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Who Can Ask for Anything More?


Let it never be said I procrastinate.  I stated this blog in 2008 and here it is end of August 2016, I must have been busy during those relatively short years.  Business wise we are still here, now a Veteran Owned small business instead of a Women Owned Business.  No I didn’t join the Service, but the President of our company  is retired Air Force.

To recap, we started this company in 1997.  At one point we are on the way to make and break our first million, then 9/11 happened, and sales just took a spiral turn downward from there.  I’m not complaining, it was just the economy of things.

Somewhere in between then and now, we had successfully opened three fully staffed computer shops, continued to run a modest dial- up network, (remember modems), and we hold the honor of being the first business in Michigan, to bring wireless internet in places that never heard of wireless internet.   Our wireless was used exclusively during the construction of the engine plant in Dundee, by most Dundee business and several homes in and out of the Village.  That was cool!

We supplied T1 access to schools, became a CLEC, and all the while continued to host email lists and websites.

What I took away from all that activity; ditch what don’t make money, keep what does.  Write a business plan and you will be forced to realize what really is profitable and what is not.  For example, our computer shops at the high point brought in 70K a month, but then there were equipment costs, employee thief, salaries. Insurances, rent, repairs, utilities and loss from strangeness.  A Business Plan showed the reality in numbers, so we had to close. . .

AND employees being sympathetic to the computer clueless, did a lot of work for free.   Some employees even “borrowed’ our customer list and worked after hours on their own. I only found out about that, when one of “their customers” called to tell me our technician screwed up an install of software and wanted to know when they would be back to fix it.  Our techs were smart, talented people to start out with, and a few of them apparently were smart enough to present themselves as a Dundee technician, and insisted payment be made out directly to them.

And then there was the tech who used the company credit card to buy himself a new home computer…

Did you read that?

Say What?

Computer repair continued to be a challenge.   From the saga of the missing tech tools to women trying to solicit our young high school trainees who delivered repaired computers, there was never a dull moment.  And then one day, our biggest computer repair competitors in Monroe called to tell me to “look out” because they were opening a huge computer repair shop directly across the street from us. So I should expect to lose a lot of business.   (That reminds me, I received a similar call when we were just an ISP serving local dial-up, a lady from the next town called me to warn me that they were in “high” competition with us – that competitor since closed down long time ago, and the Little Brown Jug, bar and grill  now stands in its place.)

I don’t believe competitors call one another anymore: in this day and age you’re on your own to figure out if someone considers you a worthy competitor.

Anyway, we thought we could handle another repair shop in the neighborhood, after all” boats float in rising tides” but that wasn’t the case.  Within a month after they opened, my manager came to work to find a sleeping possum in his desk draw, (I wonder how many times he actually sat at that desk) which changed his outlook working for us.  If that wasn’t bad enough,  someone was borrowing money from the till and leaving IOU notes in place of money.     Then, I received a Dear Dundee letter, from our landlord.  In the name of progress, he had sold the building we were renting, we had 30 days to vacate: we did get our deposit back.   Alas this was the second time we tired a Monroe location, so we moved closer to downtown, leaving our competitor with the impression that we moved because of them: I guess they thought that, until a Tim Horton’s was built on the property: leaving them with the impression we sold the land for a lot of money. (lol)

The computer repair was just small part of our company.  A lot happened during those 8 short years.  We were on the radio, sued, moved, flooded, robbed, honored, and generally looking back, had a great time.   Through it all we try to remain honest and trustworthy, our word is our word and we still run the company based on the philosophy 8 year later.

Fast forward to 2016: we no longer do computer repair, cell phones, IPads and cheap throw away computer systems moved us right out of that market.  It’s true, some still need computer repair but not on the scale that we need to maintain a working shop.  And then there was dial-up.

I saw the writing on the wall the very first time I heard a broadband commercial on the radio.  It was Comcast offering lighting fast speeds using dial-up as a comparison.   How could a dial-up internet connection compete with broadband, it can’t.   Fast was appealing, people wanted to download email faster along with everything else the net had to offer.    At the same time, we were selling line-of-sight wireless.  Wireless, became of equipment costs, was not price competitive with cable.

In an effort to maintain our wireless base I explained to customers that broadband cable, was a shared service.   I told them they would see a steep decrease in download speed using cable internet when everyone was home in the evening, surfing the net. All true at that time.  But no one cared.  Eventually we lost our wireless network when the Village of Dundee decided to remove our wireless access point, which sat on top of their downtown water tower.  I guess contracts didn’t mean anything to the town fathers; they must of knew our previous landlord.

