Q: I had a perfect idea for a friend and I to start a business together. We are both very organized, methodical, research-oriented and energetic. We went to local colleges and are not using our degrees for anything special. When we talk about college, we agree it seemed like a waste of time and money. We both have regular office jobs.
I have heard local people talk about clearing out things (not junk, but not super expensive items either), but they are afraid of selling through online companies because of scammers. My idea is for us to help people sell everything they want out of their homes — like estate sales managers, but their homes are not estates. I am good at researching prices for used items, and I know people who have had bad experiences selling online with people buying and complaining about the item, and then demanding refunds. The companies seem to always back the purchasers.
This is completely avoidable through in-person sales. The trouble is that my friend is afraid to commit to starting this as a business. I think we live in a perfect area for this to be a success. I don't know what she is afraid of, but I don't want to do this alone. How do I convince her to try it?
A: The art of persuasion is a useful talent and skill, but your friend may not have the same dreams and goals as you, so your effort may be futile. Start with what you have in common: that neither of you feel your degrees helped you with your future. Your business idea does not have to start with a written commitment and a list of rigid rules. Create attractive and informative flyers about conducting house and garage sales. Charge a small fee in the beginning. After all, you are just getting started and you will soon see if it ends up being worth your time. Don't ask your friend for a time commitment. Try out your idea as a weekend gig — starting early Saturday to dinnertime and from noon on Sunday. This will show respect for all churchgoers. Also, a short time period will capture the audience that is truly interested.
Since you and your friend are organized types, ask the homeowners (or renters) for the Friday after work to label and price items. Since you are targeting local people, post "for sale" signs covering neighboring areas. Professionally worded signs will convey to people this is not a junk sale with items are under $1. Of course, you can always have a few "junk" boxes for such items; just keep them separate from the better things.
Instead of presenting the idea as a business to your friend, sell her on trying something new that might or might not be a lot of work, but will also give you two the opportunity to meet people in the area. Let the event flow naturally and be open to the various directions it could take. Your friend may not want to feel trapped into estate sales as a business, and she may be afraid of disappointing you if she does not enjoy it enough to participate a second time. Let her feel it is her choice. No guilt or begging about how you cannot do it alone.
You may have an image in your mind of becoming estate sales managers, but you can convince your friend to help under the guise that it will be fun and a different way to spend the weekend. If you present yourselves as professionals regardless of the items for sale, you might appeal to homeowners who are willing to try your services. The first time will be a dry run so you and your friend can see what works and whether you want to repeat it.
If you discover you love this kind of work, with or without your friend as a partner, people might ask you to organize their rooms at home even though they do not intend on selling anything. Think ahead about what fee you would charge for home organization without a sale. You never know what can develop when you remain open to the possibilities. If your friend chooses not to be involved, you can ask her for help on a per-diem basis. If the plan takes off and turns into a formal business, you will be proud you did it on your own.
Email career and life coach: [email protected] with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see https://www.creators.com/features/at-work-lindsey-novak.
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