Most small businesses are lifestyle businesses generating less than $1 million in annual revenue. In fact, more than 80% of all businesses are considered to be non-employer businesses (where the owner is the only employee) by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Moreover, a recent survey found that over 54 million Americans, or 34% of the workforce, are either full-time freelancers by choice or part-time entrepreneurs generating income from a side hustle.
However, most sources of advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a small business are based on the assumption that the entrepreneurs are starting a highly scalable business and that they require some form of outside capital such as a bank loan or outside investment to get them started.
Unfortunately, this kind of advice leads many entrepreneurs down too many wrong paths, wasting valuable time and money. Most lifestyle and side hustle businesses are bootstrapped and require different advice than that postulated by many of the so-called startup experts.
At SteveBizBlog, we understand what lifestyle and side hustle entrepreneurs need and we are dedicated to providing a regular diet of digestible business advice and resources for lifestyle and side hustle entrepreneurs looking to start and grow their own business.
Related Video: Why you need an online Small Business Mentor
I am a seasoned entrepreneur. My first foray into the world of small business came as an Invisible Fencing dealer, where my wife and I operated the business on a part-time basis. That business was not too successful for us, but it was an opportunity for me to learn some very valuable lessons about business in a relatively low-risk environment.
For the next two years, I worked on a business plan, waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. In 1994, when the company I was working for fell on hard times, I seized on the opportunity and quit my day job. I founded Horizon Interactive, a documentation and training company, with two partners and became a vendor to my old employer.
Over the next few years, my partners and I executed the business plan and grew the business to over $3 million in sales.
Horizon Interactive was acquired by Interleaf, a publicly held company out of Massachusetts, in 1999. I was offered the position of VP of Operations, where we acquired two more businesses like Horizon Interactive.
We grew the services side of the business from a combined $8 million in revenue to over $32 million in sales during the next two years. In 2001, Interleaf was acquired by Broadvision, a company out of California during the height of the dot-com bubble, for their XML engineers on their product side of the business.
A former business partner and I acquired the assets of Interleaf’s service business in 2001 and created IC Interactive. We operated the business for a few more years until we sold it in 2003. The sale of IC Interactive essentially allowed me to retire from working for money while I was still in my early 40’s.
Being a serial entrepreneur, I have started and still operate a business focused on real estate, one focused on oil and gas, and also a financial advisory company designed to help high net-worth investors understand the ins and outs of investing in oil and gas direct participation programs. I have also authored a dozen or so books and continue to write this business blog.
I have been a SCORE volunteer since 2003. SCORE is an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, and I acted as their Chapter Chairman for several years. I was also a member of the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center (SBDC) advisory board and have been a counselor with them since 2003 also. In 2012 I acted as the interim director of the SBDC while they conducted a national search for a permanent director. In 2015 I was recruited by Pikes Peak Community College to be their Entrepreneurship Director under a grant they received from the Kauffman Foundation.
I am a flaming dyslexic, which has its good points and bad points. Growing up, I remember undergoing a board of education evaluation. The evaluator told my parents that I was not a normal child. When asked to draw a tree I drew a series of concentric rings like you would see if you cut down the tree and looked at its entire life history through its growth rings on the stump.
The evaluator told my parents I should be more like the other kids and draw the tree from the side view. But rather than conform to the crowd, I embraced my out of the box thinking style as an asset.
The upside of being dyslexic is exceptional spatial awareness. An object viewed from only one point of view creates a 3D image that can be easily manipulated and evaluated in a dyslexic mind. While a non-dyslexic would see the letter “b” as a single letter, the dyslexic person sees b,p,d, and q as the same shape simply viewed from different perspectives.
Being a dyslexic in school prevented me from becoming a good reader, and even today spelling and grammar are not my strong suits. Academically, I struggled in traditional schools.
When I graduated from High School I knew that traditional classroom education was not for me, so I joined the United States Coast Guard to learn a trade. Graduating near the top of my class in tech school, I realized that I learn by doing.
