Geri Stengel

 
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Calling All Would-be Entrepreneurs: Do Your Homework If You Want to Pass the Test

The economy is beginning to recover, the Obama administration has proposed $30 billion fund for loans to small businesses: Is this the time to start your own business?
 
business plan, entrepreneur, innovation, online seminars, retiree, small business, small business advice, small business owner, webinarWhether you're a retiree who wants to capitalize on your experience and work ethic or a young entrepreneur with an idea, the timing may be right. And your country needs you: Small businesses create new jobs at a faster rate than large companies and can innovate faster. 

Jobs and innovation: The country could use both right now.

But before you leap into action, evaluate yourself, your product/service, and your business plan. I'll give you the short form of these assessments here but for a fuller picture, check out the upcoming free webinars for aspiring entrepreneurs:

The series covers whether you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, how to decide what kind of business to start, and your business plan. Again, these online seminars are free.

Small business owners need answers before they get started so bring your questions. Here are some thoughts to provoke those questions

1. Yourself:

Owning your own business is not about 40-hour weeks and paid vacations. It's about very hard work, especially the first few years during which you may not get even one day off or a weekend away. Are you that dedicated? Willing to miss time with family, friends, and hobbies?

Small business owners take on many roles: boss, bookkeeper, financial planner, marketing manager, customer relations, and back-up when staff doesn't show up. Are you able to wear many hats and multi-task?

Every day brings new delights and new challenges to the entrepreneur. An order doesn't arrive on time, the souffle falls, the contractor charges more than expected. Are you flexible and able to change course as need requires? Are you a problem-solver, energized by challenge?

2. Your product/service:

Entrepreneurs see the world differently from the rest of us; they envision products or services to solve problems that the rest of us have ignored or not seen at all. But no matter how visionary the idea, the product has to have a market, serve a purpose, fulfill a need for someone. Does yours? Are you sure?

And that product/service must inspire passion in you and anyone you rely on for help, whether it's your bookkeeper wife or friend who give you seed money. Most important, it must inspire you, with passion, zeal, and energy. You'll need them all!

3. Your plan:

Although business plans take effort, I think they're worth it. Yes, things change, but a business plan is not an end-goal, it is a process that ensures you know all the factors that might affect you, have considered them carefully, and can come up with Plan Bs where necessary. 

A business plan makes sure you know:

  • How much initial capitalization you'll need to take you through those first few years when you are building up your market; 
  • What your cash flow will be – payroll out, sales in – in a given month and a plan to cover any gaps; 
  • Where and who your customers are, and how you'll reach them; 
  • What your competition is and how you'll best it.

So if you've got the itch to be your own boss, to provide something missing in the world, or fix a problem, dig in, ask questions, do research. Get to know yourself, your market, and what you'll need for such an exciting and rewarding task.

What has kept you from starting a business? If you are an entrepreneur, what did it take to get started? What was the deciding factor that gave you confidence?