So you want to open your own business. You want to be able to work for yourself, set your own hours, be your own boss. Good for you… that’s tremendous. Your entrepreneurial spirit is to be commended!
I have put together a simple business plan to help you get started. We’ll use the classic Lemonade Stand as an example:
Start by going to the bank and asking them to loan you a truckload of money. Make sure you have a good solid business plan that explains to banker guy why you won’t be one of the 50% of new lemonade stands that fails during the first year and the roughly 90-95% of lemonade stands that fail to make it past five years.
You will need to find a nice solid cardboard box where you can lease space for $10-$30 per square foot, depending on where you choose to locate your stand. It’s best to have your box located in a high traffic area and be sure it’s a good, clean, quality box because you’ll likely have to pay for your own utilities, janitorial services and maintenance.
In addition you will need to purchase some signage so people driving past understand that your business is actually a family friendly lemonade stand as opposed to a liquor store. As most areas have strict signage regulations, make sure to contact your local zoning commission and have your signage proposal approved. Just some advice… a mammoth sized cardboard sign hanging with a piece of yarn that says LEMONADE – 50 CENTS!… that probably won’t pass as the square footage of the sign will most likely be larger than what is allowed based on the retail frontage you have available.
You will need to keep your lemonade stand open at hours that are convenient to your customers and since it’s likely you won’t be able to cover all of those hours yourself, you will need to hire some friendly, courteous employees. Be sure you are following all legal procedures when hiring, such as using an appropriate job application as well as being aware of anti-discrimination laws during interviews. You are not allowed to ask questions about age, religious beliefs and favorite flavors of summertime drinks… even indirectly. For example do not ask “so, do you enjoy lemonade when you are taking communion?” or “lemonade was very popular in the 1950’s, did you enjoy lemonade back then?” Of the employees you hire, some will turn out to be wonderful. Others will turn out to be completely dysfunctional losers. Occasionally some will even steal your lemonade and your cups. You will not be able to fire them, however, without spending inordinate amounts of money on attorney fees, as they will most likely be classified as “protected” employees.
You may want to consider paying a professional to write and assemble an employee manual that documents all the policies and procedures that your employees will need to follow as they are working in your lemonade stand. This will help fend off future problems such as lateness, insubordination, taking too many lemonade breaks or arriving to work drunk on Vodka and Lemonade cocktails. In case problems do arise, however, be sure you have documented disciplinary procedures that will be taken in the case of a transgression.
There will be a lot of bookkeeping involved so it would be prudent to find yourself a qualified accountant to handle all the IRS requirements, the business taxes, the quarterly filings, the payroll taxes, the sales tax payments, the monthly profit and loss statements and the money embezzling schemes. A good accountant will cost you a significant amount of money and traditionally will not take free lemonade as payment.
It will also be a good idea to call your insurance agent and buy enough insurance to cover your business when someone chokes on one of your ice cubes or slips on the lemonade you spilled on the floor. In addition, be sure you buy a decent Workman’s Compensation policy to protect you from that one employee that is sure to get Lemonade Powder Respiratory Disease and who will then attempt to extort money from you.
With money loaned from the bank you will need to purchase some computer equipment and Point-of-Sale Cash registers, because everything is done electronically these days and you will need to be able to have e-mail and a website to showcase your lemonade. The cost of the maintenance contracts on this equipment will be extraordinarily high and inversely proportional to the levels of support you actually receive. In addition, as your customers rarely carry cash anymore, you will need to be able to process credit and debit cards. Credit cards will take roughly 2% of every sale, debit cards are charged on a flat per transaction rate.
In order to find and retain good quality employees, you will need to offer a suitable benefits package, including health and dental insurance, a qualified Section 125 Flex spending plan, a fair and equitable amount of vacation time and paid holidays. Once you have decided on an appropriate medical plan that will not bankrupt your lemonade stand, be prepared for your premiums to increase 20-40% per year, every year, until you are old enough to be on Medicaid or until you die or until you just decide to kill yourself because your medical plan is bankrupting your lemonade stand.
Excellent, the infrastructure for your lemonade stand is all in place! How exciting!
Now you can finally start setting your own hours which will most likely include a seven day, ninety hour work week. Because you are the owner, however, you can put in those ninety hours whenever you want to, except for when you are constantly covering for one of your new employees that has decided not to show up for his shift. Then you can write payroll for your staff even though you personally won’t be able to take any salary for a couple of years because your lemonade stand is hemorrhaging cash-flow. If you are committed and persistent, however, your lemonade stand will eventually begin to become profitable.
Then Wal-Mart will show up next door and put you out of business.
Congratulations! Now get the hell back to work at your real job.