Business vs the Trappings of Business

If you want to do economic development in a small community, you need to know how to support smale-scale entrepreneurship. If you don't already know how, you need to learn how to do that.

Small business is usually defined as ten to a hundred employees. Anything under ten people is typically classified as micro-enterprise.

There are a lot of resources out there aimed at small businesses. But if you are in a really small town or unincorporated community, you may find that a lot of those resources don't work for you because you really need resources to help individual freelancers and micro-enterprise.

You really need something to help businesses with fewer than ten people, not businesses with more than ten but less than a hundred.

That's kind of the crux of why Eclogiselle was created: To help communities that need resources suited to stuff that is smaller than the typical definition of "small" for the development space, including micro-enterprise instead of "small business."

The following video is about big businesses finding product-market fit, but it's less than 14 minutes and it has a few really good tidbits, regardless of the size of your business. One of them is about making the mistake of thinking you are doing well when, really, you have high demand because you are selling at a loss.

Not hugely long ago, someone said to me that in their experience, most local economic development type offices don't really know what they are doing because they don't really know anything about helping a business succeed.

This is probably true.

It's probably true because getting a job and running a successful business are very different skill sets. So the people who succeed in getting jobs at such places may know nothing about running a business.

I saw this first-hand growing up. My mother is good at doing business, in part because her father was a successful businessman. My dad never did figure out how to make money in an entrepreneurial fashion after he retired from the army, even though he had been a damn fine soldier.

Entrepreneurship takes a certain mindset. If your only experiences boil down to "working for the man," you may be wholly unqualified to help other people succeed in their entrepreneurial activities.

Working for a big bureaucracy, like the American military or the federal government, seems to be somewhat antithetical to being able to figure out entrepreneurship. Those are very different mindsets and some people just can't seem to make the transition.

Venture Capital firms -- people who invest money in businesses trying to grow big -- are usually run by people with at least one successful business behind them. That's usually how they made enough money to be wealthy enough to be investors at all, but it's also essential for them to have that experience in order to have any hope of picking businesses that have a shot at succeeding and then helping them succeed.

So if you want to do economic development work and you don't already have experience making money in an entrepreneurial fashion, I strongly suggest you start educating yourself and also get some firsthand experience. There is no real substitute for experience.

Over the years, I've read lots of books, magazine articles and so forth about being an entrepreneur or running a small business. I have taken free classes through local Chambers of Commerce, etc.

But I only began figuring out how to make money in an entrepreneurial fashion after I began actually doing it.

One of the ways I did that was with making money through an online writing service called Textbroker. I have written a quick start guide to help people get started.

When I first began trying to "start my own business," I made the classic mistake of getting the trappings of business without actually having a business.
  • I had a terrific desk.
  • I had a business bank account.
  • I had a leather chair for my desk.
  • I had a gorgeous leather briefcase!
  • I accepted the free X months trial offer to have a machine in my home that did something mail related (weighed it or something).
Et cetera, et cetera -- and it was all window dressing.

What I did not have was paying customers. At all.

Business exists to make money. If you have paying customers and are profitable, you are in business.

If you don't have that, you probably only have the trappings of business. It's all appearances.

It can be hard to figure out because all businesses do some things for free and because there can be a ramp up period where you are laying the groundwork. So it's not always clear if something is merely an expensive hobby where you are pretending to be in business or if you are actually doing something with potential to become a real business.

If you want to really do economic development, you need to figure out how to support entrepreneurship. If you can't figure that out somehow, you are probably only playing at doing economic development. You are probably only giving lip service to the idea and not doing any actual development work.

If you are drawing a paycheck in an economic development office to pretend to do development, you might be happy with that. Playing the game to line your own pockets might be sufficient in your eyes (though I would see you as morally bankrupt).

But if your real concern is seeing your community thrive, that's not going to cut it. And if you fall in the category of Citizen Planner and no one is even paying you for it, it seems like an utter waste of time to me.

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