#185 Small Business Issues

A small business is defined by the amount of “receipts” a year the business does and by the number of employees the business has. By these definitions all but the largest engineering firms in archaeology are small businesses. That being said, I’m truly running a small business. Not just one that’s small on paper.

Here are some of the lessons I learned last week and some of the things I had to deal with. I’m not complaining or making excuses, in case anyone thought I was. What I’m doing is just documenting my process so others can learn from my mistakes and successes.

Car Rentals

Unless you own a truck already then you’re likely going to have to rent one. That’s not as bad as it sounds since the cost of the rental is included in the contract so the client is paying for it. From what I’ve seen companies charge the client similar daily rates for vehicles they own and that are paid for. My philosophy is that if the client is paying for it, whether it's owned or rented, why should I worry about upkeep and maintenance? Might as well just let the rental company pay for the upkeep and I can take out a new vehicle every time. That ensures that your client is not going to be paying for your crew to stand around while you try to fix your 20 yo truck that you got a "really good deal" on. Sounds like a good plan to me. 

Four Wheel Drive

When getting a rental, make sure you are very specific as to what kind of vehicle you need. If it’s a pedestrian survey off a busy highway you might only need a sedan or an SUV. Save your money and get a fuel efficient car. Most of the time in the West we need 4WD vehicles because we’re always driving on back country gravel roads. I always turn on the 4WD when I’m on a gravel road because I feel the vehicle is more responsive and more stable with it turned on. Some people don’t do that because they feel that if they get stuck while the 4WD is on then they have nothing to turn on to get out of it. I feel that if you’re a good driver you won’t get stuck. Well, you're less likely to get stuck. I never have and I’ve driven thousands of miles of sketchy roads.

On my last project I asked for a 4WD vehicle just in case we needed it. The company asked if I’d take an SUV. I told them, sure, as long as it has 4WD. When I got there they had a Jeep Patriot waiting for me. It was a 2014 with 1,400 miles on it. Pretty nice. Well, the vehicle was not a 4WD. I was in a hurry, though, and I didn’t check. It almost got us in trouble on a couple of steep hills. Luckily, I know how to drive and we made it up. It was touch and go for a while, though.


Yeah. Reports. As a “small business” I’m responsible for the report template, the report content, the background information, the research design, NRHP recommendations, the management summary, the recommendations, the references cited, the graphics, and the printing. So, everything. I don’t mind, for sure, I just have to plan for that. If I get a couple projects in a row it can quickly get out of hand and I won’t have time to finish. Time management is very important.


So far I haven’t had to use a GIS consultant. I have access to at least 40 companies and people that just do GIS. Since I’ve only had small projects, though, I’ve tried to do the GIS myself. It’s only bit me in the ass once. The Lit Search project I did had way more GIS than I’d planned. Most of the time for that project was taken up creating maps. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get a map saved in QGIS and when I had to change one little thing I had to go back and recreate the entire map. It would have helped if I’d not made the mistakes in the first place, obviously, and if I’d learned how to save a completed map within the program.

An Army of One

What I’m getting at here is that I’m currently doing everything myself. In a way it’s very liberating. I have no bosses and no one to be responsible to except myself. That’s an amazing feeling. It’s also incredible terrifying. I have no one to help me and no one to bounce ideas off of. Well, that’s not true. Linked In has proven very helpful for asking questions. 

I’m not above asking questions either. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know everything, despite what my over confident demeanor might suggest. In the words of the douche bag real estate agent in the movie American Beauty, “In order to be successful, one must project an image of success”. True story. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions from people that are willing to answer them.

Tell me about your small business mistakes and successes. We can all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#76 What have we learned?

Well, it's the end of 2011 and I'd like to go over what I've learned.

I learned that some people in CRM are so afraid of change and evolution that they will get violently mad at those that propose change or have moderate to radical ideas.

I learned that some companies have too rigid confidentiality policies to the point where you can't even tweet the property you are working on.  Why are they so afraid of an employee saying they are working for their client?  They do know that this has been going on in local bars for decades right?  Blinders.

I learned that some people in CRM don't understand what a blog or a twitter account really is or means.  They don't understand the medium and are therefore afraid of it.

I learned that if there is a god he/she/it indiscriminately takes the life of whomever they please with no rhyme or reason to it.  A plan?  Really?  Prove it.

I learned that Reno citizens could apparently care less that there are atheists among them.  There was absolutely no reaction to atheist billboards that went up in two locations this fall.

I learned that atheists can be generous, caring, selfless, people without having a reason for it or a basis for it other than a desire to help a fellow human being.

I learned that there are many people out on the interwebs that are tirelessly blogging and tweeting the world around us.  I'd never really experienced blogging before the Society of American Archaeologists Meetings in Sacramento, CA last April.  My good friend Deanna pointed out a well known blogger and I was ashamed that I had never heard of him.  I went that night and started a Google reader account.  I now follow about 40 blogs regularly.  During that conference I started my blog and opened a Twitter account.  It was really a career and life changing experience.  I just can't stop having the desire to tell the public about the science and field that I love.  Sometimes I just don't understand why some people don't love it as much as I do.  Amazing.  What are they doing with their lives?

I learned that starting each sentance with the same two words is a fun way to grab a person's attention and get them to read to the end of the post.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Here is what you can learn in 2012:  Research the Mayan calendar craziness on your own.  Educate yourself.  Find out about the presidential candidates on your own.  Don't rely solely on major news outlets.  They have their own agendas.  Learn something new every week, if not every day.  I'm joining some atheist friends in a 365 day plan to read the bible cover-to-cover this year.  I've never done it before and I think it's essential for good atheists to know what they are up against.  Do good things, not because you are told to or because you think it will favor you among the gods, but because it is the right thing to do.  Do good things because our fellow humans need people to do good things for them.  Don't expect payment or some sort of good thing in return.  Just do it.

That's it for this year.  See you on the flip side.

Cogito Tute - Think for yourself