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Can I Start My Own Small Business?

Can you start a small business? Of course you can. Anyone can start a small business.

Can YOU start a SUCCESSFUL small business?

Ah, that’s another question altogether. One of the hardest things a small business consultant has to do is tell someone they are not the right kind of person to own and run their own business. When someone asks me for help starting a business I always ask them “so tell me, why do you want to start a business anyway?”

Lets examine some answers I often hear:

“I want to get rich quick”. You may, in time, get rich but I can almost guarantee it will not be quick. In fact statistics show that 80% of all small businesses fail within the first five years and never make a profit, and those that do make it, do not make a profit for several years. The best you can count on for the first several years is probably paying yourself something less than you are making now.

“I don’t want to work as hard (or as long) as I do now”. You’re dreaming! You don’t know what working hard and long is until you start your own business.

“I’m a good hairdresser (or whatever) and that’s all I want to do, but I want to do it for myself.” Forget it. Plan to spend more time on things that don’t have anything to do with hairdressing than you ever will actually working on clients

“I can’t get a good job.” Stop and think about it. The very reasons you can’t get and hold a good job – lack of education or training, lack of people skills, inability to get along with others, lack of self discipline, etc. – may be reasons to suspect you will be less than successful at your own business because, believe me, with few exceptions you will need these skills to succeed.

“I want to build a business that my whole family can share.” Stop right there. Running a family business – without destroying family relationships – can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. What are going to be the responsibilities – and compensation – of each family member? Who is going to make the final decisions? Do different generations of the family share the same values and dream the same dream as you do? Do they even want to be involved or would they rather do their own thing?

“I want to be the boss!” – this could be a good reason – but only if you have a good business idea, the resources to get started, and you know you could manage the business and it’s employees efficiently and profitably and you – and your family – understand and accept the time, effort and money it will take to make it happen.

So — I’m suggesting you examine your motives before you jump into business. Having said that, there are many good reasons for going into business for yourself. Here are just a few:

You are a true entrepreneur, with the attributes to organize and assume the risk of a business or enterprise, have a business idea or dream, and the passion and desire to make that dream become a profitable business reality. This is your life, this is who you are.

You have a good business idea that you are convinced could earn you and your family a much better living than you could otherwise provide working for someone else.

You must work a more flexible schedule than an employer would permit, or must work from a certain location such as your home, because of family or physical reasons.

You have bumped into the ceiling at your current job and can’t get your employer to give you more responsibility (and compensation) or the position you are qualified for, and you feel you must “go it on your own” to achieve success in your career or profession.

You have retired and find yourself becoming bored with life or just in need of the stimulation of business (I’ve gone through that – twice) or your finances have changed such that you need additional income. If your prior experience and skills are such that you can apply them to a business idea this can be an ideal situation for starting again in a part or full time business.

There are of course, many other good reasons for wanting to start your own business and, if it’s for you, it can be the most exciting, satisfying and rewarding thing you have ever done.

So lets take a look at the kind of person most apt to succeed at starting a business:

Someone with a dream – but not a dreamer. Dreams don’t become reality until you get off your backside and take some action, so you’ve got to be an action oriented self-starter. Don’t kid yourself, nothing is going to happen until you make it happen.

A master planner / organizer. You are going to have to take that dream or business idea and get it down on paper – ultimately into a Business Plan. If you can’t organize your thoughts in order to express yourself, even getting your hands around that dream is going to be a problem, much less turning it into a business plan. Having trouble here – get some help. Contact SCORE. While there are many people who can help you organize your thoughts and begin to write out your Business Plan, SCORE is an organization of volunteers (get that – free help) who work with the Small Business Administration to help Small Business Persons (or “would be” Small Business Persons) needing some assistance. That’s my first plug for one of my favorite organizations.

A Self-Starter. As noted above, nothing is likely to happen until you make it happen.

A Self Confident Positive Thinker. You won’t believe the number of people who are going to pooh-pooh your ideas or tell you “you can’t do that” (and even if thy don’t say it, they are thinking it). Even your friends and relatives are going to be skeptical. You’ve got to believe in your idea and know you can make it happen.

A Decision Maker. You are going to have to make a lot of decisions under pressure and often without a lot of time for research. And – you’ve got to make the right decision most of the time

A People Person. From your suppliers, to your banker and your accountant, your (someday) employees and – most important – your customers or clients you are going to be interacting with people throughout your business day. If you are don’t have good people skills forget about going into business for yourself and work for someone who does.

Someone With Technical Knowledge Of The Business, But Not Necessarily A Technician. You may think that having knowledge about the business and the technical skills to do the job yourself would be the most important thing about running a business? You are wrong! In the beginning you are going to spend – at best – 50% of your time on actually doing the technical work of the business and 50% on organizing, managing, marketing, etc. etc. And guess what – as your business grows you are going to have to spend even more time on the non-technical stuff.

