Approximately ten years ago, I had the bright idea to start a business. I was working as an emergency room nurse and I realized there was a genuine need for non-medical home care services such as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, minor home repairs, and transportation for medical appointments, especially for the elderly. My husband and I elicited the help of another couple we were friends with and endeavored to start up this service business we would call Helping Hands: a non-medical home care and transportation service.
We met several times to discuss the steps required by the state to start such a business and we made list after list of supplies, employee contracts, appropriate state licenses, background checks, insurance, etc. We decided on the roles everyone would be assigned to which was aligned with each personality and area of expertise. I would do the training of the personnel, my husband would perform the minor home repairs and provide the transportation, B. would be the business and office manager, and K. would interview and hire the employees, and everyone would recruit business clients. We drew up a business plan and applied for the business permit and all the licenses. We found a suitable office in which to locate the business. We were sure we had thought of every aspect needed to ensure success. Everyone was charged and excited to get started.
After everything fell apart a few months later and we terminated the business, we realized there were several things we had overlooked. Using the "post mortem" project review questions provided by Michael Greer (2010) in The Project Management Minimalist, it appears that inexperience in business management was our biggest downfall. That old idiom, "What you don’t know won't hurt you", is just w-r-o-n-g!
The most frustrating part of this project was hiring and keeping dependable employees. We had several people who interviewed well and seemed genuinely interested in the position, and then would just not show up one day. It was very demoralizing to think people could just let you down without so much as a "goodbye". The most gratifying part was being able to assist someone who had no other means of getting their groceries or getting to their doctor's appointment.
Another problem I identified was underestimating the amount of time and capital needed for starting such an endeavor. B. and I were trying to run the business and continue working our regular full time jobs to supply the capital as opposed to taking out a business loan. When we started having to fill in for employees who failed to show up, the business started taking its toll on everyone. When K. called one day to say B. was curled up in a fetal position crying because she couldn't be in a zillion places at once and felt like she was letting everyone down, we decided it wasn't worth the emotional stress on our friendship and shut the business down.
The business was a good concept and the service deliverables would have definitely filled a need. In hindsight, if we would have had more business experience, capital, and time, I think we could have built a profitable, viable business that fulfilled a social need in the community.
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.