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Entrepreneur shares his first-year experience
By Jim Kendall | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/19/2010 12:01 AM

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A year ago, Mike Kukovec thought, "I'm a great engineer. My business will succeed." Then he took the entrepreneurial plunge.

Today, Kukovec knows there's more to building a business than just his own skills.

By many measures, Kukovec's year-old E3 Design Solutions Inc., a facility systems engineering firm in Hampshire, has found start-up success.

"I had hoped to have five separate clients and 20 different projects," Kukovec says. "I've accomplished that.

"I also had hoped that after a year the company would start making money. We're just starting to do that."

After I wrote about Kukovec and the start-a-business-or-find-a-job decision he was facing last summer, more than a dozen readers responded with e-mails offering advice. Now Kukovec is taking a turn, sharing his first year experiences so others facing a similar decision might benefit.

The comments that follow are paraphrased, but they are all Kukovec.

• Success is the ability to manage your business - and yourself. I'm the network administrator. Custodian. I have to go out and find work. Do the work. Set up schedules. Follow-up with invoices and payables.

• To be a great engineering business, everything needs to be well thought out. Marketing. Standards and procedures. Routine.

• I thought I would get into the habit of sending invoices at the end of each month and going to the bank. Wow! I have to track multiple projects that have multiple time frames, each with its own twist of hours, or rates, or hourly not to exceed a certain amount, or lump sum payments, or partial payments.

I might not get paid until after the project is built.

• Word-of-mouth helps. I contact people I've known in the past.

• We design things (electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems) for buildings that get built, but not much is getting built. So I think I've found a niche in helping make existing systems operate more efficiently.

• A wise old sage told me I should get an attorney and an accountant. I wish I had taken that advice sooner.

• Sometimes it gets lonely. There's no one to talk to, no water cooler to meet around.

• Comes right down to it, I'm the guy who has to get things done. We took the kids to Great America, which was great. But that was a day phone calls didn't get made, so I had to make 20 calls the next day instead of 10.

If I don't make calls this week, there's no work in four weeks.

• I'm not looking for riches and fame. I want to follow my own idea of how my type of engineering should be performed. The best part is the ability to make the decisions that feel right. It's a wonderful freedom.

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