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EXECUTION First Fastlane Venture: Service based startup

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Disciple96

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First, I'm nervous about posting here. After several years of wantrepreneurship and feeling inadequate, I've decided to jump headfirst into a service business I've been back and forth over for the last several months. With summer steadfastly approaching, I feel my time is now.

I owe much to this forum and hope to one day contribute in return. This is my first step in doing that.

Tasklist:

- pick a name and register a .com

- Register with the local regulatory agencies

- invest capital into supplies & tools

- obtain property and liability insurance

- figure out pricing structure

- figure out tax structure (currently thinking as registering an LLC which files as an s-corp)

- begin the copywriting process

- develop website/blog


What needs improvement:

- SEO

What I'm getting so far from SEO is that frequency (i.e. posting once per day) and consistency is critical. Strategically placing page specific key words in the URL, headlines, throughout the body, and anywhere else that makes sense helps so I understand. From what I hear a blog does wonders for inbound traffic rates and I can definitely see how a blog could be implemented in this service business.

- Copywriting

I feel I've learned a thing or two about copywriting since learning that it's fastlane applications are practically unlimited. I'm not great at it yet, but I've been trying (no success yet) to freelance over at upwork for a few weeks now to see how valuable my skillset is. It goes without saying I have a lot of improvement to do. It's hard to evaluate my skill when it hasn't been validated yet but I have a couple google docs available if anyone wants to read them.

- marketing and conversion
This goes hand in hand with copywriting, but in particular I was thinking about email marketing. For example, how critical is it? Word of mouth advertising they say is the biggest factor of all, I suppose the best way to achieve that is simpler than it sounds: do good, hard work and make the customer happy.

I'll be updating this later this week with an update on my progress. Any suggestions or advice is always welcome!
 

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lowtek

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I'm in the same boat. I'm starting a local service business, however my approach is different.

My approach has been to attend networking events and see what is going on in the local business landscape. I'm trying to land my first customer.

My reasoning is that until I have a first customer, I don't need a corporation.

It sounds like you're going for something that is a little bit more capital intensive. This may change your requirements.

I would advise, however, a stronger focus on getting that first customer. Everything else is secondary.
 

Carny

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Service businesses can do very well, but maybe not as well as many think. I don't want to discourage you, I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into.

I own a service business and what the business brings in and what you make are two very different numbers. It costs a lot to be in a service business. Depending on what you do I would expect to pay yourself about 30% of what the business brings in (assuming you will be the only employee and the one doing the work).

Send me a pm if I can help in any way.

Oh, and put off half that crap on the list until you are up and running and making money.
 

Smoothsailor

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Congratulations on your venture!

One observation I have is people consider many indirect aspects of the business during their first startup and after fail (which i hope you won't) they realize main business is what matters most. So I would take Carny's word and not worry too much about most of your tasks until revenue and profit starts happening.

Seo, marketing, profitability and copywriting is probably the most meaningful among your tasks.

Good luck!
Ps: Regardless of the outcome, hope to keep seeing you here ;)
 

Carny

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One of the best things I've done, probably THE best, is to get away from charging an hourly rate. I now charge by the job. When I was hourly people couldn't get past the fact that I charge 5-10x what they make per hour and they will never understand that what I charge is not what I personally make.

Since I went to a flat rate system and started charging by the job I'm making more and customers are happier. They know the price up front before I get started and even though every task is based on an hourly rate they never see that. My hourly rate is also about 50% higher now, by the way.
 

Rudynate

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My approach has been to attend networking events and see what is going on in the local business landscape. I'm trying to land my first customer.

Unless the events are carefully selected and you are very focused in your networking, going to networking events can be a huge time sponge that allows you to think you're doing something without accomplishing much.

I joined a BNI group and spent a year going to weekly meetings, at the end of which I had a few hundred dollars in closed business to show for it.

Speaking at meetups is a great way to get your message out and build credibility. I was a keynote speaker at a meetup about a year ago. I spoke for an hour and spent a few hours preparing and am still getting new business out of it, a year later.
 

Disciple96

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Since I went to a flat rate system and started charging by the job I'm making more and customers are happier. They know the price up front before I get started and even though every task is based on an hourly rate they never see that. My hourly rate is also about 50% higher now, by the way.

Great idea, although it may be difficult to implement in my case. I know upfront, flat rate fees are excellent for cashflow.
 

ZeroTo100

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I think it really depends on the service to be quite honest with you. Service businesses require a lot of customer responsibility aka "time." Time is our most critical asset and it separates the fastlane from everyone else. Can a service business be fast lane? Absolutely but it really depends on you.

Have you read TMF? If not buy it and read chapter 18 and 19.

I've been involved with many startups (not fastlane but after reading the book this past week my vision has changed and I'm scoping out my fastlane biz.

Best of luck!

Stevie
 

Disciple96

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I think it really depends on the service to be quite honest with you. Service businesses require a lot of customer responsibility aka "time." Time is our most critical asset and it separates the fastlane from everyone else. Can a service business be fast lane? Absolutely but it really depends on you.

Have you read TMF? If not buy it and read chapter 18 and 19.

