John R. Ingrisano here with ten tips to help you launch a business.
Are you thinking about starting a business? Working for yourself? Whether that means turning your picture-framing hobby into a full-time business; pulling your professional skills out of the corporate world to set up shop on your own; or tackling a mid-life career change that takes you in a totally new direction, going into business for yourself can be the most exciting and terrifying challenge you’ve ever undertaken.
If you’re thinking about taking the entrepreneurial plunge, you’re not alone. More than 670,000 new businesses are started each year. Of the nearly 26 million businesses in the United States, 99.9 percent are labeled as “small” by the government (SBA statistics, 2005). That puts you in good company.
The rewards can be great, not the least of which is the money. Affluent people tend to be business owners, enjoying median annual household incomes of $436,000, according to Thomas Stanley, author of The Millionaire Mind.
But money isn’t everything. There is also the freedom, the opportunity to take charge of your own destiny, and to do so on your own terms. Not dependent on anyone but yourself, you can take full responsibility for your own success or failure, determined to make or break it based on your own efforts, talents and hard work.
Still, the risks are great, and there are no guarantees. With seven of every ten startup businesses failing in their first year, the odds are long for those who do not plan and prepare. Between the grueling hours, the financial uncertainty and the daily surprises and frustrations, entrepreneurship can wear you out, run you down, leave you pulling out your hair.
Here are ten tips to help you beat the odds and launch your business successfully:
- Commit! Distinguish between a hobby (non-profit) and a business (for profit). Toe dipping, just giving it a try, is a sure way to fail. Even if yours will be a part-time business, decide just how part-time it will be.
- Research! Make sure there is a market for your product or service. Don’t be blinded by a good idea that either nobody wants (such as snowmobiles in Florida) or everybody has already thought of (as in warm ‘n fuzzy coffee houses, which are splattered across every Main Street in America).
- Learn! Read books and take classes about business. Having a great product or service is half the challenge. Learning how to manage a business is the rest. Get ideas from the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) and the National Federation of Independent Business (www.nfib.com).
- Listen! Talk to other small-business owners about your idea. Ask for their opinions…and then listen carefully. Best bet: Find a mentor who is willing to advise you. Where to start: The Service Corps of Retired Executives (www.score.org).
- Draft a business plan! Commit your vision to paper. If you can’t “see it” and articulate it, odds are you won’t be able to achieve it.
- Re-draft your business plan! This will be your startup blue print. Most business people absolutely hate doing a biz plan, but virtually all successful business people have them.
- Get credit! Set up a line of credit at your bank or credit union, even if you never tap into it. The number one reason for business failures in this country is undercapitalization.
- Worry! Especially when it comes to money, stress and worry are a natural part of being in business. Get used to it.
- Master time management! Successful business owners devote 60 to 70 hours a week, especially in the startup years. Time management is crucial.
- Keep good records! Otherwise, the IRS could have a field day.
The bottom line: Starting and running a successful business is a demanding task. It takes hard work and long hours. Still, while many don’t make it, there are still those millions who have. You could be one of them.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun.
The Freestyle Entrepreneur
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