So it was dial-up verses cable. We were told by several higher-ups in the FCC that we had the right to resell cable internet, that eventually over took the town. That may have been so but there was a lot of red tape and eventually we discovered the very town fathers that took down our access point were the only ones that could approve our request to resell cable.  You can only guess how that went: after we removed all our wireless installations we maintained dial-up, until we were the last man standing with that technology.  We have Postmasters 3 for sale if anyone asks.

After we gave up all our dial-up, we became re-sellers of email, Office 365 and encrypted email.  It was a great deal, no one else had a contract like that, until the beginning of this year, when this opportunity to resell these services was opened to the world.  We still sell email accounts but not on the scale that Microsoft can do it.  And we both use the same vendor.  We do have excellent support (its free!) and  you can speak to the owners!

Bedside email accounts we continue to host websites, and continue to offer email lists hosting.

Our office is now located where we began, but no longer do we have 11+ T1’s coming into our property.  We are still located in rural America, just started getting mail delivery these past couple of years, our water continues to be trucked in, we can burn our garbage outside, occasionally have a racoon in our backyard and we do not have cable available here.  They missed a spot.   Our cell phones and Internet work just fine and our email hosting continues to be world-wide.  Who could ask for anything more?




Employees! Can’t work without them:  Pick me, Pick Me!  There are only so many hours in a day and running a small business takes up the majority of those hours.  There is so much to do and there never seems to be enough time to do it.  As a business owner I am committed to experience sleepless nights and infrequent thoughts of failure coupled with the occasional bit of envy for those 9-5ers.  I also rejoice from the accomplishments of my hard work with satisfaction and accept the spurts of recognition success can bring.   However I do get to worry about finances, customer accounts and taxes but I also reap the benefits of paid accounts and good sales.  I have the opportunity to enjoy a cornucopia of emotional lows and highs; from the heart dropping big customer lost to the rush of adrenaline that comes with a big sale.  I am committed to this business.

Commitment to ones business, I believe should not be based on obligation.  For me this commitment isn’t a hindrance but rather I find it fun and enjoyable with the bonus of achievement.  My husband and I take the lead in our business; where we will go and how we will get there.  I have power.  I can set the rules on how to win at the small business game.   I can expound on new ideas or squelch them.  I can be creative and enduring or choose to hire someone else to do that for me.  But for those who have not taken the same risks we have, to grow an idea into a thriving company, do not understand the costs, as they only see the rewards (and sometimes failures) small business ownership brings.  

 As we take care of it, our company is something that takes care of us by rewarding us with a fair amount of freedom and financial well being.   There is no one else I know, who will work for us with the same degree of commitment and dedication we have for our business.  Which brings up the question, who should you hire and trust to work in your company with the same enthusiasm and loyalty you have?  The answer that came to us – people in your immediate family,  so we hired our High School teenagers.

We hired our teenage son and daughter, both High School seniors.  This is when I discovered their High School math classes seemed to have left out the simple need to know computations, like counting back change or balancing a cash register.   The school also neglected to teach them accurate record keeping, spelling, use of excel, how to fax, how to file and other tidbits of knowledge most of us don’t remember learning, but just seem to know.   It was evident right from the start, neither child possessed any enthusiasm or sense of commitment for our company.  In fact they were, lazy, uninterested and unappreciative of what we were doing. 

They were employed by us for a short time, but being Teenagers and at that point in life where they know everything, they were difficult to work with.   Word of advice, never hire relatives and expect instant perfect employees; especially when you’re the Boss during the day and Mom or Dad at night.  Not only did they expect to be treated differently from the rest of the employees their immaturity level was astounding, making the situation too time consuming to deal with.  So I had to let them go…and instead of paying them to work, I gave them household chores.  It all worked out, my kitchen was always clean and dinner was always waiting.

Unlike our kids, most of our employees have no vested interest in our company.  (We started profit sharing which did turn that around)  Unlike my objective which is to keep my business alive and profitable, our employees, for the most part, only want a paycheck (just like the kids!), benefits and be able to leave at the end of the day.   They generally do not sit up at night thinking about the bottom line;   if receivables will all come in, or what effect the changing unemployment tax rate will have on payroll.  Employees can be selfish as they are generally only concerned with themselves, job security and family, as it should be.  If fact I find having employees somewhat analogous to a parent child relationship.  As a parent or employer you make the rules and dish out the punishment when rules are broken.   The hope here is to get them to a level of maturity to function on their own, with the ultimate goal for the kids to become independent and finally move out, for the employees to move up and take on more responsibility.  The big difference between these two leadership roles; employees may or may not love you and may not respect you but for the most part they will follow the rules to keep their job.   So how do you hire someone?