I tend to be an overly logical person. I like to explore, document, and measure nearly every aspect of a project to find out what works and what does not.
I have a propensity to focus on understanding “why” things are the way they are, rather than “how” to duplicate what others have already done. Once I obtain a reasonable level of mastery in a specific subject area, I internalize and document the knowledge I have acquired, and move on to my next area of interest.
Everything of substance I know today I learned by either reading books, listening to audiobooks, or watching others, and then taking the salient points I learned, rolling up my sleeves and putting them into practice in my own business or situation.
Once I perfect a lesson I make it a point to document the lesson I learn and then share the lesson with others through my blog or through other means. I call these lessons “Sea Stories”, leveraging my old Coast Guard days. These stories serve to help further solidify my learnings in my own mind while continuing to grow my knowledge base and help others understand what I was able to synthesize.
This process I think has served me pretty well, having reached a point of business success by the age of 42 such that I really no longer needed to work for money. Cresting this income milestone has not only allowed me the luxury to spend even more time to ponder and digest life’s lessons, but also the freedom to tell it like it is without the fear of losing a job.
I proudly wear jeans nearly every day, and sport facial hair to remind myself and the people I encounter every day that being a nonconformist and not subscribing to traditional values has its merits.
I constantly listen to non-fiction audiobooks about politics or business-related topics and consume current events from a huge basket of news sources every day so I can relate these messages in new and innovative ways.
After internalizing a message and testing out a new theory, I then share my new-found wisdom with people willing to listen. Since 2003 I have mentored and counseled thousands of fledgling entrepreneurs through my volunteer efforts with SCORE and the SBDC, and volunteered my expertise to help organizations like the ARC, which helps individuals with developmental disabilities.
As cliché as it may sound, at this point in my life, it is all about using the skills and knowledge I have obtained to help others to succeed so they can have a better life. I love the appreciation I receive from the people I have helped, with no expectation of remuneration, and live vicariously through their success.
For me, sharing my knowledge is akin to the feeling a billionaire might have handing out $100 bills to random strangers on the street. I know that by sharing some of the business wisdom I have accumulated with clients I can often make a substantial positive difference in the person’s life.
I’m not particularly religious, so helping entrepreneurs is my way of giving back and making a positive impact with my life.
At my core, I am a free-market capitalist who believes that “one size fits all” interventions and policy decisions by our federal government produce a series of unintended consequences. I consider myself to be a fiscal conservative and modern-day Federalist. Furthermore, I believe that life in the US has made us all soft, and too reliant on government programs for security at the expense of our civil liberties. Moreover, I believe too many Americans have gotten lazy about fact-checking, and have become sheep by accepting what politicians and the media tell us without question. In addition, too many Americans simply think in the short-term and act on self-interest, without considering the context and ramification of their actions in the big picture.To that end I have embraced a somewhat counter-culture viewpoint, challenging conventional wisdom. I embrace the motorcycle sub-culture (I enjoy my creature comforts so I ride a Goldwing) and vehemently defend and support my 2nd Amendment rights.
If I’m not helping entrepreneurs to start/scale their business or teaching one of many small business workshops, I enjoy spending time with my grandson or hiking with my dog Lugar (German Shepherd) in Colorado. During the Spring and Summer when my schedule allows, I try to get in some quality time on the river fly fishing.In the Fall you can find me big game hunting in either Colorado or Virginia. While I prefer the challenge of an archery hunt, I also hunt the rifle seasons to make sure my freezer is well stocked with game.
For about ten years every Summer my wife and I loaded up the RV and went on an extended road trip, usually about two months long. Since selling IC Interactive we have made up for all those lost vacations and have traveled to nearly every state and several Canadian provinces. When not riding, driving, hunting, or fishing, you just might find me making my own wine and moonshine or enjoy a glass of good bourbon and a cheap cigar.
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