Editor’s Notebook: Reporting can be a tough job, but starting business is harder

Building a small business can be an educational experience.

After covering Colorado industry for much of the past decade, I’ve written about hundreds of companies, large and small, and thought I’d a pretty good grasp of the forces that make business work or not work.

Little did I know.

It wasn’t until my partners and I prepared to launch The Northern Colorado Business Report that I began to comprehend how little my reporting had prepared me for the business world.

I studied in earnest, of course, buying a variety of business-startup books and magazines. And I began to pay more attention to those tales of entrepreneurial success or failure that appeared in the business press.

Throughout that process, I became more and more inspired to try my hand at launching a business newspaper, one that my wife, partners and I could call our own.

This entire endeavor began more than two years ago, when my wife and I became intrigued with Northern Colorado, believing it would be a good place to work and raise our family. We embarked on that path in earnest a year ago, when we approached potential investors to launch this newspaper.

We scored with the first group that we approached, the owners of The Boulder County Business Report, where we both had worked in years past. That newspaper proved the perfect partner, given its 14 years’ experience and financial acumen of one of its owners, Jirka Rysavy.

Next I approached Jeff Nuttall, formerly the top sales guy at The Denver Business Journal. Jeff attended some meetings – my refrigerator had to remain well-stocked with a variety of microbrews for months – before signing on.

Then came our first lesson. No matter how much each of us wanted to publish our first issue as soon as possible – January 1995 was our original target date – negotiating the partnership agreement took far longer than we expected. Jirka was occasionally out of town or out of the country. In fact, everyone had such busy schedules that a month or even two went by between each meeting.

Finally, we decided to move forward, and I gave notice at The Denver Business Journal. Within a day, I’d learned of two potential competitors.

Undeterred, we decided to proceed. This venture had been on the drawing board for so long, and I’d already given notice, after all. Jeff, too, had pulled the reins on a marketing company that he had started after leaving the Business Journal.

In short, everything was on the line. Jeff and I were uprooting our families, quitting our jobs and gambling that we could make this venture work. And we were and remain confident that we can produce the region’s premier business newspaper.

We began with the essentials: office space, for one. We hooked up with Steve Stansfield at Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. and soon found space at OneWest Art Center in Old Town Fort Collins. That done, we borrowed a table and folding chairs from our landlord and began interviewing prospective employees.

We hired an office manager, art director, staff reporter and sales people. We negotiated contracts for printing, distribution and mailing. We brought in temporary workers to help build our database of businesses. I interviewed for a dozen freelance writing slots and for photographers. We signed a lease for some top-of-the-line computer equipment. And we began the long process of designing the newspaper.

And we hunted for bargains. We bartered for furniture. Our landlord gave us desks and bookshelves. We bought some dividers for a pittance. And we’re still sitting on folding chairs (although that soon might change).

Fortunately, I’d purchased a small pickup truck just before coming up here, so we had a way to move the stuff. And yes, Jeff and I moved much of it ourselves.

Jeff and I also began the process of introducing ourselves to Northern Colorado’s business leaders. On some days, we met five or six people back to back. That community outreach will continue for as long as we own this newspaper.

Some mistakes were made. Our first phone-bill came in at $2,500, prompting us to quickly reevaluate our operations. We pulled back from some renovations at our office in an attempt to save cash. We knew we’d put in a lot of hours, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the 60- to 70-hour weeks that I endured leading up to our first deadline. It gave me even greater respect for the millions of people who launch startups every year.

Building a business is hard work. I never knew how hard.

But through it all, one element has remained constant: We’re having the time of our lives.

Building a small business can be an educational experience.

After covering Colorado industry for much of the past decade, I’ve written about hundreds of companies, large and small, and thought I’d a pretty good grasp of the forces that make business work or not work.

Little did I know.

It wasn’t until my partners and I prepared to launch The Northern Colorado Business Report that I began to comprehend how little my reporting had prepared me for the business world.

I studied in earnest, of course, buying a variety of business-startup books and magazines. And I began to pay more attention to those tales of entrepreneurial success or failure that appeared in the business press.

Throughout that process, I became more and more inspired to try my hand at launching a business newspaper, one that my wife, partners and I could call our own.

This entire endeavor began more than two years ago, when my wife and I became intrigued with Northern Colorado, believing it would be a good place to work and raise our family. We embarked on that path in earnest a year ago, when we approached potential investors to launch this newspaper.

We scored with the first group that we approached, the owners of The Boulder County Business Report, where we both had worked in years past. That newspaper proved the perfect partner, given its 14 years’ experience and financial acumen of one of its owners, Jirka Rysavy.

Next I approached Jeff Nuttall, formerly the top sales guy at The Denver Business Journal. Jeff attended…