Thursday, November 27, 2014

Buying a Business — Part 3
Close, but No Cigar

Just like when starting a business from scratch, exploring the possibility of buying an existing business is a roller coaster of emotions, both good and bad. But at the end of the day, you have to be honest about how much work, money, and effort, you are willing to invest.

In my case, the numbers simply did not meet expectations, and the amount of working hours I would have had to devote to the business, made no sense whatsoever.

And it's too bad since I really liked the business and the products it makes. But that alone was reason enough to think twice about acquiring it. Liking a business is important, of course, but as I did find out during my required "familiarization" period, the learning curve was too steep and I was outside of my comfort zone.

In addition to that, the real eye-opener happened the moment I started playing with different financial scenarios on a spreadsheet, as I realized the financials simply did not add up. I am not saying the seller misrepresented the numbers, but if I were to buy this business, I would need to implement a few things that would've basically turned slim profits into losses, and that was sobering.

Just to give you an idea as to where the numbers started to head south, was the fact that the seller (and also the business operator), hardly ever turned on the air-conditioning system for the workshop and office areas, something that is unacceptable here in the sunshine state, at least eight months out of the year. This meant that, the moment I adjusted the monthly electricity expense, my spreadsheet changed dramatically.

The same happened with things such as website maintenance, where the current site is old-fashioned and in desperate need of a redesign, including the addition of ecommerce capabilities, which would bring the monthly cost from an absurd $8 (yes, eight bucks), to a more realistic $200 per month.

Add to those changes things such as monitoring for the alarm system (which is currently dependent on a neighbor calling the seller's cell phone when it goes off), to upgrading the 10-year-old multi-function color copier with a newer unit (and a higher monthly maintenance fee), even to turning the office lights on during normal business hours, and the claimed "profits" disappear into thin air.

I am not criticizing how the seller manages the business. Everyone is entitled to run his or her business as they see fit, but as a potential buyer, you must use your numbers to make sure the business will make you money.

And so, after looking at the out-of-pocket amount I would have to invest to purchase the operation, plus the negative bottom line, I simply decided that it was not worth the effort necessary to turn it into a profitable business venture.

So for now, I've decided to save my money and look for a job instead.

Of course at 55, this is easier said than done. But being a life-long gearhead, I've decided to look into selling automobiles as my next profession. Yes, it can be a challenging way to earn a living but I am curious enough about the industry, and up to the task.

Most people dislike commission sales, and I can understand why. But, on the other hand, the sky's the limit as far as earning potential, and I see that part as a huge plus.

Who knows if in a few months I will get sick and tired of that pay model, but for the time being I am willing to give it a try to see if I can make it happen.

So stay tuned to see if, first, I can land a job at a good dealership, and second, if I can handle the pressure and be successful selling automobiles.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Craigslist Find: Coin-Op K.I.T.T.

I must admit that as a die-hard Third Gen F-Body enthusiast, as well as someone who watched almost every single new episode of Knight Rider back in the 1980s, in a perfect world I would be telling you that I was the proud owner of this cool coin-operated kiddie ride version of the Knight Industries Two Thousand, a.k.a. K.I.T.T., if I had $1,700 lying around.

Alas, life obligations take precedence, so someone else will get to add this piece to their early Third Gen Firebird (1982-1984) or Knight Rider memorabilia collection.

Most cars from the 1980s get little if any respect, but I think that will start to change as GenXs, who grew up watching shows such as Knight Rider, for example, start to look for and restore cars of that era.

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite TV shows, Fast N' Loud, will feature a 2-hour K.I.T.T. special on December 8, 2014.

SEO and Social Media for Small Businesses

This excerpt is from my book Snake E-Oil: The SEO Swindle, published earlier in 2014. Keep in mind that search engine algorithms are in constant flux, and what used to work a while ago, may not work today.

I believe that unless you are willing to spend the time and effort to maintain a current and up-to-date social presence, you are better off waiting until you are ready.

There are so many useless Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram pages on the net that the only conclusion one can make is that—by publishing garbage just to justify the reason for having a social channel—all you accomplish is help sites that provide social media services by giving them content.

I am sure some “experts” will argue that a social presence is a must, and, therefore, you have to launch such pages, quality be damned.

Some may even promise you a constant stream of “likes” or followers as part of their services. Do not fall for that one. For social networks to be valid, they have to grow organically. Besides, having tens of thousands of followers that fail to interact with your site is pathetic, and it may raise a red flag to search engine bots that keep getting smarter by the hour, or so it seems.

Will not having a social media channel hurt you?

I really don’t believe so. And like I said before, having a social media channel “just because” can be far worse.

If you are ready to launch one, I suggest you start with Google+. Nothing personal against Facebook, but I consider Google+ a better choice, both audience- and platform-wise.