The right idea – The right reason – The right person.

So do you fit the mold? Is this person you?

If so, GO FOR IT! A good start would be getting some help and a good source of help would be SCORE. SCORE is an affiliate of the Small Business Administration that provides FREE business counselling to persons wanting to start their own business. Contact SCORE at score.org and follow the link to your local SCORE chapter where you can request FREE, confidential, personal counselling help to get you started in planning your own small business.

Best Netbook For Business – Assessing Your Netbook Business Needs

Netbooks are an amazing cost saver for businesses. They are practically best suited for businesses with staff that travels a lot. Netbooks are especially light and low cost. These two feature makes it the best tool for businesses.

Truth be told, not all businesses benefit from netbooks. There are those that simply cannot do with a netbook. Should your business fall under this category, then netbooks will probably be bad for your business, even if they are low cost.

It is very important that you assess your business needs prior to spending your dollars on a netbook solution. What are the areas to look at in assessing your business need for netbooks?

1. Is your business running highly complex system software in its daily function?

Even the best netbook for business is probably not capable of running a complex system software. Netbooks are optimized to run web applications. They are not designed to run complex applications locally.

The system processor that comes with today’s business netbooks are low performance processors. They were designed to run at low speed and consume very little power. At the moment, the processors in these netbooks for business is just optimized to run applications within an internet browser.

2. Does your business require large data storage?

Businesses at times require large data storage area. The current netbook models come with at least 160GB of disk storage. That should be more than enough for your business needs at the moment.

Netbooks with Solid State Drives should be avoided as these offer very little storage space. However, should you need storage larger than the 160GB, then you should take a look at other means of storage system. Its is of course still possible to store your files on the internet.

3. Do you require a large screen real estate?

Business netbooks, are small. At the moment, the largest business netbooks have 12-inch screens. 12 inch is not a lot of screen space to play with.

If your business deals with applications that require large resolution screens, you will surely face problems when using netbooks. Some buttons will probably not be available in that small screen area in a netbook.

4. Will the business netbooks be the main computer for your staff?

Today’s netbooks are more suitable to be used as secondary machines. They are designed just right for traveling use. If you plan to utilize today’s business netbooks as your number one machine, you should take a look again at your business needs.

Give the first assessment above another read.

The best netbook for business will be unpractical if deployed into a business environment it was not designed for. No matter how attractive netbooks appear for businesses, they don’t fit in everywhere. Assess your business needs prior to deciding upon your netbook deployment.

Give a few netbooks a run through with all your business applications. Identify areas where your application will face problems when running in business netbooks. By testing your applications with a number of netbooks before deployment, you get to identify yourself the best netbook for your business.

Why You Should Never Market Your Business

Are you waiting for the phone to ring? For people to walk through the door? For money to start flowing in?

Just because you are good at what you do or your product is great, people will not buy unless they know you are there. In my nearly 25 years as a marketing professional, I have heard just about every reason why some businesses never market their product or service. Do you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios?

A fellow business owner once sent out a targeted mailer with a special gift inside. A week went by and the phone did not ring off the hook. She stopped advertising.

An entrepreneur decided to advertise his new product, putting an ad in a trade newspaper and paying for a feature article about the product to be showcased in the paper. When he didn’t get an immediate response to his advertising, he considered the whole thing a failure and money wasted. I believe he’s out of business now.

A friend wanted to leave her brochures in a retail store I owned at the time, advertising a new bed and breakfast she recently opened. Leaving me just five brochures, I told her I would need a lot more. She said to just hand them out to serious customers; otherwise people would just take them!

If you can relate to these situations, then you should never market your business. It’s a waste of your time and money. Of course, without marketing, you risk failure. Many small and medium-sized businesses think this way and close their doors or never see the long-term potential of ongoing marketing. But wait! Even the phrase “ongoing marketing” conjures up all sorts of descriptive words like, expensive, complicated, time consuming and even frightening.

All these words add up to frustration for me, especially when business owners give me excuses for not marketing their company. And, I feel sorry for them because they just don’t get it. Ongoing marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or frightening–it does have to be consistent.

The truth is that marketing is nothing more than a series of specific and often simple initiatives focused on promoting a product or service to a targeted audience. The plan should also have a good deal of flexibility so your marketing can adjust to fluctuations and changes.

Also, don’t put all your marketing dollars in one venue–mix it up. If you just invest in one type of marketing and it doesn’t work you might get paralyzed by the experience and be reluctant to spend any more time or money trying a different mix.

