The Herald Bulletin

September 27, 2013

'Big Joe' Clark: Hanging your shingle and starting your own company

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Cleaning out the garage or old storage rooms can bring up forgotten memories and emotions. Our team recently found pictures from the very beginning of my career in the financial services industry. This week marks 25 years from the day that I left corporate America and started out as a young entrepreneur. Though I wouldn't have it any other way, let me use this article to give you some things that I might have done a little differently knowing what I do today.

The first is one I certainly would not change: Be passionate about what you’re doing, know why you want to do it and know where you want to wind up. In all fairness, I had no "Plan B" when I began. Notice I said, "know where you want to wind up," and that is very different than "knowing all the roads you will travel along the way to get there."

I have seen very detailed business plans never make it out the door, thus accomplishing nothing. I prefer seeing young people have an outline that covers the purpose and rationale for what they are trying to accomplish. Outline your skills and those that are necessary to complete the task. List your financial assets and what is required to meet the objectives. Spell out your timeline to the best of your ability. Think who, what, why, when, where and how and make sure you can discuss it because now comes the hard part.

Find five people you know and respect and who are willing to listen. They don't have to be the best business people, but they do have to be able to challenge you for all you are worth. Tell them your ideas and let them tear them apart. This may seem tough but it will be nowhere near as tough as building your business.

They should be different types of people: school teachers, attorneys, accountants, entrepreneurs, or even people who know you at a more personal level, like a pastor or coach. These people have to trust you enough to make you cry or you are wasting time.

Once completed, make changes as necessary to your plan. Remember, just because they didn't like it doesn't make it wrong, but be ready to deal with changes that are necessary. You may wind up doing the above exercise more than once and I can tell you I would, even at this stage of my life.

Starting a business is never met with the fanfare you would expect. I had people around me who encouraged me from day one and others who told me it would be the biggest mistake of my life. If you are lucky you will have both. The encouragers kept me alive when the days were difficult and the answers few. The ones who challenged me — mostly out of love — fired me up when the hours were long. You will need both to succeed.

Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, whose column is published Sundays, is a certified financial planner. He can be reached at or 640-1524.