Having a great idea and the motivation to strike-out on your own is a good first step in pursing the feasibility of a business. However, it takes more than motivation and a great idea to get things started. This article will reveal some of the simplest considerations that most would-be business-owners overlook.
The very first thing that should not fall under consideration is venturing out on your own without the proper tools beyond the scope of a great idea. According to statistics provided by the Small Business Administration, over 90% of small businesses fail due to a lack of planning. How many times have you heard or witnessed individuals that sat up over a weekend and wrote a stellar business plan then headed out on Monday morning to seek funding or investors? Impatience is the second thing that needs management. So often “I am tired of working for someone else” is the premise for people to start a business. This frame of mind will almost ensure failure because this approach to business involves looking backwards at getting out of a bad situation.
There is a prevailing philosophy that has to evolve, “Not all people are cut-out to become business-owners”. This is a harsh reality to face in a country such as the United States that prides itself on autonomy and ownership. Starting a business requires a commitment that may or may not pay dividends quickly. The key threat to small businesses is the initial funding or start-up cost and therefore many under-capitalized ventures hit the markets and get that rude awakening.
Before spending your first dollar a best practice is to do your “free research” on the Internet and in public libraries. Read recently published academic studies on the industry in which you plan to pursue. It takes more than just knowing a certain aspect of the business being that your competition may be more well-versed about the industry as a whole. You may want to ask questions such as “What are the regulatory requirements to do business within that particular industry?” You may want to research about “systemic exposure” or how the rest of the economy could or would impact that industry during troubled financial times. It is also a good practice to review some of the strategies of other potential competitors during The Great Recession of 2008. How did the industry leaders survive jn respect to operational changes and sacrifices. It is understandable that this may take several days or even weeks to accomplish, but by applying the best practices initially you will have a clear understanding of what to expect during certain economic times.
It is essential to understand who are the industry leaders within your business channel and what makes them unique. There should be an emphasis on this because your branding and marketing could benefit from such a consideration. A distinguishing characteristic may be customer service, quality assurance, product branding, or even presentation. These may sound trivial, but think about if you were a retailer for mens apparel and you specifically wanted to appeal to young urban males under the age of thirty. Labels equals status in many of these communities so a nice logo on the item that is visible may assist in the popularity and purchase of your garments. Even though this may have more to do with marketing and brand positioning, this is a must have against the competition.
However, before we get to marketing and branding there are other things needing consideration such as your mind-set, ego, time-line, available start-up capital, and feasibility. After you have trolled through the data and information from your research, the next step is the feasibility study. It is suggested that you do this prior to writing a business plan. In this way you can quickly determine whether or not you can enter the particular market or not and if so, at what level. A common mistake for new business people is to envision competing with the industry leaders. This is an ideal way to go broke quickly. In stead, set more realistic goals for yourself and get the notion out of your head that the Internet is going to make your business global. Facebook and the other social networks became popular because they were free to the end-user first and while trying to figure out a way to capitalize or convert those users into revenue. This would be a bad business-model to follow. Think about your region and the local competition first to see how much it would cost for you company to operate for the first 3 to 5 years without constant revenue.
Again this will require more local research this time on your specific region and take not of the deviations between your first broader macro research and the more localized micro research. The deviation between those two areas may actually become the niche that needs filling. In this way you can actually have a specialized niche within the region and a hybrid on a larger scale. Now, you may ask yourself “Why?” Simply put, the goal is to avoid what others are already doing in the sense that giving a “Thankyou” to a customer in a better way that the competitor is not enough. Another temptation to avoid is the centric mind-set that the business and industry has to behave according to your own belief or philosophy. This strategy rarely works out in a positive way. You have seen these business owners that rarely listens to their customers and as a result they have a revolving door of both customers and employees and the business stagnates and does not grow.
Growth must have a major role in the definition of your business because that is the incentive to attract customers, employees, and even investors. As a potential business-owner you will have to cleanse your mind of working for a company and view your company as your tangible boss. This may sound counter intuitive, but the cascade is like this, the economy drives the consumer or businesses that drive behavior which drives your company which eventually drives you to make the right decisions to meet the demand.
So far you have done your research, and you know how much it will cost you to compete in your local market. The next thing is to consider your liabilities as it relates to the company. You may use this also to determine what form of business ownership will work for you. It is a good business practice to incorporate whenever possible and in some states there are differences in levels according to projected revenues. Incorporating also gives you more protection than a DBA or partnerships. At this point you will learn another strategy that many successful business-owners do, delegate tasks that require professional expertise to professionals with their fields. A good business attorney, accountant, and business consultant are essential for start-ups. This is a gap that many would-be business people fall through the cracks. Another benefits is that these professionals may also assist in giving information that may be crucial in developing a comprehensive business proposal. They can help with the work you have done to reflect the requirements needed.
In review, you have your research, feasibility study, chosen your business ownership type, adjusted your expectations, hired professionals that know the laws and regulations better than yourself and you are ready to get started on the business proposal. Not so fast, “Where are your customers?” You guessed it, marketing research needs to take place for the particular individuals or companies that will use your products and or services within your area or online. One question to ask yourself, “How much will it cost me to contact a potential customer before a sale is completed?” And secondly, you need to discover the best way to contact these people or businesses. The prevailing statistics are that radio advertising a person is a passive-listener and only hears about every fourth word, direct mail only about 9% responds. Signs and other ad-hoc methods vary and television may be expensive depending on stations and providers. This means that a considerable budget may need to exist in order to solicit business. Again, this is another area where many would-be business people fall off the wagon and failure is waiting to catch them.
There is not an exact science to forecasting revenues so the goal is to have a very plausible theory and approach to this process. Avoid the temptation of raising expectations too high as some did in the dot com era for instance and went broke. The increases in expected revenue should be modest and function on the Standard Rule of 10, meaning that expenses should never go over 10% of revenue. Now, there are some businesses with a lower profit margin at 50%, but that is akin to paying US$10 for every US$20 received in revenue. As you can see pricing strategies for your products and or services are important and trying to make profits off of volume only works for those entities with high capacity transactions. This is the reason why 99 Cent Stores do so well low inventory cost and high turn-over of products. As a foot-note the difficulty with starting a business with very low prices is that it usually attracts the cost-conscious customer who is rarely brand-loyal and will use a comparable competitor. You see this behavior in customer that may shop at Wal-Mart, but purchase other specific items at the 99 Cent Stores. The danger in depending on these cost-conscious customers is that when prices rise they usually leave. Therefore, your pricing model needs to be established as feasible to sustain the business based on the value-added customer that you can possibly up-sell items or services. This is essential to your company’s growth and expansion.
James L. Adams Jr. is an FCC licensed broadcasting professional with graduate studies for the MBA in International Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology. He has worked as Information Technology (ECM) Project Manager, IT Specialist, IT Senior Business Analyst, Change Management Specialist & Trainer, Java 2 Programmer| Analyst, and Business Development Analyst. James is also a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMTPE).