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Building A Business From Scratch
By Jeff White
Richard English sits in Command Central at RAE Enterprises, handling a phone conversation with a solicitor. Mornings are typically quiet here, usually with only a few telephone calls that interrupt schedule making and e-mailing. Mr English, wearing an olive green tie that lies darkly over a khaki shirt, reclines in his chair and crosses his legs, revealing a pair of tan suede slippers.
The slippers are not unusual in that Command Central in this case is located down the stairs from the kitchen of his Curry Drive home.
Mr English launched his bold, and thus far successful, RAE Enterprises back at the beginning of January, after years of what he calls the “daily commute.” “The time was right for me to do something I’ve always wanted to do: own my own business,” he explains. “I traded in a 50-mile commute for walking down the stairs.”
Everything he needs to run a business is here at the bottom of those stairs, in his basement. Two desks are covered with a desktop and a laptop computer, fax machine, two separate phone lines and aÂ laser printer. “I can do sitting here anything that needs to be done in business,” he says proudly of a work system into which he put much thought.
His surroundings help him to remain organized and efficient, Mr English explains, both necessities in running his three-pronged business.
RAE Enterprises comprises everything from catalogue shopping to corporate consultation and writing and design services. Although his business focuses on three broad service areas, since January Mr English has focused much of his attention into establishing RAE Enterprises’ Business Development Service.
Groundwork for this service has been laid over the past year. Mr English’s company focuses on both full-time and part-time small business development, with an emphasis on product brokerage and developing lines of distribution. He offers a wide range of products, from cosmetics to coffee, which are tailored to meet the needs of other small businesses via the “Mall without Walls.”
Â “[The business development service] allows me to develop a broad customer base on a variety of products that answer the needs of people.
“My business development service has assisted people to start their business,” Mr English adds. “Some of these individuals are already owners of their own professional business and have utilized my service to create a supplemental business opportunity.”
In addition to helping other small businesses grow and develop, RAE Enterprises is currently establishing two other principal services: consulting and promotional design.
Mr English’s consulting services are “up and running, on a small scale,” though he is looking to focus on them more as business allows. “I’m marketing myself as a consultant around areas of my expertise,” he says. RAE Enterprises targets project management, conference and event management, and educational program design and analysis.
The youngest aspect of Mr English’s business is promotional design, and he is currently looking into ways to offer a full range of writing and design services, including newsletters, brochures and other business promotional items. Looking to the future, he hopes this service can be offered on a full-time scale by next year.
A large poster board, balanced on an easel in Mr English’s office, maps out exactly what RAE Enterprises offers, which is to say a little bit of everything. That the former educational administrator has made all the seemingly unrelated services his company offers flow fluidly not only says a lot about Mr English, but about the rigors and challenges of running one’s own business.
Yet there was never a question whether or not this was something he wanted to do. For Mr English, once it looked logically feasible, the decision to enter into business for himself was as easy as getting out of bed.
Richard English refers to January 1 as the day he “took the plunge.”
And since then, a typical day for him has started at 5:30 am. He usually flips the light switch to his basement office around 7 am and tends to some e-mail and his daily planner. He might go out and run a few errands around town, but he is back at his computer mid-morning to refer to and adjust his calendar. He usually has between one and two appointments with potential clients, one follow-up meeting with a potential client and about two hours on the phone with clients and potential clients. The gaps in his day between business calls and appointments are filled with organizational tasks.
“You set your own calendar and you have to be disciplined,” he says of his daily routine. “You start the day and end the day thinking of ‘To Do’ lists and calendars. You want to do the most effective thing you can do [at a given] moment.”
During most of these moments in his day, Mr English is thinking about how to make more contacts and how to bring in more business for RAE Enterprises. Solutions usually present themselves in extensive advertising in local newspapers. But the media offers more than just a forum for his advertisements; Mr English will often take note of town events and meetings where potential clients might be found, and simply show up.
If you are organized and disciplined, Mr English will tell you, then the choice to start your business is not as daunting as it sounds. Success is relatively easy to realize “if you make the decision based on logic, do a little homework and commit fully.”
Of course, Mr English, like other home business owners, has a few additional measures of success, namely the increased time he spends with his family. Not only was the support of his wife, Jan, and their children instrumental in his decision to start RAE Enterprises, but the increased time he gets to spend with his sons is one of the reasons he knows he made the right decision.
It is a balancing act, though one easily controlled by manipulating his schedule around school activities and the twins’ haircuts. He just needs to be that much more organized, he says.
“Absolutely” is the response he gives when asked if he has made the right decision. RAE Enterprises is developing apace, his products and services have been well received, and he can take his sons to school on particularly bone-numbing mornings.
“If someone is of the ilk to take charge of their life, I can’t think of a better choice than to [start] a business,” he says.
“Something happens every day that makes me realize that yes, this was the right choiceâ€¦” his last word hangs like the 20 or so sports caps above his desk, “â€¦for me.”Â