Uh oh! it's down the drain: the majority of business start-ups fail within two years. Sadly, HandySolutions LLC is one of them.

Author:Lifton, Kimberly
Position:A small business adventure: part 12

After four years in business, HandySolutions, the handyman dispatcher service founded and run by Joe Chambers, was at a crossroads. It was time for Joe to decide whether to take some risks and continue operating his company.

To stay in business, he really needed to cut overhead costs and focus on the bottom line. Complicating matters, his business, like others, was certain to face hard times due to the slowing economy. His other option was finding a job working for someone else, and leaving the burdens of running a small business to others.

After a few weeks of serious thought, Joe decided to take a calculated risk and continue the business. If, however, the business was not growing--and growing profitably--by the end of the following year, he would re-evaluate his options.

Everything was moving along quite well for a month. Then he received several unrelated calls from unhappy customers over a two-day period.

One customer was upset because she thought one of her doorknobs--installed by a company contractor--looked crooked, and taking them out would leave holes in her custom-made cherry doors. Another was beside herself because she couldn't find her wedding ring, which she had left next to the sink while the contractor installed a new garbage disposal. She didn't want to accuse him of stealing, but she wondered if he might have accidentally pushed it down the drain.

Another call came from a customer who was angry because a contractor broke a family heirloom. Although it was covered by insurance, it couldn't be replicated.

Suddenly, a red light lit up in Joe's head. He knew the idea for a handyman dispatcher service was good, but he was starting to doubt his ability to handle all of the responsibilities that went along with it. What's more, he began to realize that having potential doesn't pay the bills. He couldn't afford to do advertising, which he needed, and he couldn't afford the negative publicity that goes hand-in-hand with dissatisfied customers. He knew his contractors, and he trusted them. But he didn't know his customers. Joe decided he'd reached the end of the line.

He called an emergency meeting of his contractors and told them he was not accepting any new jobs and that the business was Closing. Soon, he said, he'd be looking for a new job.

"Continuing to run this business would be like sailing without a compass and a map," says business coach Robert Sher. "Joe needs business, not new, creative ways to spend money he doesn't...

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