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Solo Business??  

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holy cow
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Had about one and two-thirds helpers for several years.  Now I have about one-quarter helpers.  The net income at the end of the year is bigger now.

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lanceboyle93101
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Testimonial: 2010- bottom of the recession/depression. For reasons too lengthy for this thread I was fired on a Friday. Employer contested unemployment application. Fortunately, owned a TS, minimal field tools, software and plotter. Registered the business and hit the streets Monday.

After 5 yrs as survey mgr. at aforesaid employer, had a few connections and a network. Was a little too dense to be worried. Took off an dropped in.  Did not go pure solo. Tried for a couple surveys but the bush is unforgiving. Hired a helper within a week. Since then have added others. Biggest learning curve is running a business:  accounting, (use a payroll service!), wearing many hats (IT to janitorial), marketing, taxes, finding and retaining a good crew. 

OpaeWaterfall sea (1)5mb

 

10 yrs later, no regrets. So busy, I rarely have time to check RPLS.com

If your shy and not able, or comfortable, to sell yourself, maybe stay at the firm. Other hand, going out solo you may find a confidence you never knew you had.

 

 

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RADU
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 RADU
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Well I am about to pull the pin, having being solo principle of my surveying practice for 41.5 years and since around 1998 a genuine solo surveyor, in an era where technology in my opinion changed surveying for ever. That said I did engage licensed surveyors as I grew in the early years.

Three departed and each started their own opposition survey practises and another  became the second longest serving Surveyor General  in SA. In the early 1980’s gave a share in my growing practice to a then employed LS and an experienced drafter/planner/ property survey searcher who had been earlier a partner in an established survey practise They then voted me out of the company when I wanted to take 12 months leave to carry out my own residential development. I relate this as it will add to your quandary, should you wish to grow.  However being truly a solo operator is not pretty at the end of a hot long day, especially if you would sneak exhausted into the cabin while the assistant put the gear away. Starting up you need to be in a financial position to be able to survive the period from starting, getting surveying job, completing the job, invoicing and then getting paid acquire appropriate insurances, if possible acquiring brand new technology, at a very minimum of a total station with a remote set up, with same proprietors ancillary equipment with a computation/ cad surveying package (purchase or lease). Then if starting out  and not proficient in solo surveying or drafting be prepared to hire part timers available to be your field assistant and or drafter. If proposing a cadastral practise it will soon becomes inefficient to spend time manually searching property surveying records. Noting experienced , proficient surveying drafters and searchers are like hens teeth to find. Also possibly investigate the option of setting up your practice with the same equipment that your current employer uses, so that you minimise your learning curve and also code and cad table preparation

Being a single operator is not every one’s piece of cake as nothing gets done with out your  enthusiastic input. We are all eager to try, but statistically most small businesses fall flat on their face and fail for a multitude of reasons within 3 years. One important factor is either start small and if possible  share the risk with a like minded partner. Without paying rent to a landlord and having full time office staff, instead working from home.  Suggest that you first up seek out professionals, eg. small business solicitor and an accountant to establish your state’s taxation and business requirements. As I was relatively young I sought out similar aged professionals that had not established contact with a licensed surveying practice  as potentially become a surveying recommendation source for their clients. Then when you grow with experience and or work load,  take the professional plunge open an office in an appropriate location.

Having said that opting to stay small  in my surveying practise was hectic because I served value adding clients who understood time equated to money lost which then  exceeded any  fee  difference and also they talked directly with the experienced owner LS, sadly those successful clients have now  retired or fallen off their  perch. 

Being a single operator is not every one’s piece of cake as nothing gets done with out your consciousness, enthusiastic input. We are all eager to try, but statistically most small businesses fall flat on their face and fail for a multitude of reasons. One important factor is either start small and if possible  share the risk with a like minded partner. Without paying rent to a landlord  and having full time office staff, instead working from home.  Suggest that you first up seek out professionals, eg. small business solicitor and an accountant to establish your state’s taxation and business requirements. As I was relatively young I sought out similar aged professionals that had not established contact with a licensed surveying practice  as potentially a surveying recommendation source for their clients. When you grow with experience and or work load,  take the professional plunge open an office in an appropriate location.

