Tom Denton: Things I wish I knew then… Part 1

When I first started making this list I had trouble narrowing it down. I am sure I have, therefore, missed some important points. Nonetheless, I hope the suggestions and ideas are useful, especially to those starting a new business or career. I know hindsight is a powerful thing but over the next few months I will share the main things I know now – that I wish I had known then.


Being self-employed in business is a three-in-one role. There are several roles actually, but for now the three main ones when running a small business are:

  1. Entrepreneur – the dreamer who thought of the idea in the first place, the generator of innovative ideas, and the one looking for new opportunities. The challenge is how does this part of your personality find time to work and how does it affect the ‘day job’?
  2. Manager – the person who is planning day-to-day activities, controlling workflow, ordering parts making sure the bills are paid, looking after the staff (even if it is just you) and managing and doing everything except fixing cars!
  3. Technician – the fixer and doer, the expert, the one who needs to book six or seven hours of chargeable work, every day…


Figure 1 Oil, the wheels of industry (Source: 3-in-one oil)

In the motor trade we tend to think that our skills as a technician are what is most important. Well, they are, but I wish I had known how much work was involved in the other two roles.

Working with a partner may, or may not, be one solution to this.


Starting your own business is exciting but can also be scary. All manner of things need to be considered. An important one is whether to start alone or with a partner.

Benefits of starting on your own:

  • You can follow your vision
  • Flexibility
  • More productivity

Disadvantages of starting on your own:

  • Financial risk
  • Time commitment

Benefits of starting with a partner:

  • Spreads the risks
  • Range of expertise
  • More hands to work
  • Holiday cover

Disadvantages of starting with a partner:

  • You are not the sole decision-maker
  • Your plans and vision may not align
  • Profit is split

I started in business on my own and then after a year or so, formed a partnership with two other people – with hindsight this was a wrong decision.

As mates they were fine but our visions for the future of the business were vastly different. In simple terms, they tended to aim low and I wanted to aim higher and get the better quality work. We split up after a few years.

Figure 2 Partnership or go it alone: (Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay)

Even as a one-person business, as I was when I first started (mobile auto-electrics and diagnostics), I didn’t really understand just how much work and thought was needed outside of the technician role – even simple things like calculating the hourly rate, which we will look at in the next article.

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