I'm planning to make a private GIS service providing firm in the coming years. I just wanted to know what skills and resources are required to set up such a firm? I'm aware that the software, hardware and data collecting equipment would cost me. Can you give me some idea of the things i will be needing? For you information, i am a Geography hons student, and presently doing a diploma course in Geo-Informatics. I also have some knowledge in programming.
I love your enthusiasm and running your own GIS Consultancy can be very rewarding.
I worked my way up to running a commercial GIS Unit for a very large environmental research and consultancy service, plus lead GIS teams in other organisations before going freelance. This experience gave me a very good idea of what running a business would involve, who my clients would be, what they would be prepared to pay and who the competition is. Above all though, it let me hone my skills which is important because commercial GIS is not as neat as structured training exercises when a student. In no way would I want to dull your enthusiasm or belittle your skills. However, I do recommend some patience especially if you are fresh out of college.
Before you hire a team of people, rent offices, buy servers and commission company logos and stationery, I recommend you start working as a solo freelancer, especially if you have not worked as a commercial GIS practitioner before. This will do several things. First it will teach you more about business than any course can. I have personally found a big difference between the practicalities of day-to-day business and what you get told in a classroom. Secondly, it will start an income stream for you and that will prove both to you and a bank that you have got what it takes to grow your firm. They have seen countless impressive-looking business plans but they need proof that YOU can make it work. Thirdly, you start building a list of clients, contacts and a reputation all of which are crucial not only to help convince a bank to lend you money for everything a large firm will need but also to be sufficiently attractive to skilled people you will need to work for you. If you want people to work for you, they need to know that you are worth working for.
Here are some random business thoughts I rely on:
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Things that comes to mind from an IT perspective are: hardware, servers (OS/Database), backup, offsite data storage, business continuity plan in the event of power outage/emergency (UPS power supply), do you want staff to work remotely (VPN), licensing, local laws around running a business, building lease...the list goes on.
It all depends on what you will be offering, the amount of work you accept/expect to have, how many staff, etc.
If you plan to start as self employed these are still things you need to consider. It gets increasingly more complex as you grow your business. Then you have to think of the update cycle of all your hardware/software/OS's.
My advice is take a small business course and create a business plan. The business plan will be your 'road map' so to speak. Lenders will not give you money without a solid business plan anyway.
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