Small business is not for the faint of heart.
Sometimes I wonder about my conservative upbringing. I wonder where it went. My father is a saver and an investor. He has owned businesses, but he’s worked for others as well. He’s the type that has always held something in reserve. Like many of his generation, he remembers the Great Depression. There’s always a nest egg, something stuck away in case of emergency.
For years I operated that way. Then came the printshop. Looking back, I can say that I have enjoyed this business. I like the people and the creativity. But there are times when it has been a little scary. Like now.
It’s not that I’m risk averse. You can’t be risk averse in this business. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve grown comfortable (read complacent). Our AlphaGraphics has been on sound financial footing for the past several years. We’ve made a little money, worked down the debt, and continued to grow steadily. We added leased space three years ago and filled it up in a matter of months. Our lease is up in September.
Our current location is a shopping center across from the local mall. It’s all but abandoned. We’ve had a series of poor owners and landlords and the center just sold once again; this time at an auction to the lowest bidder. The new owner came through and said that he was considering turning the place into a flea market. It’s definitely time to move.
So we bought a building. In actuality, the bank bought the building in return for my indentured servitude for another decade or so. The bank bought us a big building — 2 floors and a basement, literally 4 times the space of our current location. It’s an old building, downtown, needing a lot of work. In accordance with my conservative upbringing, I ran the numbers and carefully planned a budget in conjunction with an architect who meticulously pulled numbers from out of the ozone charged ether. We haven’t run out of funds yet, and I’m praying daily that construction is complete before the building account runs dry.
Small business is like a chess game. There is room for an occasional error, but you can’t make too many of them. You can lose a pawn, but it’s tough to win when you lose a bishop and a knight. It’s a game of strategy and to a certain extent, intelligence.
But there’s more than that. It’s not just hope, it’s faith. This is the game that God has placed me in. I’ll play it the best I can and rely on Him to get me through the scary parts.