Employees come with many different personalities, skills, ideals, morals and work ethics. Before they get to the employee stage, you have to find them.  In our case most of our employees found us.  With little exception, most people we hired sought us out, specifically to work at our company.   I find that surprising, but it is true that over 75% of the people we hired knocked at our door with an eagerness to work for us, making them hard to turn away.  And I must admit I am an awful manager and sometimes a terrible judge of character, therefore we hired many of these people, and fired a good number of them too, but as it worked out we kept more than we fired as most proved to be invaluable (but never irreplaceable).  We expected them to leave us eventually, to move up in their careers and pay scale.  Afer all we are only a small company and could never promise them the Presidency Position.    Based on my experience with our employees I have come up with a set of rules, following next.  



If you didn’t happen to inherit a successful business or start your own business somewhere along the way but would like to, I have the following suggestions and experiences to consider.

1. Go To College and to pay for your education if you’re not self sufficient, take a trip to the financial aide office at the College of your choice.  They will help you apply for available funds.  You will find there is free money for qualified students, Scholarships and Work Study.  I used all three.  There are also student loans which do require a lot of paperwork and they do expect repayment but it’s not a bad deal.  ( I took this route too. ) The interest rates are decent and you have years to pay the loans back.  I’m currently in my 10th repayment year and only owe $34,000 and my husband is in his 9th repayment year and only owes $27,000.  When you consider the earning potential based on a Degree, these are not huge amounts.

2. Drink Coffee Or Caffeine Beverages And Learn How To Multi-task.

Starting a business isn’t easy.  It’s a 24/7 relationship that you nurture and watch grow, working all hours of the night toward the goal of being able to pay yourself your first paycheck.  When we started this venture in the mid 1996’s we were both working full time jobs, going to college and raising kids.  In the middle of all this we had to be available to our customers all of the time –  even the customer who came over during our Thanksgiving dinner for computer help, wasn’t turned away because with few exceptions you should never turn business down.  Since the little invention called the cell phone, our customers no longer feel compelled to come over our house when they need help as they now can call us 24/7 no matter where we are.  Which is fine, their business pays our bills.

3. Be Prepared To Downgrade Your Personal Credit Scores.

We started our business without loans from relatives, family, friends or money from investors.  We closed out our meager 401K’s, took the IRS double penalty and accepted the risk of starting a business.  We both had to continue working while the business was growing.  My first paycheck from our business was issued on 9/15/1998, over 2 years from when we started.  My last day at a real job was several months later.

The business, like our kids, always comes first.  Business bills have to paid and sometimes it was at the expense of paying them before my car payment or Sears.  However FORD and Sears thought they should be paid first and complained to the credit bureau when they weren’t.

When we started we did not have the cash or a line of credit to buy our equipment outright, therefore we leased and learned much later this is a very expensive and bad way to go.  If you do lease, always take the $1 buyout option, follow the lease to the letter and never, never sign a personal guarantee.  Pay your business obligations on time or you’ll become a financial risk overnight thanks to Dunn & Bradstreet. (I’ll discuss them at some other time)

4. Learn To Wear Many Hats – Smile And Be Friendly.

We are both techies. My Master’s Degree is in Information Security and my husbands Air Force background gave him experience to know his way around mail servers, way before everyone knew what a mail server was.  So with similar interests our biggest beginning problem with our new business was who was going to do what.  You can’t have two bosses – so we divided the duties.  He took the computers, servers and the software, I took the rest.  The rest includes accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, sales, tax, legal, contracts, negotiations, auditor, purchaser, customer service and everything else.  Our job title changed depending on the day or the meeting.  Versatility is a great thing and switching hats is not difficult, just smile and be friendly.  Learn to take problems with a grain of salt, check your emotions at the door or nothing will get done.  Organize your day on paper – it feels good to cross out something on a list.

5. Bartering Doesn’t Work Well Because GTE Does Not Take Squash

To grow you need customers.  Some customers are better than others, some pay and some don’t.  The first year in business we had some collection issues, not because they didn’t want to pay, but because we were only two people doing the work of many part time people.  I did collection calls one day and sales calls the next day.  I printed and mailed the invoices, posted checks, did the bookkeeping, and paid vendors.  I was busy all day and most of the night.  I didn’t have time to hire anyone. Then customers started to pay us when they saw us in the grocery store or at the gas station or in line at the bank.  Sometimes we received coupons for free hair cuts, or cakes, or clothing instead of checks or cash.  It was very difficult to keep everything straight.  That summer we received a bushel of yellow squash in return for some computer work we had done.  I think my husband then decided I needed some help: within a week he brought someone home he had met a few times at the local grocery store- an unemployed bookkeeper with years of booking experience.  Our first employee was hired; GTE didn’t have to worry about receiving vegetables for our T1 service because this employee was the answer to our accounts receivable problem, or so we thought.   A word of advice: never hire anyone without checking their resume, checking with their past employer and doing a background check; and if you can, meet the family  (just kidding about the family).



