What about Starting a Business 1,000km’s from a Major City; Bootstrapped, and with no Internet or Mobile phone coverage…..
It may be difficult to comprehend just how difficult this is, and why would anyone do this???…… Well I did it!
Remote, Isolated and Extreme Startup Adversity
- The population density is 10 people for every 1,650km2,
- The nearest town (20 people) is 130km away,
- Thargomindah is isolated (and as a budding 20 year old, it was extremely remote).
This is a quick look at my first 5 years……. when I started my first business.
How it Started
I started my 1st business as a sole trader in the Outback. Thargomindah, Qld Australia. It was to be a humble plumbing business. I had ~$2k in the bank and I decided to try my hand at becoming my own boss.
The first glimpse of what I got myself into…..
‘Small Town’ syndrome; I have had my fair share of people wanting to see me fail. It is a hard thing to really believe….. that somebody actually wants you to fail!
Unlike larger urban areas where people blend in (haters and oppressors), in small towns, the realism of peoples influence and affects on you are distinctly personal. You know everybody.
Starting young; I was 20 years old, many people wanted to see my enthusiasm put under pressure. Within the first 4 years, I had just under $100k held back on a single payment, it nearly crippled my business ambitions.
Building a business; I thought that I had the support of a number of businesses and people to keep me in business. I was wrong. I had virtually no commercial support, but the people that did help were fantastic.
Don’t play the game, just keep focussed…..
I worked for the first year just trying to make ends meet (some small towns create animosity towards people who put themselves ‘out there’, and I had my share of people who were adamant I would ‘crash and burn’). I remained determined NOT to fail.
I didn’t particularly care about the money, but merely ‘pure survival’ and not having to ask my previous employer for my ‘old job back’.
Finding the determination in myself…..
It was a hard first few years, being so isolated most people were accustomed to doing their own plumbing; and, because my service was not usually needed, I travelled a lot just to find enough work to get by.
I would often cover distances 200-300km’s from where I lived just to have enough work to get through paying bills. (Very similar to the local shearing industry)
Isolated and geographically remote businesses face unique challenges; it requires strong drive and determination to grow a strong and reputable business.
Starting with a shoestring budget just makes the pain worth it that little bit more. It makes you more determined to prove that a bootstrapped budget is merely a side issue.
Finding a real ‘Point of Difference’…..
By the end of the second year, I was not happy with simply doing what I was doing, even though I had employed my first apprentice, I needed to change something in order to grow. I needed more of a challenge. Plumbing was just 1 piece of the puzzle.
- What could I do that hadn’t been done before?
- Somethings that would support the plumbing business and compliment it’s service?
I decided to diversify the business. I employed an electrician, I paid and trained them as a “qualified technical person”, and we began electrical contracting in 2003.
As a dual-trade contractor, the next few years were filled with learning and understanding the complexities of employment, project planning, logistics, time, quality, safety, security, environment, supply chain and business management etc.
Receiving Unnecessary Pressure
Again, some people would try and threaten our business progress by continually making destructive allegations directly to the industry regulating authority….. at first it was intimidating, and on a number of occasions we were under pressure to disprove the allegation or receive fines.
Fortunately, we had done nothing wrong and this spree of attacks inadvertently grew a trusted relationship with the regulator and made our business better.
Understanding the need to ‘work on my business’ and not only ‘working in it’ changed the way I made my business grow.
Learning the Craft of Business….
From bootstrapped beginnings, I had learnt how to grow something from nothing. I had learnt what makes a business succeed even when it is tested at every level.
“Using Integration to unlock resilience”
With new success after integrating the electrical service; I decided that I wanted to grow a multi-discipled business, one that was both ‘vertically’ and ‘horizontally’ integrated, it needed to be rich with capabilities and strong with handling adversity.
While constantly learning from all sources and keeping skilled training providers on my radar, I took every opportunity to learn and travelled over 50,000km’s in 5 years just to attend training courses. I was also not afraid of hiring people that were smarted then me so I could learn from them.
Creativity Blooms in the Face of Adversity
By the 5th year I had grown my $65k annual revenue plumbing business into a $1m revenue business with a future of opportunities.
The 5 things I wish I was told before I started my first business:
- Don’t sign personal guarantees; or at least, keep it to a bare minimum,
- Make sure your personal assets are protected; avoid dual company directors in small business,
- Cashflow is King, prepare early for times when work is slow,
- Know what customers are prepared to pay ‘vs’ what you are prepared to offer,
- Utilise a simple financial system (Don’t think about overdoing things – simple is best! Difficult is expensive!).
The Next 5 Years would see massive changes; introducing documented management systems, specialty services & working with 5 different ASX 200 companies – and all based form Thargomindah in remote Outback Queensland.
Written by Geoff Pike, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Business Mentor
Also, if you would like to read future posts then please click ‘Follow’ at the top of this article and feel free to connect via Facebook or visit the ‘Equipped to Discover’ Webpage, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin page.
Geoff founded a sole trader plumbing business in a remotely located and vastly underpopulated location in outback Australia. Starting business with only enough money to pay 4 weeks wages, Geoff persisted by growing the business into a multi-disciplined trade services company. Over a period of 12 years, the company Geoff established grew to employ a workforce of over 300 personnel covering an area almost half the size of Europe, receiving international award recognition with an annual revenue of over $30mil. Geoff knows what it takes to overcome adversity.