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Building a Successful Automation Business

Venturing into the realm of entrepreneurship as a PLC professional carries with it a mixture of excitement and caution. The allure of independence and the potential for financial and professional growth beckon many seasoned experts in to the automation business. Yet, embarking on this journey necessitates a thoughtful approach, grounded in lessons gleaned from both the trenches of system integration and the helm of an automation enterprise.

Embarking with a Strategy: The Importance of Planning


The cornerstone of transitioning to self-employment is devising a strategic plan. While the engineering mindset may incline one towards overplanning, a balance must be struck. Assess your current earnings and determine what revenue you need to match or surpass them in your solo venture. For those aiming to expand beyond a solo operation, consider the nuances of dynamic costing. Understand that expenses, particularly those related to acquiring new business, scale with your company’s growth.

Navigating the “1.5 Person” Conundrum: Early stages often present a peculiar scenario where you find yourself in need of additional help, albeit not on a full-time basis. Crafting a plan to manage workloads that exceed a single person’s capacity but don’t justify a second full-time role is crucial. Collaborating with other freelancers can offer a flexible solution to this challenge.

Fostering Growth: Sales and Customer Engagement


sGrowth is not just about delivering projects; it’s about actively seeking new opportunities and nurturing customer relationships. Allocate time for sales activities, which encompass more than just cold calls. Reconnecting with past clients and ensuring their satisfaction with your work are pivotal strategies. Setting prices that allow for these critical business development activities is essential for sustainability.

Making the Leap: Transitioning to Full-time Automation Business Owner


The transition from a steady PLC programming position to full-time entrepreneurship is fraught with uncertainty. However, innovative approaches, such as adopting a rotation schedule that aligns with another professional, can facilitate this shift. The key lies in simultaneously seeking and executing contract work, leveraging the abundance of opportunities available for skilled automation technicians and PLC programmers. Open dialogues with potential clients can offer insights into the viability of full-time self-employment.

Differentiation: Carving Out Your Niche


In a field as complex as the automation business, recognizing and capitalizing on your strengths is vital. Forge partnerships to complement your skills, fostering a collaborative network that not only enhances your service offering but also expands your business reach. Continuous learning and skill adaptation are integral to maintaining a competitive edge. You can use trade associations like the CSIA to both research other automation businesses and see what kind of offerings they have, but also to find conferences and workshops to find and develop other skills.

Mitigating Risks: The Role of Insurance


Understanding the insurance landscape is non-negotiable, as automation projects often entail substantial insurance requirements. Expect insurance costs to escalate in tandem with your automation business’s growth. For newcomers, operating under the umbrella of another entity’s insurance can provide an initial safety net.

Pricing Strategies: Valuing Your Expertise


Setting competitive and fair prices is a delicate balancing act. Research what your contemporaries charge, and don’t shy away from valuing your work appropriately. Remember, pricing isn’t just about covering operational hours; it must account for overheads and non-billable time as your business evolves.

Embracing the Entrepreneurial Dream: Weighing the Realities


The freedom that comes with running your own business is an attractive proposition for many. It allows for flexibility and autonomy in choosing projects. However, it’s imperative to acknowledge the challenges, particularly in financial management and discipline, that accompany this dream.



Atlee Hickerson


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    In Conclusion

    Transitioning to an independent automation business is a path laden with opportunities and obstacles. Success in this endeavor is underpinned by thorough planning, strategic growth efforts, adept risk management, and an unwavering commitment to professional excellence and customer satisfaction. Our automation business started this way and we continue to learn more every day as new challenges arise and are met

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