Show me the money.  My husband and I started this business in 1996 with the expectation of making money and the ease of working for ourselves.  We made money but getting there wasn’t as easy as some may believe.  Like many other self sufficient small business owners, we are not millionaires and like many small businesses owners we probably never will be.

Our company is a Technology Company and unlike some Technology Companies we survived the dot com fiasco, the hardware scams and every other hurdle thrown at us from the spikes in gas prices to the cheap farmed out technical support our competitors seemed so fond of.

We do not qualify to participate in the Obama share the wealth plan for those making $250,000 and above.   And as I said we are not wealthy, we are comfortable.

Some equate being comfortable with being rich because to them, owning your own business means unlimited cash flow.  This belief is held by our adult children, family, friends, employees and the Government.  There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, so if you own your own business let everyone believe what they want too – it doesn’t hurt and you can be someone’s role model. 




 The phone company and the yellow pages:  – let your money do the walking.   As a local business owner I always thought advertising in the local phone book was a good idea. In the beginning it was costly for a small business like mine, but at the same time yellow book advertising could be extremely profitable for us and them.  When we started yellow page ads, over 9 years ago, most people would naturally reach for a phone book to look up local business services rather then reaching for the keyboard. The ads always prompted phone calls when the books first hit the streets, so we started advertising in several phone books: but our main audience remained in our local market which was owned, at that time, by GTE.  GTE now Verizon was one of the last phone companies to relinquish yellow page book control and eventually it was the last phone book we advertised in. 

 A few years ago we had two satellite offices -specifically for walk-in computer repair, so we needed those local computer repair yellow page ads to keep our businesses thriving.  Yellow page ads worked like a charm – we were committed.  We ran ads in MCloud’s phone book, Deerfield’s phone book, GTE’s phone book and Ameritech or SBC phone book and the Yellow Book, about $1200 a month in advertisement.  The idea, in addition to bringing in business, was to keep our name out there because truthfully those ads never brought in that dollar amount of business – so much for paying for themselves.   

And our business slowed as our competitors started advertising with big one page two part color ads; so while the competition’s ads got bigger, ours got smaller, because I realized that most people expect to see an ad of some type in a local phone book if you’re a local company, and size doesn’t matter.  In fact speaking to my customers, most tend to shy away from bigger ads, because they equate bigger ads with bigger bucks for the service they’re looking for.  From experience a small yellow page ad, with blue highlighted words works best. (I found out colorblind folks can’t read the red pint).    And if you’re a local company, with local services or products a Yellow Page ad is a must.  The cost of advertising in the Yellow Pages is negotiable, so don’t settle for the first price you’re offered. 

 Yellow Page ads print with mistakes quite often.  I have had wrong addresses, missing phone numbers, incorrect web address and so forth printed in my ads, even when the proof  I was shown had correct information.  Having kept all signed proofs, contracts and paperwork, each time there was a printing issue with one of my ads, I was able to get a substantial discount on my monthly bill from whichever phone book company screwed up.  The FCC and the Telephone Company claims no jurisdiction over these errors, so you’re on your own to work with the phone book company to resolve them.

 Then there’s the complimentary ads businesses get; those free one or two lines of information that only prints your business name, phone number and maybe your address in the Yellow and White pages of the book.   A few years ago we closed our two computer-repair offices and moved our phone lines to our main headquarters, which is a different address and city from both stores.  Consequentially we ceased our yellow page ads as we now only do business on the web.   We still get the free ads, they’re always wrong and I have yet found an easy resolution.   In the recently published 2008-2009 Verizon’s phone book our free ad listed all our past addresses including my residence and listed the city I’m in as an address, with the same phone number and wrong city for each line for a total of four locations.  When I complained I was told the listing information came from the Verizon Telephone Company, Verizon Telephone claims they have nothing to do with this and referred me back to the Verizon Phone Book Company.   Since that book came out, we once again have people calling us for computer repair, and when they complain about the ad, I give them our Verizon Phone Book representative’s phone number, name and extension.  I don’t think that will do anything for next year, but you never know.