Why I am a Solopreneur

I love programming.  I like to solve big complicated problems.  Especially when there is a purpose, such as making money or helping a loved one.

 

My love of problem solving is one of the reasons that I have evolved to become a Solopreneur.  It lets me indulge my passion for software design and programming.  I don’t have to let other people have all the fun.

 

I’ve observed what it takes to become the successful leader of a growing company.  You have to spend time on it.  You spend a lot of time on people – recruiting, evaluating, meeting with, seeking out opinions from, and sometimes firing.

 

I like to have a certain amount of alone time each day.  When I can concentrate with no distractions, and think about the problem at hand.  Maybe I need to break a larger problem into smaller parts.  Maybe I am writing code to solve one of those parts.  Maybe I am researching new stuff, or trying to find a bug.  This is how I get my jollies.  I get up early most mornings to make sure I get my quota of alone time, even in the midst of deadlines and scrambling for cash.

 

I also like to help people.  I get a genuine kick out of doing something for someone else.  But I’d rather sit back and let them come to me rather than to seek them out.  Doing customer support is a natural outlet for this aptitude and desire.

 

Solopreneur as software developer can make for some very happy customers, because the developer is forced to face the music if he gets things wrong.  There is no bureaucracy involved in the decision making.  The disadvantage is that it is just one person, and it is hard to get everything done.  As cash flow improves, certain tasks can be sub-contracted out without compromising product quality. The competition fields teams of dozens and hundreds of developers.  Being close to the customer is your only chance at competitive advantage.  Walking in your customers’ shoes, solving the right problem, and all that.

 

Here is the other part of my Solopreneur strategy:  finding other Solopreneurs who can be close to their customers.  Other Solopreneurs to automate and customize using the Automator and the financial modeling language built into SurvivalWare.  If I can teach other people to do what I do, and make them efficient and productive, I extend my market and reach exponentially without having to hire people and build a real company.

 

A modeler with some special industry knowledge can tackle micro-markets the big guys just can’t afford to go after.  This is the promise of SurvivalWare – for the Solopreneurs (including myself) who deliver their expertise in the form of models and applets, and for their clients who reap the benefits of specialized software without having to shoulder the full burden of development.

 

There is an organization devoted to helping Solopreneurs called the International Association of Solopreneurs (http://www.solopreneurs.org).  I was interviewed by the founder, Donna Amos, earlier today, and I checked out the website.  Some great resources for entrepreneurs, whether flying solo or not.  But watch out for the interviews..

 

I came across a couple of goodies I really liked on her original website:

 

Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?  The 4 Key Questions You Must Ask

 

http://www.donnaamos.com/are-you-ready-to-start-your-own-business-the-4-key-questions-you-must-ask/

 

 

A white paper on the benefits of creating white papers

 

(you have to give her your name and email address to get the white paper, but it is well worth it)

 

http://www.donnaamos.com/?s=white+paper

 

 

 

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Joe the Plumber is not my role model

Laura Lang, my ace marketing consultant, sent me this link to a commentary piece on CNN.com written by Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation.  Carl does a great job of laying out the reasons we as a nation should encourage people to become entrepreneurs.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/19/schramm.entrepreneur/index.html

 

I agree with everything Carl said except for the headline, and his elevation of Joe the Plumber as someone we should admire.  My reading of Joe the Plumber is that he wants instant success.

 

Here is one concept that Carl missed.  His stats about 1,000 high growth firms started each year is probably more accurately stated as 1,000 small firms joining the high growth club each year.  They may have been started years earlier.  Companies aren’t necessarily high growth from the git-go. 

 

My brother Hank’s company, IssueTrak, is a case in point.  He started the company in 1992, and just made the INC. 500 a year ago for his performance in the 5 years ending in 2006.  Where was he the first 10 years of the business?

 

And what about my company, Luhring SurvivalWare, Inc., which went live on the web in 2002?  We’ve been coasting along at about $100,000 in annual revenue the last three years, while pouring every spare nickel into development, field testing, and documentation.  With the release of version 2.0 of SurvivalWare over the summer, the focus is now shifting to marketing and sales.  Our web traffic has quadrupled in the last 2 months, and leads have grown by the same amount.  We think 2009 will be a breakout year.  The transition from hanging on by our fingernails to high growth will have taken 7 or 8 years.  Excuse me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who expects to make $250,000 soon enough to be affected by Barack Obama’s tax policies.   Joe the Plumber should be worried about Barack Obama’s successor 4 to 8 years from now.

 

One reason we as a society celebrate the entrepreneur is the same reason idolize the cowboy from years past.  We are independent.  We can take care of ourselves.  We march to the tune of our own drummer.  We mostly do what we want.  We don’t have a boss telling us to do ridiculous things.  Unfortunately, we do have the government telling us to do ridiculous things on occasion, like “Fill out this tax form” or “File this report.”  Sometimes we drag our feet in silent protest.  Then there’s that other thing we have to deal with – that whole thing about not running out of cash.  The stress from worrying about that can be crushing.

 

Here’s a message to Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and the others:

 

Hey you all!  You’re not making life any easier for us out here in the trenches with all the uncertainty you’re layering on top of an already uncertain world.  Cut it out!

 

Let the damn banks fail.  You won’t see a lot of tears shed from this sector.  I kind of like the imagery of a squirming banker being told he’s been turned down for loan.

 

Let Wall Street change its business model.  Excuse me, but buying a Credit Default Swap to me is like buying a lifetime membership in a health club.  Did you really think the counter-party was going to be around to make good on the debt?  If you’ve got any money left, I’ve got swampland in Florida you should take a look at.

 

My problem with Joe Plumber is that he had the expectation of making a $250,000 income right after buying (not building from scratch) a plumbing business.  I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost 30 years and have yet to make $250,000 in a single year.  When I do get there, I will only be happy to pay more in taxes, because I will have more to pay with.  I tell my kids and anyone else who will listen that my goal in life is to pay $1,000,000 a year in taxes – because that means I’ll be making a whole lot of money.

 

My personal preference is for a flat tax like the one Steve Forbes proposed years ago.    As I recall, the first $40,000 in income would be totally exempt from taxes, and then a flat 17% of income after that was paid in tax.  No deductions.  No loopholes.  Total simplification of the tax code.  Time to sell your stock in H&R Block.

 

In the meantime, going easy on the middle class by squeezing the rich just a little bit more doesn’t seem so bad.

 

Note to the politicians – whatever you do, just give us a level playing field, and stay off of our backs.  We’ll be glad to pay our fair share in taxes as long as you treat us right.