From the Work from Home Email Bag – “Should I Go Into Business with a Wild Woman?”

By Mike Haaren

March 6, 2012

Dear Rat Race Rebellion: My daughter has been asking me to go into an online business with her, designing and selling tee shirts and other clothing items. She’s a gifted artist, and would bring the design skills and knowledge of the target customers, and I would bring the day-to-day operational skills and “gray hair” to the business.

I’m a little nervous about getting involved, though. I love my daughter and always will, but we are very different emotionally and in the way we look at the world. I’m more of a steady, linear, “bean-counter” type, and she’s much more volatile and impulsive and creative. I mean, basically she’s a wild woman. She has more ups and downs in an hour than I have in a year. How do you think we would do as a team? – Burt in Portland, Maine

Dear Burt: That’s a tough question. On one hand, you need lots of creativity in a graphics-oriented clothing line, while a steady-as-she-goes type comes in handy to tend to the bottom line, complement the artistic partner and keep costs down. On the other hand, bean counters and wild women don’t always make a good mix. And on the third hand, would you and your daughter be working in close quarters (a home office, for example), or would you have more oxygen space?

You might want to draw up a “dip a toe in the water” plan, and say you’ll give it six or nine or 12 months to see how it goes. (They say you never know someone until you share an inheritance with them, but you can also substitute “business” for “inheritance.”) Alternatively, you could offer to serve as an informal advisor to your daughter and a non-family business partner, and help her screen the partner, too.

Either way, we wish you luck!

Dear Rat Race Rebellion: My wife and I are retiring soon but our nest egg won’t be nearly enough to meet our needs. We’re thinking about launching a business based initially in a home office, but we aren’t sure what would be best for us. Since we’re on a budget, do you know where we could get some reliable advice for free? – Patrick in Bloomington, Ind.

Dear Patrick: We’re great believers in Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). They’re usually attached to colleges and universities, and offer business startup and growth advice for free or, in the case of trainings, at a very low cost. They can help you with everything from choosing a business to getting a loan to building your customer base and beyond.

The Service Corps of Retired Executives, better known as SCORE, is another convenient resource for small-business advice. Supported by the Small Business Administration, SCORE also offers free and low-cost guidance on launching and growing a small business.

Not all mentors have the same expertise, of course. Some come from Fortune 500 management backgrounds, for example, while others are entrepreneurs who have already sold a company or two. Some will understand how to bootstrap a startup (grow it frugally from revenues as opposed to outside funding) and leverage Facebook or Twitter, while others will be adept at helping you meet substantial prospective customers, allies or investors.

Before you go in for counseling, reflect on your business goals, too. Do you and your spouse want to build a “lifestyle” operation that will generate a modest monthly cash flow and not require a heavy work load? Or are you aiming for more revenue and a sale of the business in 7-10 years, to increase assets to leave your children or grandchildren? These questions will also figure in to the type of business you pursue.

For more on SBDCs, http://www.asbdc-us.org. For more on SCORE, see http://www.score.org,