Starting a business is one of the most exciting and rewarding things a person can ever do.

For many, the idea of being your own boss and calling your own shots is simply irresistible. It certainly was for me back in 1993. I was one of the many victims of an upheaval in the technology sector. One day I was directing public relations for Egghead Software; the next I was unemployed. The entire communications department had been laid off, the victim of cost-cutting measures as the company drowned in a sea of red ink.

It was definitely a low point in my life. It also led to a fateful decision not to be victimized by a corporate rightsizing again. Like my father and his father before him, I was going to be my own boss, the master of my own destiny.

With boundless enthusiasm and not much else, I went into business a day or two after the pink slips were handed out. I did it the worst way anyone could too, putting everything on my personal credit card, running it up to its limit. I didn’t know a thing about what it took to start or run a business. I had no clients and no prospects. I didn’t even have any business cards.

The Small Business Administration estimates that roughly a third of all new businesses fail in the first two years, half within the first five years and two-thirds by the 10th year.

Given my example, you can see why. I could have easily become one of those statistics. But I really believed in my business and what I was doing. I believed in it for 20 years.

Some years were amazing. Others, not so much. I profess that my career here at Commerce is a nice change of pace. Paid vacations and a steady paycheck are something I was never able to achieve on a regular basis as a small business owner. Somewhere in my stacks of vacation photos, there’s a picture of me in Cancun, feet in the pool, an iBook on my lap, handling a last-minute deadline for a client three time zones away.

Many of the lessons learned during my two decades as a business owner ended up in The Small Business Playbook. My legendary business decisions – the good, the bad and the downright ugly – can now benefit other entrepreneurs and small business owners.

If only I had a crystal ball back in 1993. But then, I barely had internet. I can still hear the sound of my once high-tech 2400 baud modem negotiating a connection to AOL over my only phone line. And the thrill of hearing “You Got Mail” every time a prospective client wrote to me.

Thankfully, entrepreneurs don’t have to run their business so intuitively these days.

If you’re thinking about opening a business, Commerce’s SizeUp! can run endless scenarios for you before you even get a business license. Fill in some data points about your proposed business such as projected revenue, number of employees, payroll and location, etc., and SizeUp! will give you insights into your proposed business. It’s like having your very own crystal ball.

Run as many scenarios as you’d like. SizeUp! will adjust the results accordingly, showing you how you stack up locally, regionally, statewide and nationally. If you are looking for a deeper dive on a particular topic, there are plenty of links to choose from. You can even test different neighborhoods to find your ideal location or run a search to see who your potential competitors are.

Down the road, when your business is beginning to take off, SizeUp! can continue to help you refine your vision and make adjustments in your business plan. You can even scope our new locations or find suppliers.

Just remember, any planning tool is just that, a planning tool. You always want to do additional due diligence and doublecheck the data so you can make informed decisions about your business.

I only wish SizeUp! had been around when I was getting started. It would have saved me a lot of pain along the way. Truth be told, I ran the numbers on my company when we first added SizeUp! to the website. The analytics showed me that I should have never started the business in the first place, at least in the town I was living in at the time.

But we’ll save that “Should I start a business?” question for another time.

In the Emerald City, still an entrepreneur at heart,

  • Robb