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How To Start Your Own Business In Six Steps (posted 10/26/2009)

the view through the windshield

In all my years in the business world, I have never seen a successful Get-Rich-Quick business. Building a successful business requires capital, commitment and hard work. Therefore, you should ignore all those Get-Rich-Quick internet ads and infomercials. The only one who may be Getting-Rich-Quick is the person selling the stuff (books, CDs, videos, etc.) in those ads.

If you want to start your own business from scratch and be successful, there are six things you need to do:

1. Evaluate the market for your startup business. You must develop substantial knowledge about the marketing environment in which your new business will operate:

What is the market like? (size, dominant players, price points, seasonality, customer mix, etc.)
What is required - startup capital, expertise, etc.
How will your startup's offerings fit the documented needs of prospective customers?
How will you effectively promote and sell when you're just starting? And ... how much will it cost?

Doing the research to answer these questions is the first step in determining whether your business idea is viable - before you invest a lot of money in opening a business.

2. Learn everything you can about the business. Subscribe to trade magazines relevant to your business. Such magazines are listed in the Standard Periodical Directory (75,000 listings) - in the Reference Section of the most public libraries. Many magazines are free. Good information will keep you from wasting time and money in your start-up business.

I also recommend that you join a trade association. The Encyclopedia of Associations (also in the library's Reference Section) lists all trade and professional associations. Contact the appropriate association. You may be surprised at the valuable information which they can provide to your start-up. Many have specific publications for sale which directly relate to your startup business.

3. Learn the basics of business. SCORE is a national nonprofit organization with local chapters throughout the U.S. Many SCORE locations offers cost-effective, time-effective workshops and seminars for new businesses.

Before I started my first business, I attended one of these workshops and found it very helpful. It provided me with a solid introduction to business thinking. I also read lots of business books, including ones on small business management, cash management and accounting - areas where I was weak.

4. Get expert advice. SCORE can also provide your start-up one-on-one business help from a seasoned business consultant. Each volunteer consultant can advise on your startup venture: assessing ideas, preparing a business plan, raising capital and managing the operations and finances.

I further recommend that you try to make friends with people who are in the same kind of business as you but are far enough away that they're is not a competitor. Go see these folks at their places of business. Introduce yourself, buy them dinners and solicit their observations and opinions. They know what works and what doesn't in your line of business.

5. Write a business plan. This is the road map for your business. Creating one forces you to answer tough, necessary questions about marketing, money, prospective customers, etc.

In my manufacturing business, we wrote a new business plan every year. Our average annual growth was 44% and we were in the upper quartile of our industry for profitability and return on total investment (ROTA). I attribute much of our success to creating a business plan and sticking to it.

6. Read books on marketing and selling. Read at least four of them. Marketing and selling are not the same, so be sure to get books on each. Marketing and selling problems are the largest single cause of startup business failures in the U.S.

Get smart and develop a marketing plan and a sales plan before you start your business.


PS: if you want to learn the wrong way to start a business, go here.


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The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

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