREAT! The difference is that this time I was the one who was worried they'd be mean, not other people, but maybe that just makes it a double bonus to prove myself wrong. :-)
So I want to remind myself and anyone reading this to have faith in the businessmen and women of America. We hear about the bad stuff that happens, but don't forget about all the good stuff and good people, too. I have personally met MANY of them in the past few weeks, and as a "little guy" who hasn't done anything yet to deserve their generosity or respect, they've proven that they are truly public servants, and I am eager to begin forming long-lasting relationships with them!
So horray, cheers, and God bless America! Let's keep lovin' on each other!