A new set of challenges
Mike Smart has worked for others for 25 years. During that time he has been retrenched once and two separate companies that he has worked for have gone into liquidation.
The second company liquidation, a manufacturing company in the building industry, happened at the end of last year.
Since then, Smart has fired off in a whole new direction. Earlier this year he bought into cost reduction consultants Expense Reduction Analysts and set himself up from a home base in Glenfield, on Auckland’s North Shore.
After going through the company’s specialist training programme, Smart landed his first contract in June this year after just 11 weeks in business.
Smart – who admits to being “quite a risk averse person” – says he sees his new role as a chance to take control of his life. He is enjoying the new set of challenges.
Like many small enterprises, these challenges include the delicate financial balancing act required between setting up shop and receiving a steady income and the need for self-discipline in a home office environment.
Smart says he had already set aside decent financial provisions and discussed the implications of his new job with his wife and two daughters before signing on the dotted line.
Self discipline boils down to ignoring distractions around the house, setting clear work goals and ‘just getting up in the morning and getting on with it’.
“In my last job I sometimes worked from about 7.00 or 7.30 in the morning until 7.00 or 8.00 pm,” he says. “So now it’s better. Running my own business has brought a better balance to my life and more flexibility.”
Smart’s previous work experience left him a strong legacy of work ethics, discipline, and an ability to work to deadlines and keep promises.
“Understanding how the corporate world works and how to deal with all the various stakeholders is also important,” he says, “as is understanding the unspoken or unwritten rules of business and financial discipline.”
From his new vantage point as a small business owner, Smart can see many flaws in big business behaviour. He is concerned at the opportunities big businesses miss through their inability to motivate or look after their people. “Really caring about staff and understanding their thinking and their lives helps create successful businesses,” he says.
He sees ways in which companies can make the workplace more fun and pleasant. “It needn’t cost lots of money,” he says. “I’m amazed at how many lunch rooms are unattractive or unmotivating. They could be much nicer for very little extra money.”
He also believes companies should consider ‘removing the fear’. “So many companies are run as though there is an axe over people’s heads.”
Smart also advocates more opportunities for self-improvement, more mentoring and honest feedback on a regular basis: “not just the once-a-year formal assessment process”.
Smart is blogging about his transition from employment to self-starter on


Advice on making the switch
Mike Smart:
• Don’t underestimate how much working capital you are going to need.
• Networking is the most important business tool. People are more inclined to work with people they already know and trust.
• Loneliness: don’t underestimate what it’s like to sit at home without work colleagues. Networking helps by getting you out.
• Dig into your inbuilt stores of self discipline: you need lots of it.
• Bear in mind you need to do all your own administration. “It took me a whole day to learn how to mail merge but now I can do it.”
• Also remember that as business picks up and you get busier, you will need to become more efficient, and have even better processes and systems for doing administrative tasks.



Publishing Information
Related Articles
This month’s interview: Jon Thom
Jon Thom and Chris Brun are friends who’ve built a substantial Dunedin-based design, screen...
Leaving it to the experts
Leaving it to the experts
Rising costs, new technologies and often confusing regulations mean managing company...
This month’s interview: Stephen Smith
The CEO of 1Above was the man behind the phenomenal marketing campaign...