Saturday, 10 June 2017

09:49 – It was 53.7F (12C) when I took Colin out around 0630 this morning, bright and breezy. Lately, between the time I get up and when Barbara gets up, the outside temperature increases by roughly 20F (11C). It’s already up to 73F (22C). This morning, Barbara is headed outside to plant day lilies of along both sides of the driveway.

Barbara’s sister, Frances, quit her job yesterday. She simply couldn’t take the work environment any more. Like nearly all large organizations, her former employer treats its employees like interchangeable pegs. I told Barbara it reminded me of her 20 years ago, when the library system just got to be too much for her. The stress level was incredibly high and I kept encouraging her just to quit, just as Al has been encouraging Frances to quit. Stress kills, and the effects on Frances now and Barbara then were obvious to those close to her. Like Barbara then, Frances’s mindset was to hold on until retirement. I told Barbara then that she might not live to retire if she stayed with the library system for another 20 years. For Frances, it’d have been more like 10 years, but even that was too much to bear.

So Frances is now devoting full time to looking for another job, ideally with a small local company rather than a corporate behemoth. I mentioned to Barbara last night that I’d been convinced for decades that the secret was to work for yourself. She said she’d mentioned that to Frances, but that wasn’t an option for many reasons.

As I’ve said before, there are two types of people when it comes to making a living. When one type, by far the most common, loses or quits a job, their first thought is to go out and start looking for another job. The first thought of the other type is to go into business for themselves.

The first type worry about security, and consider working for someone else to be more secure than working for themselves. The second type recognize that there is no security in working for someone else, and there hasn’t been for decades. I’m obviously in that latter group, but I recognize that not everyone is.

And going into business for yourself isn’t the risk that it once was. Nowadays, with the Internet, you can go into business incrementally, building a business on eBay or Amazon. I talk to people all the time who’ve done this. Many of them treat their businesses as part-time jobs that they work in addition to their full-time jobs. They may work part-time on their businesses for months or even years, but eventually most of them end up quitting their day jobs and devoting full time to their own businesses.

For example, in our first full month of selling science kits, we had only $1,100 in gross revenue and a hugely negative cash flow. But within a couple of years that business was generating a middle-class income.

I’m convinced that there are two tricks to starting a successful business. First, you need a unique product, whether it’s merchandise or a service. If you’re selling something generic, it’s a race to the bottom and you’ll eventually end up selling your product for just slightly more than it costs to produce. Second, you want to sell on the Internet to customers all over the country. That isolates you from local economic problems. Even if things are bad locally, you can continue to sell to customers elsewhere, which isn’t an option if you have a local brick-and-mortar business.

Actually, there’s a third trick. Always be looking for new potential revenue streams, whether related to your business or not. That’s related to the entrepreneurial mindset. In the past when we’ve had a slow period, Barbara would sometimes worry that people had just stopped buying science kits. My response was always that things would pick up, which they always do, but even if they didn’t that wouldn’t be a problem because I’d just start doing something else to make money.

So, I’d encourage Frances to continue looking for a new job, but while she’s doing that I’d also encourage her to start thinking about starting her own business. Maybe spend an hour or two every day and more on weekends building her business and then just see what happens. Worst case, it won’t go anywhere. If that happens, she can try Plan B. But best case, she’d find her own business growing, eventually to the point where she could quit her day job and work full-time for herself.

We’re back at a decent stocking level on the small chemistry kits. Yesterday, we made up 24 regulated and 13 unregulated chemical bags for the full chemistry kits, which were the limiting quantities for the bottled chemicals we had on hand. We’ll use those today to get 13 additional full chemistry kits built. The next task to to build 40 regulated chemical bags and 20 unregulated chemical bags for biology kits, with those numbers again determined by limiting quantities of one or more bottled chemicals per bag.

We’re about a third of the way through the month, and kit sales revenues are already more than 100% of June 2016, with total YTD revenues running slightly ahead of last year’s.