When starting your own business, money is usually tight. I know; I’ve been there. And it is then that you will experience one of the biggest temptations: You will want to try to do everything yourself.

Paul Burri

Paul Burri

Even though you’re probably the expert at repairing cars or training dogs or painting houses, you will want to start your own bookkeeping system, do your own legal work (“let’s go to one of those do-it-yourself legal places”) and do all of the other tasks for which you’re totally unqualified — all to save some money.

You’ve heard the old expression, “The man who is his own attorney has a fool for a client.” It’s the same thing here. Will you get your accounting system set up correctly? Perhaps. Will you cross all the Ts and dot all the Is if you handle all of the legal work yourself? Probably not. Will it cost you more eventually because you didn’t get professional, experienced advice up-front? Almost certainly.

For many years when I had my own business, I declined to install new software in my computer. Whenever I did, it would take me several hours — hours I could have spent doing what I do best and making money at it — and then I would have to call my computer guy anyway. He would spend an hour and a half undoing what I had screwed up and then an hour installing it properly. That hour is what I would have paid him if I had called him in the first place.

I can almost guarantee that when you’re starting a business — and especially if it’s your first business — it’s a huge mistake to try to do it yourself. You will not save money by doing that; on the contrary, it will cost you more.

But later on, after you have more experience in those arcane areas of accounting, law, finance and negotiations with landlords, etc., you will be more qualified to try to handle them yourself. Not only that, but you’ll also know when you’re getting into deep water and need professional help. You’ll also be able to ask more intelligent questions about the situation.

“But,” you say, “I don’t have the money for all this professional help.” For one, that is part of the true cost of getting into business, and if you don’t have enough money for those critical areas, perhaps you’re not really ready to start a business.

There are other solutions to your problem. Government agencies such as SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and Small Business Development Centers offer free counseling in all the areas of starting and growing a business, including all those areas where you might be the weakest.

Take advantage of whatever agencies are available to fledgling businesses. Not doing so would be a mistake.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at pburri@west.net.