Variety in marketing works. Start with planning your strategy. Think about what you offer your customers and in which market you are likely to find them. Then, consider some low-cost, low-investment marketing opportunities to start with and give it time to develop. Here are a few strategies:

USE BUSINESS CARDS. Carry a lot of this basic marketing tool all the time. Always hand out two so your prospect can keep one and pass along the second to someone who may need your services or product. How many times have you wanted to tell someone about a business but didn’t want to give away your only business card? Paying your bill at a restaurant, dry cleaners, doctor’s office, coffee shop, car wash or other service? Leave your business card (and a pen with your name on it) with your payment. How many places do you go and see a pen with another business name on it?

PEOPLE LIKE GIFTS. Use a promotional product as part of your advertising mix, but be sure to choose a product that makes sense for your business and conveys the right message. For example, don’t give away a stress reliever squeeze toy if your product or service doesn’t relieve stress! And, don’t base your selection solely on the promotional product company that offers the cheapest price.

Stick to value and quality with both the promotional product and the vendor. Base your selection on your target audience and the message you want to convey. A good promotional products consultant will provide a promotional marketing plan for you and can assist you in selecting the best products, keeping you on target and on budget. Your business image depends on it.

USE PRINTED MARKETING MATERIALS. Your business image is important. Have a brochure or flyer professionally written by a copywriter, designed by a graphic artist and printed by a local print company. It doesn’t cost as much as you might think, and you might reap the benefit of additional cross-promotion business from these suppliers. Don’t try to save money by cranking out something from your office computer and printer. It will look “home-made” and so will your business.

Once completed, hand out your professionally produced materials liberally at networking events, conferences and trade shows. Ask other area businesses that compliment your business if you can leave some marketing materials with them to hand out.

You should also mail your brochures/flyers to your customer list along with a personal note thanking them for their business and asking for referrals.

Don’t be stingy with your marketing materials! In my experience, many potential customers keep good quality brochures and flyers on file and will eventually contact you when they have a need.

MARKET YOUR BUSINESS BY WEARING BRANDED APPAREL. Showcase your business everywhere you go. You most likely wear hats and t-shirts with names of other companies, resorts or sports teams on them. You are a walking advertising billboard for these businesses! Think of how many people see their name-not yours-this way! And you most likely paid them to do this!

If you’re going to wear logoed apparel, why not advertise your own? Wear imprinted apparel and accessories to work and everywhere! Wear them on the golf course, at a restaurant, at the gym or child’s sporting event. A good promotional products consultant can assist you with selecting both casual and business appropriate apparel and accessories. Then you can advertise your business even when you’re not “minding the store!”

REMEMBER YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS. Your most important asset is your customer base. It is your best source of repeat and referral business. Don’t let them forget you! Make sure you follow up with a courtesy call, an email, a flyer, a postcard, a newsletter or a promotional product gift, reminding them that you value their business. And, don’t just do it once. Make a habit of staying in touch on a regular basis. In today’s busy business environment, people won’t remember you on their own–make sure that your business doesn’t become one of the “forgotten.”

IF BUSINESS IS GOOD, DON’T ASSUME IT WILL ALWAYS STAY THAT WAY. Why am I including this? Because regardless of the economy, in good times and bad, you should never stop marketing. For example, I have hired some home improvement companies that, once they finished their projects, have never gotten in touch with me again. They never called to see how I liked their service and they never sent one piece of marketing material reminding me that they value my business. Perhaps at one time, business was good and they were busy. There was no time or need for marketing. Too bad. There were many times I could have used their services again or referred them to others. But, out of sight, out of mind!

Planting your marketing “seeds” now will help you reap customers in good and bad times.

YOUR SENSE OF URGENCY ISN’T NECESSARILY SHARED BY OTHERS. What happened? You’ve networked, passed out business cards, sent professionally printed marketing materials to clients and prospects, followed up with emails and phone calls. You wear your branded apparel everywhere. You have chosen and given away good promotional products. But, the phone isn’t ringing off the hook! Why is that? Maybe your sense of urgency is not necessarily shared by any of your prospects. Potential customers respond when they are ready. They remember and respond to a company that looks, acts and feels trustworthy, credible and professional. And, they only respond when they have a sense of urgency. Even with that, they generally only respond after they have seen or heard from you a minimum of seven times.

There is no magic bullet to marketing. It takes thought, persistence and a lot of patience. Just because you market your business does not mean that the money will immediately flow in and great success will follow in no time flat. Especially in a recession economy, it is important to keep marketing so you will be in position once things get better. You’ll lose ground if you don’t.

Your chances for consistent, long-term success are a lot greater if you at least do something.

┬ęCopyright 2009 Carol A. Wilcox