April 19, 2013

A City Education

I'm composing this blog while I'm on hold with the bank.  These things happen.

The first step to being in business for yourself is getting out of bed in the morning.  I say this because I know this is an area in which I am troubled.  I love my bed.  It's really, really comfortable.  I never want to GO to bed, until I'm in bed, and then I never want to get out of it.  I know I'm not alone in this.

Anyway, this morning was important because it was one of the FREE Small Business workshops that are offered by the City of Chicago for new businesses.  But it was early in the morning on top of a full string of early mornings and late nights this week.  I'm exhausted.  Not gonna lie.  I've already talked about how emotional I've been this week.  So all I wanted to do this morning was to roll over and hit snooze again.

But this little voice in my head sleepily chirped, "Dude, you're in business for yourself now and this is what being in business for yourself means. Get your ass out of bed and DO IT."  So I did.  But only after responding to a series of emails in bed.  Smart phones are good for something.

This morning's class was where everyone should start: The ABC's of Starting a Business in the City of Chicago.  Now - I already own my business.  We've been in operation for two and a half years.  But what we're doing now is only a fraction of what the business will hopefully grow to become, so I want to be as prepared as possible, especially when dealing with the City.

Armed with my extra-large Dunkin Donuts coffee and a banana, I found the welcome packet of information for the course and my certification check-in (after I have completed 9 of these business classes offered by the City, I get "Business Certified" with a pretty certificate and everything that I can hang on the wall - who knows what it will mean in the long run of things, but hey, it's cheaper than getting an MBA!).  I took my seat and waited for the class to start.

All in all, I'm really glad I went.  It was a really good overview - most things I already know, but some things that I didn't and definitely some avenues that I need to take away and brush up on.  But education is key.  One of the main things that I wrote down and circled from today is "DO THE RESEARCH".  You need to know everything there is to know about your own business and holding your cards close to your chest, thinking that you have all the answers to everything is not the right way to proceed in this game.  I have always been afraid that someone else will steal my ideas and run with them before I have a chance to get there, so I have kept a lot of secrets about my plans.  Well - the proverbial cat is now out of the bag, and so there shall be no more secrets.  I need to be able to talk to the full extent about my business and my plans.  I need to sell myself and my vision.  I am going to need education and help and networking to get me to my end goal and those people need to know about my dreams.  What I have to have confidence in is that no one else in this world is me.  And I am the one with this vision in my head.  I was the only one in that room today who was starting the kind of business that I will one day have...but there were three people there starting Thai food restaurants.  So if they can carry on knowing that their competition was sitting in the same room, then so can I.

After the session was over, I went down to the Office of the Registrar to clear up some other licensing issues with the Greenhouse.  Over the years, I have developed a few contacts at City Hall who absolutely make my life easier.  Sheryl is one of them.  She knows when she sees me exactly what I'm there for, and such was the case today.  She took my documents and emerged 15 minutes later with the news that the holds on our account had been cleared.  And then, when I mentioned that I was pleased that I could finally get our City Licenses which had expired on Monday mailed to me, she said "Well let me go get those for you right now!"  Another 10 minutes and I was good to go, documents in hand and a smile on my face.  While I was waiting, I posted my good news on Facebook and told Sheryl that I had given her a great shout-out.  She was tickled pink.  She even got a little misty-eyed.  Everyone that shows up in her office is there to complain.  Money makes people crazy, and most of the time she is dealing with people who are there to fight water bills or parking tickets or other issues in which they feel that the City has wronged them.  So I told her I wanted to write her supervisor a letter to sing her praises.  She jumped up and down and practically hugged me and then ran to get her information so I could mail her boss.  And then she turned around and said "Any questions you have, any permits you need with this new business, you know where to find me.  Come to me and I'll make sure the stuff you need gets to the people who need to see it."  Customer service win!

And as my partner said to me later: "Just proof that honey catches more flies than vinegar!"

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