It’s Saturday, so it must be Freelance Chat day! Today we’re hearing from Mike Doherty from Understanding eCommerce. Mike’s from San Francisco and came across me talking about this series of interviews on Twitter. Although we’re not talking about face-to-face networking here, look at how many people Mike’s helped in his home town … but how he’s reached out over social networking to be featured here. This one’s also interesting in that Mike moved from being a business consultant to being in business for himself – so it’s interesting to see what he learned in the process. He’s also been going for a bit longer than some of us, so can give a longer-term perspective, and what’s particularly interesting to me, as I keep expanding the range of services I offer, is to see that his business has changed over the years, but remained viable, and that he’s constantly moving to embrace new technologies and trends in his business area.
So, let’s say hello to Mike and see what happened when his employer went bankrupt and he was out on his own …
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Understanding eCommerce – started in 2003.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
My publicly held employer filed bankruptcy.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I believed I could do it better, faster, etc. By being the decision maker, implementer and chief bottle washer, I knew I’d be in direct contact with my clients, responding to their needs. Small businesses can’t normally compete on pricing, so we compete on service.
Had you run your own business before?
Worse, I had been a business consultant telling people the “right” way to run their business.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
Jumped in the deep end and learned to swim. Full-time from day one.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
You need to understand two things to succeed – how you are different from all the other folks out there and how that translates into a value proposition for your clients.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Write the business plan, develop an action plan and work through it.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
It took me a while to find a focus, I wish I knew then what I know now, but I can’t imagine I would have gotten here any other way.
What are you glad you did?
I can’t recall how many start up entrepreneurs we’ve helped along the way. I can drive down the street and say we helped them, and them and them. That’s a pretty cool feeling.
What’s your top business tip?
Understand the numbers. What is breakeven for the company, for a new hire or for this project?
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
Grown, shrunk, grown, changed direction, and still standing!
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I imagine we will be doing more social and mobile ecommerce solutions. Folks will be buying off of Facebook instead of dedicated sites.
Thank you for being my first international interviewee, Mike!
Mike didn’t provide any further updates after this first interview. As far as I know the website is still live as of September 2013.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.