Having said that opting to stay small  in my surveying practise was hectic because I served value adding clients who understood time equated to money lost which then  exceeded any  fee  difference and also they talked directly with the experienced owner LS, sadly those successful clients have now  retired or fallen off their  perch. 

As we approach the roaring twenties again , the Can-Can turns 100 and the small client today often finds their development  approval requires the services  of a LS. Usually unexpected and theretofore  not budgeted. Resulting in desperately searching for the lowest fee, while seeking a Rolls-Royce survey for the price of a Mini Minor  with no realistic idea of what is involved as they too can read a ruler and some even used a protector. Resulting today in those desperate for work aiding and abetting their  own demise seeking fees  that I charged last century.

If starting out today I would advocate considering starting big , seeking to become a partner in an established firm of surveyors or form a new surveying firm from scratch, with a minimum of 4 partners as you can not afford to have costly equipment, like Total Station, GPS, Scanner and Aerial data gathering   with their associated software  (all with steep learning curves)  sitting idle in the cupboard.

The choice is yours alone. Be able to chase those large surveying projects or settle for small projects with clients only interested in price, not your experienced and professional expertise.

RADU

 
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6 Replies
Skeeter1996
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@radu

Fortunately I won the Lottery. I plan on running my own surveying  business until all those winnings are gone. Then maybe I'll go into farming.

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Adam
 Adam
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@skeeter1996

I will let you in on a way to get a million dollars farming.......

 

Start with 2 million!

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oldpacer
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@radu

How were tricked into believing our clients are only interested in price, not our experience and professional expertise? On the internet I bet.

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Norman Oklahoma
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@oldpacer

A certain type of client is interested in price only. The type that orders a survey once in a lifetime, such a property owner. Those that are regular users of survey services, such as developers, contractors, etc. generally understand that while price is important, it isn't everything. In some times and places they can get pressured by their own clients, those of the first type, to accept the lowest bidder.    

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A Harris
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@norman-oklahoma

There is another type of client that is long established and has the need of many surveys and have a set price they do not exceed that few surveyors can profit from.

Usually a realtor that sticks their nose into every move the bank, title company, inspectors and surveyor makes so they can be called doing their job. Mostly unnecessarily interfering and not helping.

All the while their 6% check never comes soon enough for a proper survey to be made on the ground.

Either that or another third party or some coached client that has been told their survey should not cost over  $500.

Sorry Mr Bottomliner, I have have clients lined up that have no problem with my current fee and I am not stepping back in time 30yr to do your survey and not make any profit.

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holy cow
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@a-harris

Those middlemen can be a glorious pain in the rear.  Not all middlemen, just those that attempt to be in charge of everything when their true responsibility is minor.  I've heard those complaints many times. "But, my banker/realtor/title guy/appraiser/building inspector told me I could get a survey for about $150."

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WarrenWard
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I went solo 2003. Not one employee has announced "if you want me to do better, pay me more" since. No regrets. Just need to learn to take time off. When they rip the rod out of my stiff dead fingers, that will by my retirement.

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A Harris
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@warrenward

A

On rainy morning in 1975 at the morning meeting a hand was asked why he was not living up to what he had told our boss he was able to do. He immediately said that it he and his buddy were paid more they would do more.

Both were fired on the spot and told to get off the site asap, like now and on a run.

Boss said that if we needed a raise it was open to discussion and we all needed more because of the times and he come up with some for everyone.

Then he finished with saying that if we ever tried to slack and balk at work that we would get the same sendoff those two got.

I have never worked at any place that when people went on strike that the boss caved into their demands. The boss would promote from who was not striking, give them that job and pay scale and hire replacements.

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Norman Oklahoma
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@a-harris

The unemployment rate in 1975 was much higher (2-3x higher) than it is now. That made it much easier for a boss to apply the hammer.  I would probably show such malingerers the door today as well, but I don't think I would be quite as sharp with the remaining staff.   

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holy cow
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RADU makes many valid points.  YOU are the starter, the finisher, the hero, the idiot, the jerk, the business manger, the toilet paper changer, the file manager, the IT expert,...........................................................................

Many days at least one of those titles sucks.  It's just not in you on that day.  You want to do one of the other things.........and........no one is stopping you, but you.  Self-discipline is critical.  When the client becomes obnoxious YOU are the one who still has to deal with him or not pay this month's electric bill.

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