Monday, August 04, 2014

Seal Entrepreneur Series - Part 3 Pick your Shelter Wisely to Survive

In survival training, being able to find or create a shelter is essential to ward off various dangers – inclement weather and wild animals to name a few.

Surviving in business requires "shelter" as well, but the needs for a viable business are changing.  

Recently there was an article written about a company that I have a management contract with to handle all of their escalated customer service.  As such, my business address was reflected as the address for the company on the Better Business Bureau.  An enterprising commenter on the article decided to go to Google Street View and "expose" to the world that my office was supposedly in the strip mall that he showed in the picture, which obviously meant that we weren't a "real" company.  Like many entrepreneurs (and especially seal entrepreneurs), I work from home, but elect to have my business address as a Suite number in a UPS store.  No crime or deep expose possible out of that.  

For years, you were only a valid business if you had a proper office, with a receptionist and all the appropriate departments visible to all who visit you.   Your website had a picture of your office building and if you had really "made it", the company signage outside.  Your office and the attendant infrastructure were your “shelter”.  But that shelter came with a cost – known as overhead.  

Today’s “seal entrepreneur” (read part 2 of this series if you don’t know what that is) has likely had an office and a full complement of staff, perhaps even in multiple locations around the country or around the world.  But today, business survival doesn’t look like that anymore. 

If you take a tour of my company, we would likely do it virtually from my “office” at the local Starbucks or perhaps the Panera Bread nearest your “office”.  Neither of us has to say that we “office” in our family room or in a spare bedroom.  I would introduce you to my call center, which may be a group of scrappy entrepreneurs in New Orleans leveraging post-Katrina tax credits or an innovative group in Jamaica.  It may even be business women that have shifted their focus to being there for their kids, working at home, but committing to being a virtual call center or a chat agent 5 hours a day.  

As we tour my hosting center so you can see the security of our IT environment, I’d be walking you through an online tour of Rackspace, a company that specializes in cloud based hosting and computing.  And you want to see my accounting department?  That is an individual that I have known for a decade that works out of her home and does our bookkeeping and reporting two days per month. 

If you are building a new business and are looking for Class A office space and trying to raise money to hire and fill out your entire organization chart on day one, time to rethink your “shelter” model.  

There is a time and a place to have dedicated office space and to take key functions in-house.  But this is 2014 and the world is different and it is in fact flat.  You don’t have to take on the cost base of a mature company to actually become one. 

Seal entrepreneurs are versatile and they are innovative.  They don’t spend money until they have it.  

This is the kind of entrepreneur that should be a magnet for investors.   

Hey, that is a great metaphor.  I am a seal entrepreneur and I AM a money magnet.  

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