Have you ever thought about starting your own business? How many of you have done it?
Several times I have heard someone say they thought their boss (or employer) was stupid and that they thought they could run a company better, so they started their own business. Even if they were successful they very quickly developed a lot more respect for their former employer, because they soon became him.
About 20 years ago I started my first real business in an industry I knew very well, manufacturing menu boards. Starting that company was easy because I had a lot of support. When everything was organized and set up, I found myself sitting in an office on a Monday morning with a partner, several key experienced employees, a shiny new plant with offices and all the equipment I needed to design and build menu boards.
I had everything I needed except sales. You can imagine the pressure I felt that first day to bring in sales. I made some big commitments to my investors and it was time to deliver. I had to find meaningful work for the few employees we had and to start paying the bills. I'm not sure how we did it, but we very quickly started bringing in sales. In the beginning it seemed like we were doing everything but menu boards. But, within five years we had about 40 percent of the menu board market and there were many existing menu board companies in the business.
That was the second time in my career I had ownership in a business but had a minor share and not a lot of say about our direction. I was eventually unhappy with the direction of the company because I wanted to get into the digital menu board business and they did not want to make any changes. So, I decided to leave and start my own digital menu board business.
This time it was very different. I had full ownership but I was all alone. If you have ever started a business by yourself you quickly realize you have to do everything, even the smallest mundane tasks. It's like being a knight going off to battle on your large white stallion and battle gear. When you meet a large enemy force you turn and suddenly realize you're all alone. You have to very quickly change your battle strategy or die.
Since I have survived it's obvious I developed a strategy that works. I soon found some good, dedicated people to assist me with the things where I was short on skill. Again it seems like I sold everything except digital menu boards to get started, but that part of the business is now looking good also. I have to admit this time it's been much more difficult but a lot more fun. If any of you entrepreneurs out there want to share experiences, give me a call. Maybe I can help.
Vertigo Group USA president Scott Sharon has decades of experience in the sign and menu board industry, and nearly another decade in digital signage. He's a longtime proponent of, and innovator in, expanding the deployment of digital menu boards in QSRs. Sharon also is a Team Leader for START, the Strategic Technology Alliance for Restaurant and Trade.