NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Peter Poremski squinted at the street outside his store, offering his philosophy of what it takes to be an independent businessman.
"You've got to have initiative and like a lot of freedom, the freedom to be wrong sometimes," he said.
Dispensing such advice comes naturally to the jovial Poremski. It's also his business.
Poremski owns a retail franchise of Entrepreneur Start-A-Business, a 5-year-old company that sells how-to manuals on small businesses both by mail and through franchise shops.
The company has manuals on 265 different businesses, ranging from flame-broiled chicken restaurants and water gondola rides to, until recently, adult bookstores and motels, said Kevin Harrington, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based company.
The company has expanded its retail operation to 26 major cities in 17 states across the country this year, he said.
Changes in the way big businesses are run, economic shifts and the good old-fashioned entrepreneurial "fire in the belly" are prompting people to strike out on their own, said Poremski, 45.
Reason for Growth
"There's a big move toward shrinking management, people are losing their manufacturing jobs, others haven't got promotions or have been told they'll get 3% raises for the next five years--those are people coming to us," he said.
"I'm one of the baby boomers that ran into a middle management dead end," said Poremski, who graduated with a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1969 and worked for several companies before becoming his own boss.
The company's best-selling manual is for maid service, Poremski said. "For that, some people think all you need is a scrub brush, a broom and two magnetic signs to advertise on the side of your car, but my manual tells the business part," he said.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics say that 600,000 new businesses were formed and more than 30,000 failed in 1983. Poremski says his manuals help put new businesses on good footing.
The manuals provide step-by-step instructions, including market research, start-up costs, potential profits, location, what facilities and inventory are needed and where they can be purchased for what price.
The guides range from $22.50 to $75 and contain from 60 to 200 pages. They explain what skills are needed among personnel and how to go about advertising, accounting, paying taxes and obtaining licenses.
The manual for the flame-broiled chicken restaurant includes pictures of a kitchen and dining room, says start-up costs will average about $35,000 and tells the fledgling businessman the average profit before taxes will be about $75,000 annually if the business succeeds, Poremski said.
Doesn't Predict Chances
The manuals does not explain the chances of maintaining a "successful business" nor what the failure rate of such a business is.
The manual for water gondola rides projects net income of about $35,000 with a one-hour cruise run by 20 employees, charging about $40 per couple. Profits can double in fair weather climates, the manual says.
The company stopped printing start-up guides for adult book stores and motels earlier this year after a "negative response from the market," Harrington said. "In certain cases, it was not in good taste in the long-term."
Also on the book shelves at the shop is a three-volume "Entrepreneurs Institute," a $367 set that includes tips on financing a business and more detailed advice on bookkeeping, advertising, personnel and legal responsibilities.
Entrepreneur Start-A-Business is affiliated with Entrepreneur magazine, which provides three researchers to write the manuals, Harrington said.
The researchers interview about 10 people, who own the kind of business the manual is to cover and spend about three to four months writing, he said.
The manuals have a sober look to them because they were designed for mail order sales, the mainstay of the company until this year, Harrington said.
"Through mail order we haven't had to create retail style. We plan to redesign the manual covers and binders in color, though the manuals will stay the same," Harrington said.