By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ~ Colin Powell
2014 is here! Have you set your personal or professional goals or just overall resolutions for the year? Well, it is time to get down to business, and make 2014 your year for progress and success. Are you looking to go in business for yourself, or do you already own a business and are looking to go to the next level? Now is your chance! Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, which is comprised of more than 400 companies, has dubbed 2014 as the year for entrepreneurs. And, the New Year definitely proves full of excitement and opportunity for individuals looking to make their big idea a reality.
It is the absolute truth that our economy cannot thrive without small businesses, and the United States’ economic recovery depends on small businesses. Small businesses account for half the gross domestic product and half the jobs available. With the ever-growing world of technology, innovation, and increased resources, entrepreneurship is increasingly being encouraged. What better time than now for those individuals with the skills and an entrepreneurial spirit to explore what is needed to branch out to create your own business and be your own boss. Urban Views Weekly celebrates our local and regional small business owners, wants to share knowledge and available resources, and encourages those future entrepreneurs to start now and current business owners to keep pushing.
Take Baby Steps
The old adage goes: failure to plan is a plan for failure. The first step to a business is planning, planning and more planning. Your business plan is your road map and a basic outline of what you are trying to do. Do not worry if you have blanks or missing information, you can always come back and revise, and plan some more. Also, your business plan does not need to be complex or convoluted, but all in all a business plan is necessary. The key to launching a successful small business is to develop a firm plan, save (and save some more) enough money before you possibly quit your regular job, and learn the business of running a business. Starting your own business can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but indeed it also requires hard work and dedication.
“Transitioning a hobby on the side to a legitimate business that employs a person full-time is a big step,” comments Tameka Montgomery, Associate Administrator, Office of Entrepreneurial Development, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). “The most important thing one has to ensure is cash-flow or a cash-reserve that can carry the individual until the business generates cash-flow to draw a regular salary.”
SBA Delivering Success: Top 10 Business Tips – VIDEO
Melinda Emerson, author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, gives future entrepreneurs 10 things to do before going into business.
1) Plan your departure 12 months (or sometimes more) before you quit your job
2) Develop a life plan
3) Calculate your net worth
4) Save as much money as possible
5) Upgrade your technology skills
6) Determine how you will cover your health insurance
7) Expand your network
8) Get yourself a “kitchen cabinet” of advisors
9) Get yourself a personal theme song
10) Stay positive and encouraged
“The best way to make sure you are ready to transition is to make sure you have a strong customer base that is buying what you are selling. No customers means no sales which means no business.” says Montgomery.
The U.S. SBA encourages future entrepreneurs to be comfortable with taking risks, be able to make a lot of decisions on your own, be persuasive and able to negotiate, be creative, and have a strong support system. Your support system can never be too large. For every part of your business from marketing to IT, have someone you can call on for support and consult.
“I started my business and placed my notice 4 months later,” says Keenya Kelly Monroe, CEO of Return of the Curls, a small, local minority-owned business in Richmond. “I don’t advise anyone to do this without strategic planning, knowledge and the necessary skills to be self-employed. Leaving my job was an incredibly major decision I made for personal and business growth and proved to be one of the very best decisions of my life.”
The key to starting a business is to start small and take baby steps. Use your resources in your community to make your first steps effective and efficient. Plan, plan, and overplan, and set short-term and long-term goals to reach.
Start Up, Grow and Succeed
Do you already own your own business? Well, make 2014 your breakout year for your business to continue to grow and succeed. Often, early on in your business, entrepreneurs think too much about small, unimportant details. But, sometimes attention to detail is vital, so you have to find out what works best for your business.
“The key to growth for the small business lies in a detailed understanding of the market and its range of growth opportunities,” says Dale Fickett, Executive Director for Advantech. “A solid assessment of these options clarifies the most effective way in which to invest the owner’s limited time and capital. Understanding opportunities builds confidence around the investment decision and demonstrates that risks are being mitigated.”
Strategic planning is now more important than ever even after you have started a business. Starting a new business begins with building one’s professional network and developing core skills. Meeting and networking with other entrepreneurs and professionals who have successfully grown their business are key steps to take and continue to take to ensure longevity and healthy growth. Someone you meet can become your mentor and be your consultant when times get tough. It is also crucial that the entrepreneur identifies a compelling customer need, clarifies how the product or service is different than those of the competition, and plans how the business will operate profitably. All of this is part of your plan. The more thought put into your plan to make your product or service different, and more appealing, helps you build for success in the future.
Holt Marketing & Management Services, Inc. suggests new businesses find the right combination of the following areas for your business to be profitable and succeed. It is important for each business owner to realize that each business is unique and therefore will benefit from a different combination of these areas than another business in the same industry.
- Target Product/Customer Opportunities
- Website Marketing
- Public Relations
- Lead Nurturing
- Phone Calls
- Direct Mail
Strategies for Growth – VIDEO
Focus On What Matters
Scaling up a business often requires a shift in the thinking of the entrepreneur from just running the business and surviving to strategically thinking about growing the business. A well thought-out growth strategy is a great place to begin.
Tameka Montgomery offers these questions for business owners to get on the right track this year and grow their business successfully.
Questions to consider might include:
- Strategically, how are you trying to position the company?
- What changes in staffing need to occur to be able to respond to increased business?
- What standard processes need to be established so that you can begin to replicate yourself?
- Where are your greatest growth opportunities? Are they regional, national, or international?
- What are the expanded target markets you want to reach and how will you reach those markets?
Having a growth oriented mindset and doing what it takes to scale a company also requires having a realistic perspective of what will be required personally, and are you ready for those changes?
“For aspiring business owners, I strongly recommend that you take online or free classes that are locally available regarding social media and marketing, as well as any other business classes that will help you gain skills regarding running and operating your business successfully.” says Monroe.
“The U.S. SBA and its resource partners: the Small Business Development Centers, SCORE chapters, Women’s Business Centers, and Veteran’s Business Opportunity Centers offer a wide range of counseling, training and financing programs to support small business,” said Jayne Armstrong, District Director of SBA’s Richmond District Office. “These are critical resources to help startups get off on the right foot, preparing them for success down the road.”
So, what is your big idea for 2014? Why not decide to start the business you have always wanted? Just do it!
“The entrepreneur with solid skills and business ethics will attract a robust team. Financial capital will follow.” says Fickett.
For those of you who have already started a successful business and are ready to take your business to the next step, or if you are just starting out, visit www.sba.gov for more complete information and resources.