Starting your own geospatial survey practice

For many survey and geospatial professionals, the early career pathway is similar. After completing tertiary education, they work in a survey business and over the next few years, they gain experience and perfect their craft.

While working as an employee in someone else’s business suits some people well, for others, the desire to be their own boss is compelling, and they wish to strike-out on their own and set-up their own survey practice.

Starting a business is a big step and often involves leaving the security of paid employment for a more uncertain financial future, but if you have a genuine passion for what you do and relish the idea of building something different or better, then running a successful business offers tremendous personal fulfilment and financial independence.

It is however not something that you should take lightly as the risks and challenges are significant. In this series, Position Partners will examine some of the key issues that face geospatial survey start-ups to create awareness around risks and increase the likelihood of success.

If you want to set-up your own business, make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Don’t start a business because you don’t like your boss, you want to work less or want a better work-life balance. Flexibility and financial security are the rewards that are available to business owners who have put in the hard-yards and successfully grown and scaled their businesses.

Do you have the DNA to run your own business? As a start-up, you will face challenges that may push you to your limits and you will require deep reserves of optimism, drive – an almost biological need to attain a goal – and resilience, the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and keep moving forward. It is much harder to meet start-up challenges when the money isn’t pouring in.

Running your own business is extremely time-consuming and clients don’t care about your vacations plans or children’s birthdays. You have to be ready to do what your clients want when they want it.

While you may have the DNA to run your own business, you’ll also need resources. These resources include your technical skills, your experience and your business and support networks, but they also include equipment and working capital. Your ability to do the job is non-negotiable and is a minimum expectation of clients and being technically and operationally proficient is a great starting point.

When thinking about equipment, your choices can have a profound impact on your uptime and productivity, and your service bandwidth. Your equipment and support partner is critical not only to ensure that you have the technical capability and workflow efficiencies to optimise utilisation and connectability, but also as a valuable source of business support and advice for total cost of ownership, maintenance, insurance and finance.

Amongst the business skills you will need, the most important is management of working capital. While there is an accounting definition of working capital, think of it simply as the cash available to fund day-to-day operations. Most businesses fail because they run-out of cash. It is essential to understand how much cash you require to start the business and stay in business, and that you have enough funds to cover all costs until sales can eventually pay for these costs.

Another core skill is business development. If you can successfully establish and scale a business, you will create a valuable asset, and just like any asset, it can be sold. Every business owner deserves his or her payday, and the value of your asset is principally determined by risk-adjusted cash flow. Irrespective of whether you intend to or not, it is often said that ‘you should always run a business as if you intend to sell it’ as it provides a useful compass for decision making and strategy.

Despite these challenges, many start-ups survive, scale and thrive, and are the source of tremendous pride and satisfaction to their owners. The Position Partners team includes many people that have successfully transitioned from employee to business owner, and we look forward to sharing their experiences in the upcoming series and helping to pave the way for the next generation of geospatial survey start-ups.

If you wish to discuss any of the subjects raised in this series or need more information about how Position Partners can support your start-up journey, please call your local geospatial expert on 1300 867 266.

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