Starting Over kicked off in mid April of this year. Having just finished my first quarter, it seems like a good time to recap progress so far, outstanding problems, and where to go from here.
What Exactly Would You Say You Do Here
As a quick reminder, the real business behind Starting Over provides analytical and automation consulting to small businesses. This could be something very tangible (automating a bunch of manual spreadsheets) or more conceptual (creating a multi-year strategic growth plan).
I originally thought automation services would be the more popular of the two. So far, it's been the analysis and planning that has created actual revenue.
Projects and Pipeline
Revenue generation consisted of two projects: one competitor analysis for a local manufacturer and one company valuation estimate. Both resulted from former business contacts.
I have also been courting another local business for an automation project that would massively improve the efficiency of their time and payroll reporting process. I put slightly less than a 50% probability on getting this one closed.
In between projects I am building a suite of software tools for commodity analysis with the goal of creating some recurring revenue streams. More on that in the future.
Show Me the Money
The business generated $8,200 in revenue and incurred $650 in expenses for a profit of $7,550. I'm not thrilled with these results, but frankly, they are better than I expected to have at this point.
Long-time readers will recall my subsistence earnings target of ~$40,000 per year. Q2 annualized would yield ~$30,000, so while we aren't there yet, it's at least a start.
Trouble, Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
There are a few nagging problems still outstanding.
First is the “two-headed dragon” business model where I'm trying to provide one very transactional service and one very high-level service. This isn't completely crazy — the common theme is working smarter, not harder — but it certainly doesn't feel targeted enough.
I don't know exactly what to do about it. My hunch is that the answer lies more in tying the commonalities of the pieces together with effective messaging than in changing the products offered. Maybe that is a cop out. It's also only going to get worse as the analytics software product mentioned above comes to fruition.
Second is marketing, the bane of many a small business owner's existence. The biggest issue is that my offerings don't translate well over broad media like organic search, ads, etc. and are more suited to direct connections. Basically, the customer needs to know I'm not a total moron before they will pay me for my advice.
Unfortunately, personal connections don't scale well — particularly when you aren't a gregarious person.
I have started an email distribution in an attempt to spoonfeed the credibility building process, but it will take time to start yielding business. Another idea is to develop a lower cost service that could service as an appetizer for larger offerings.
Lastly, and somewhat separate from the business proper, my personal life is in a bit of transition as we attempt to sell a very niche rural home. Selling this livable anchor is the most profitable activity I could work on. But it is still extremely disruptive when a day of working on the business becomes a day of scrambling to make 50 acres presentable with six hours of warning.
Where Do We Go From Here
Revenue generation is still the primary goal. Efficiency improvements, planning, etc. — all of those important activities are somewhat irrelevant when you have slack capacity and aren't bringing in enough on the top line.
I have high hopes for the email distribution as a marketing tool. Right now I'm sitting at roughly 10 high-quality recipients. My Q3 goal is to increase by 10 each month without lowering the “quality” of the list. I.e., I want it to be people who might actually buy my services.
My second goal is to roll out the commodity analysis platform. Let's say 10 consistent users, half of whom are paying and half of whom are seeded “influencers.”
I have no idea if this will work long-term, but it's been a blast so far. If anything, I should have started earlier. We will see if that attitude holds up after a period of little/no earnings, but for now, Starting Over is fantastic.