Here to help small businesses

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Friday, May 01, 2009

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There's no shortage of economic woe right now, and maybe you’ve been caught in it.

So what do you do if you have been laid off and it seems as if no one in this otherwise great state is hiring? When the unemployment checks begin to dwindle and all seems lost, do you have any options? You bet, and that’s the good news.

You can start your own small business. That’s what I did after I was fired.

Fifteen years ago, not only was I was the unhappiest lawyer in the land, I was, quite frankly, a pretty lousy employee. From the outside it all looked good. I worked for a high-powered law firm in California. I had a beautiful, pregnant wife and two cute kids. I was (I thought) making the “big bucks.”

The truth is that I was overworked, underpaid, and I really hated being bossed around.

You know that you are supposed to be an entrepreneur when you are fired on the eve of Christmas, you lose your steady paycheck, health insurance and pension . . . and you are thrilled, even if your wife is not.

I started my own law firm and it made a profit the very first month. Not long afterwards, my first books were published (the Ask a Lawyer series), and after that, USATODAY.com hired me to be their online small business columnist. I’ve since written many books, including The Small Business Bible, and I speak all over the world regarding entrepreneurship. In fact, the small business guru gig became so lucrative that I am now a “recovering attorney,” having left that occupation when we moved to Portland almost a decade ago.

So when I tell you it’s a fine time to start or grow a business, it is from experience whence I speak.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Hey Steve, no offense, but I really don’t want to start a business right now,” or “Dude, I already started a business, and in case you haven’t noticed, times are tough!”

That’s where we come in.

There is a surprising dearth of quality information out there designed specifically for the small business owner in this state. To remedy this, each month I will be helping you make sense of this rocky terrain. Nationally, 99% of all businesses are small. In Oregon, this translates to well over 300,000 small businesses. While many of those have less than 20 employees, the vast majority actually have no employees at all; there are more than 200,000 self-employed people in Oregon. So it’s highly likely that anyone reading this is directly affected by small business — either you own one, are one, work for one, or know someone who owns or works for one.

This column is for you. I’m going to share the best tips, ideas and success strategies I come across. Even better, I’ll be profiling businesses across the state to see what they are doing right, and wrong, and in the process figure out not only how to weather this economic storm but how to get ahead.

What I promise is that every month you will learn something new, but I would love this to be a two-way conversation. I want to hear about your business. Let me know how your little part of Oregon is faring. That will make this column even more relevant and interesting.

I grew up in a small business household. My dad started out with one little carpet store and grew it into a chain 14 strong. At UCLA I used to drive to Mexico to buy what were, in retrospect, some really ugly hooded sweatshirts and would sell them on Venice Beach. In San Francisco, in graduate school, I started a nursery business. Small business is in my DNA.

Today, I have a much better gig. My job now is to make your job easier. Today, I have a much better gig. My job now is to make your job easier.

steve-BLOGSteve Strauss is the small business columnist for USATODAY. com and the author of The Small Business Bible. He lives in Portland, and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You can join the discussion of small business topics at his blog on mrallbiz.com.


 

 

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