I have a few ideas for down the road that will absolutely utilize time. While my "baby" service business will be restricted to my and my employees' time, it makes CENTS for the time being (because my employees will make money for the business hourly outside of my own time, which still technically violates the commandment of time, I know, but it will do for now). I plan on reinvesting to expand the services I offer which will be less time-restrictive
 

Jeremy Groover

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Tasklist:

- pick a name and register a .com

- Register with the local regulatory agencies

- invest capital into supplies & tools

- obtain property and liability insurance

- figure out pricing structure

- figure out tax structure (currently thinking as registering an LLC which files as an s-corp)

- begin the copywriting process

- develop website/blog



When you say service based, do you mean similar to lawn service or an online service based company like MJs Limo website? If you mean in-person service that you provide for people at there home, I disagree with setting up a .com first. You need to get supplies before you do anything. We'll use a lawn company for example. You shouldn't start a lawn company without a lawn mower.

And as for pricing, this should be in you pre-prestage. You need to make sure that your business will be beneficial to you money wise before you start it. You need to number crunch over an over with different +/- scenarios.

I too have a service company and I finally went 100% with it. (LLC, business license, Company account, ect) and to be honest, until you establish a customer base, I would stick with FB as an online presence not a .com for now.

Copy writing is important when it comes to marketing, but something you need to focus on before you worry about a pitch is a way to stand out. Hopefully your pitch wont be the only thing. What can you do to make your company better then the others, how can you remove yourself from the "norm" of that service company normality? I assure you, someone has done it before. Make sure your different.

Before you get Liability insurance, you need to register your company name and get a occupational license.

You mentioned employees. I am going to assume you are going to be running a home office and not a corporate location with this right?
I just went through this with the zoning department in my area. If you have a "mobile" business and a home office, you "cannot" have employees. Now, they will never know unless you have some neighbor calling code enforcement on you, but there is a big grey area with that. You cannot operate a multi-person business from your home. Their reasoning for this is, "it would change the nature of the residential area". Now will they ever know? No, probably not, but I just wanted to tell you that in case you "want to leave that part out" while you were down there. They wont shut you down, they might fine you or make you register a corporate location but that's about it. This is similar to how "technically" you cannot store product at your home if you have an Ebay business. Your thinking, "YEAH RIGHT! WHOS GOING TO TELL ME I CAN'T DO THAT". Technically, your not supposed to operate with anything more then the "typical" stuff you would find in a home. The way the lady explained it to me was like this... You have 2 lawn companies... The first is a guy with a truck and a typical residential riding mower with a typical utility trailer. The second company has a HUGE enclosed trailer with a HUGE logo on the side and 3 commercial riding mowers. The second company cannot have a home office, they must operate from a commercial location.

Sorry for the long post, just wanted to warn you about my "fun" endeavor with the zoning department.


Jeremy
 

lowtek

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Unless the events are carefully selected and you are very focused in your networking, going to networking events can be a huge time sponge that allows you to think you're doing something without accomplishing much.

I joined a BNI group and spent a year going to weekly meetings, at the end of which I had a few hundred dollars in closed business to show for it.

Speaking at meetups is a great way to get your message out and build credibility. I was a keynote speaker at a meetup about a year ago. I spoke for an hour and spent a few hours preparing and am still getting new business out of it, a year later.

Yeah, I think you're probably right. I am not going whole hog with them (1 per week, around 1 - 2 hours) so it's not a huge time sink.

I'm looking into getting speaking engagements, as I recognize the value of this.
 

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Disciple96

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Another update on the progress, or apparent lack thereof.

I posted an ad on craigslist with some solid copy (imho) and a nice picture of the service I offer. I didn't include any prices or brand naming, which I feel may have hurt my chances in retrospect as so far I've nary a response.

Getting the equipment is a small but necessary investment, but this could well set my plans back another week or so. The possibility of renting it is available.

My primary focus is getting this off the ground already. I'd rather make 100 mistakes than fail because I didn't even try.

The USP

This point was raised earlier in the thread, but I'm starting to wonder... How unique can this opportunity really be? Perhaps it's more about the offer of value, but I can't help but think I'll be drowning in this market. It has a high barrier to entry, and I can see a true need for the service in general...

The problem I'm facing is that I can't seem to find the need for MY service. What truly differentiates this service business?

Can it be the small things such as exceptional customer support, knowledgeable and friendly staff, with online presence to provide information and build customer rapport? Or do I need to be disruptive and somehow change a game that's as old as civilization itself?

So far, the only differentiating factor I can think to achieve is a high customer satisfaction rating on review websites, and I fear this may be out of my control (i.e. hiring employees)

I eventually plan on moving into a related subscription based industry that's will fulfill the commandment of time quite nicely, but for the time being my "baby" service is an hourly situation. I could potentially resolve this by charging flat rate upfront fees and hiring employees to do the "heavy lifting" outside of my own time. Alas, it is still restricted to the hours in a day and the capable works under my employ.

In the here and now, I believe it's possible to skip all of the minutia, and focus on getting that 1st client, and making them happy. Do that a couple times, open a website and post some testimonials. Build out the brand (still need to decide on that one). Start blogging to provide info to prospective clients, hire some more employees and get them through training. Start advertising and take it from there.

I feel a bit in over my head.

Another real potential problem: I recognize the value of this service, but I don't want to actually provide it to the end client. For one, I'm not that great at it, and for two, it is strenuous activity. Now now, I'm not afraid of some good old fashioned hard work, but other people can (and probably should) do it better than me.

I feel like this might make any employees think I'm being a slacker, but I honestly think my time could be spent more productively managing other aspects of the business (read: all other aspects) down the road when I actually acquire a workload heavy enough to warrant that kind of decision.

But... Isn't the goal ultimately automation?

Updates may be less frequent until I figure which direction I need to start on to make some headway with this project.
 
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