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Dear <<First Name>>,

Some of the great SME calls 

 
It’s the start of a new calendar year – and the 25th anniversary of the start-up of Cameron Research Group – so we thought it an opportunity to review ten great comments from business owners.  Some of these comments are reflective of the business owner’s mind-set, some refer to the challenges they face, and some are valuable simply for their entertainment factor.  In no particular order, here are 10 great calls from business owners from the past couple of decades …
 
Call 1 : On sources of business information …
 
Getting info from someone who hasn’t run a business is like asking someone if you should be cremated – ‘have you ever been cremated?’  How can you ask them?  Who do you ask that can tell you if you should be buried or cremated?  It’s not as if they’ve done it themselves.” (Cafe, 10 FTEs)
 
Call 2 : On the role of the spouse …
 
“The best description for Kate (wife) is that she’s the Senate.  I’m the House of Representatives and she’s the Senate.  She takes a piece of legislation and says ‘not quite right, have another go’.  And it bloody works.  So many times I say to her ‘how about this for an idea, how about that for an idea’, and she says ‘nope’ … I have a spending budget of about $500, anything more needs to pass through the Senate!” (Manuf, 3 FTEs)
 
Call 3 : On the disinterest that start-ups have in listening to established businesses …
 
They think ‘everything’s new’ – ‘no I don’t want to hear about your lessons of running a business from 10 years ago because they don’t apply to now.  It’s all different now’.  Well have you got a customer?  Do you need to retain the customer?  Do you need to bring revenue in from the customer at a point that is greater than your expenses?  If so then your business is exactly the same as a merchant in Egypt in 500 BC.” (Entrepreneur - business services, 6 FTEs)  
 
Call 4 : On relationships with suppliers (ie banks, telcos etc) …
 
“‘Relationship’ is still a funny word – to call someone a Relationship Manager when there is no relationship really – it’s more like an ‘Acquaintance Manager’ than a ‘Relationship Manager’ … We do have someone that we can get to but the frustrating thing is that you have to re-establish your reconnection with that new person on a regular basis.  So I guess it’s a bit like speed dating.  ‘Oh I’ve got to go through this, I’m 45 and I work in blah blah’ so you have to sell yourself again for them to understand the intricacies of your business.”  (Tea house, 10 FTEs)
 
Call 5 : On dealing with the general public (and humour!) … 
 
“People are becoming so unreasonable … I had a woman put a curse on me.  It’s unbelievable. I said ‘you’re too late love, I had a curse on me when I started the business 25 years ago’.”  (Retailing, 2 FTEs)
 
Call 6 : On what small business is – and isn’t … 
 
It’s easy to presume that small businesses are just smaller version of big businesses.  But it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Small businesses are completely different – they have different values, different objectives, different pressures – and I’m sure big businesses have pressures and challenges, of course they do – but they’re different to the ones we face.”  (Manufacturing, 45 FTEs)
 
Call 7 : On needing to maintain control …
 
“When we bought this business, seriously, I had the guy we bought it from say to me ‘if I’m not here it doesn’t happen’.  This guy basically came into work the first day after I bought the business.  He came in and sat in the chair I’m sitting in now!  After he’d sold the business!!!  Same as the business we’re just buying now, the guy who’s selling it to us wants to come into work for 30 hours a week.  Can you believe that?  When you let go you have to let go.  That’s why their businesses weren’t doing well in the first bloody place.” (Retail, 92 FTEs)
 
Call 8 : On staff …
 
When I first started my business probably a dozen years ago I thought ‘I’ll be different’ – we’ll treat employees like family and all of that.  Well here I am down the track and I would tell you that it doesn’t work like that.  Not at all.  Probably 10 of my people are absolutely fabulous, the next 10 are okay – sort of break-even – and honestly I would have maybe 10 people that if I could get rid of I would.  They’re really not interested, they don’t work hard, they look for every loophole, they are a real problem.  But then I’d have to replace them and I don’t actually think Aussies want to work.” (Painting, 35 FTEs)
 
Call 9 : On the isolation of running a business … 
 
There are elements of it that are quite lonely.   I find my career extremely engaging and no-one else really does.  There’s no sitting up to 2am with mates.  Most of my mates are investment bankers, they’re lawyers, they’re doctors.  They’re all good private school grads that have gone on to do the right thing.  And as a rule of thumb they’re not particularly interested so it’s kind of isolating … You’re always outside.  I find it very hard that the staff in here treat me differently as the business grows.  They won’t gossip with me, they won’t share things with me that almost everyone else at every other workplace in the country gets.  So it’s me and my two business partners all holding hands up in the end saying ‘oh it’s good, it’s bad, it’s shit’ – hiding it and managing the messages that come out.  Whereas everyone else is ‘I’m in a bloody bad mood today, I’m just going to stomp around the office and shout at people’.  We don’t have that luxury.  It’s quite lonely.”  (Bus Services, 70 FTEs)
 
Call 10 : On the thrills and spills …
 
It’s about freedom – which is an illusion.  I never take a holiday, even when I go on holiday I’m always working.  But it’s the freedom to think ‘you know what, I am not beholden to someone else’ – I’m beholden to the client but I’m not beholden to someone above me, this mystical ‘the man’ or the owner or the shareholders.  I am the shareholder, I am the business and I can make my own decisions.  It’s the control issue that I like.  Control and freedom go very much hand in hand … The downside is when things go bad.  When things go bad you can’t blame anybody else because it’s ultimately you or your team and you selected in your team. And in small business it’s always huge ups and huge downs so it’s really about managing that emotional part … There’s always ups and downs but managing those downs is the hardest part of being a small business person.” (Entrepreneur – international business, 4 FTEs)
 
Next Month : HR Management in SMEs – one of the great pain-points

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