What Adrienne learned from presenting at ABAicon2017: It won’t be what you expect.

Last night, Professor Peter Sturmey, fellow entrepreneur Misty Jones, and I presented a 3 hour workshop titled “The business of applied behavior analysis: Setting up, growing, and maintaining your ABA businesses”. We had a really nice audience comprised of current business owners and individuals thinking about starting their own business. Since the workshop ended, I my mind has been buzzing with the insights I gained from the comments made by my fellow presenters and the questions asked by the audience. I thought I would take some time to share them with you.  

What makes an entrepreneur eventually successful or unsuccessful at a given time may have less to do with their ideas, work ethic, desire to do well, or how closely they follow the “top things every successful entrepreneur should do” advice columns, but may have more to do with the availability of resources that will allow them to continue performing the things they need to do to run a business during periods with minimal financial benefit and high risk.

A successful entrepreneur may once have been an entrepreneurial failure (like me). Therefore, this endurance may not be a mark of constitutional fortitude or strength in the face of the excruciatingly difficult. More likely it is the result of certain factors existing when they attempted to open or scale that business, at that time.

These factors that existed, these available resources are the couch she was able to crash on, the free meals that he was able to get, the legal contract that guarantees that the unpaid invoice that will one day get paid, the credit card limit that was high enough to let her buy the necessary items to start, the friend with editing skills who helped him with the grant application, the spouse, partner, or loved one who kept things afloat financially while she poured all of her energy into creating a product, brand, or service, the employee who takes a pay cut but stays on to work when things get tough, the relationship with that person who gave you a break, a deal, a pass so that you could keep going.

Those specific resources are not a prescription for success. They are resources that increase the likelihood you can be successful in face of hardship during your growth.  Look at that rambling list of potential resources again. They break down into one two categories, resources that save you money (either now or in the long run) and allow you to invest in your business and resources that provide financial support.

The resources that save you money and let you invest in your business.

In this category place all the resources that allow you to free up money for other things. For example:

  • Free meals at mom’s for 2 weeks and eat ramen noodles for the rest of the month instead of buying groceries→ pay cell phone and internet bills for the month.
  • Crash on best friend’s couch for 3 months instead of paying rent → pay for car payment and fuel, professional clothes, printing costs to make sales presentations to potential clients.
  • Former colleague provides editing help→ money saved is used to pay the accountant.
  • Spouse, partner, family member pays brings in enough income and has health insurance that allows you to start the business.
  • Someone who will watch your kids so you don’t need to pay for daycare.
  • The consultations and services you pay for now to avoid costs associated with making rookie mistakes.

The resources that provide financial support

In this category place all the resources that will allow you financial means to run your business

  • Investors
  • You managed money responsibly and have good credit so you are able to get a loan from the bank.
  • The contract with a client and the invoice for services that will be paid but hasn’t yet.
  • You saved money for 3 years and now have enough to run the business and float during times during business growth that are financially unstable (and there will be those times)

What if you don’t have those things but have a “great idea!” The truth is, after what I heard last night and the questions people asked, my advice to you would be don’t start a business until you do. We took three hours last night to talk about starting and maintaining an ABA business and we spent most of the time talking about the  harsh reality of business ownership when you have available resources that allow you to endure during the most difficult times during your business growth. Without those resources, I can’t fathom how one could be successful. As the wise Carole Quinones, ABAC’s special project manager, said recently “Just because you have a BCBA, a cell phone and a laptop does not mean you are capable of being a business owner.”

Sometimes the fear of failing others provides the motivation to get through the hardest times

When people count on you to pay them, when a spouse or partner counts on you to help pay the bills, when investors need to be paid back, you will find the extra energy to keep things afloat. Even with all the resources I described, business ownership will keep you up at night worrying If you are like any entrepreneur I know, you are not sick to your stomach because you can’t put away enough money to retire at 52 or buy the vacation house you always wanted, but you are lost in a sea of panic because you don’t know how you will pay your staff, or how you can help pay the mortgage or rent. There is a remarkable amount of energy that comes from fear.

You will always need to learn more

This is a big one. What may work now, might not work in ten years. Always look forward.

Finally, bumps in the road are often deep potholes, but no matter how hard you hit it, smile because people are watching.

This one actually came from our AV problems! We sat there with a group of people expecting a professional presentation and due to wiring problems we didn’t have working visuals for the first hour! We could have frozen, become agitated and upset, or complained but we didn’t. We smiled, we joked, we cheered for the AV team and presented in the face of the unexpected and guess what? We succeeded in presenting a fabulous workshop :). It is a great attitude to have as a business owner as well.

With that, it is time for me to run and go learn other things here at ABAicon17. As always please let me know what you think about this post and any other that I publish here in Fitzer’s Corner.

All my best-