By David O. Heishman –
Have you ever started a small business? Have you ever taken over a small business somebody else began and then stopped for whatever reason? Have you ever bought a small business thinking you could make a go of it, even do better than the person you bought it from?
I started one. Land surveying, 1974. Fresh recipient of an Associate Degree in Land Surveying from Glenville State College, I had best available preparation for technical side of a rewarding career. I had enough practical surveying experience to have some idea of what I was getting into. I had no everyday experience in running a business.
By far biggest load of problems I’d never put much thought into concerned labor. It’s tough to take measurements, set corners and mark lines without help. Many small jobs, both indoors and out called for labor besides my own.
With labor comes a whole pot full of problems. Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment, Social Security all took money beyond that paid directly for work, but just as important, calculation and reporting of these payments took time away from mapping, courthouse research etc. Worse, those payments had to be made before any money was spent for supplies, gasoline, or new equipment changing surveying standards required.
Very last item on the expenditures list was me. Though I faithfully paid minimum wage, usually more than minimum, to employees, I never paid myself a wage. Though I often borrowed from the bank to make payroll, I never borrowed a cent for myself. Today, I can honestly say that every full time employee I had while surveying, no matter how long they worked for me, was paid more money in wages than I ever paid myself. Best year I had in surveying, I had reportable income of $6,024, which was all I had left in my bank account at years end.