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How to start a business

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Starting and managing a business takes motivation, desire and talent. It also takes research and planning. Like a chess game, success in small business starts with decisive and correct opening moves. And, although initial mistakes are not fatal, it takes skill, discipline and hard work to regain the advantage.

To increase your chance for success, take the time up front to explore and evaluate your business and personal goals. Then use this information to build a comprehensive and well­thought­out business plan that will help you reach these goals. The process of developing a business plan will help you think through some important issues that you may not have considered. Your plan will become a valuable tool as you set out to raise money for your business. It should also provide milestones to gauge your success.

The SBA, through a relationship with My Own Business, offers a special online course on how to get started with a small business. Visit the Web site at www.myownbusiness.org/course_sba.html.

Before starting out, list your reasons for wanting to go into business. Some of the most common reasons for starting a business are -- wanting to be your own boss, wanting to attain financial independence, wanting more creative freedom and wanting to be able to fully exploit your talents and skills.

Next you need to determine what business is “right for you.” You should know some basic things about yourself, like how you like to spend your time and an inventory of your skills. Be aware of what others say are your best skills and talents. You should also think about how much time you will have to run a successful small business. And, never underestimate the marketability of your hobbies or other special interests.

Then you should identify the niche your business will fill. Conduct the necessary research to answer some questions about the practicality of your idea and what need will it fill. You should be able to identify and be knowledgeable about your competition, as well as know what advantages you may have over your competition. Detail how you will be able to deliver a better quality service and how you plan to stimulate demand for your business.

The final step before developing your plan is the pre-business checklist. You should answer these questions:

• What business am I interested in starting?

• What services or products will I sell? Where will I be located?

• What skills and experience do I bring to the business?

• What will be my legal structure?

• What will I name my business?

• What equipment or supplies will I need?

• What insurance coverage will be needed?

• What financing will I need?

• What are my resources?

• How will I compensate myself?

Your answers will help you create a focused, well researched business plan that should serve as a blueprint. It should detail how the business will be operated, managed and capitalized.

***** Small Business Success

Statistics compiled on new businesses indicate that most fail within the first couple of years. But every once in awhile, a new business beats the odds, as Safari Signs & Etched Solutions of San Diego has done by becoming profitable in its first year. Debi Baynard and Lisa Haws, the two sisters who own and operate the family business, firmly believe that their early success is largely attributable to the assistance they received from SCORE, counselors to America’s small business.

“During the process of searching for what direction to take, we found out about SCORE,” said Baynard. “Our father had heard from a friend about an organization that helped potential new business owners so we began our quest with SCORE.”

The sisters began attending low-cost workshops and working closely with SCORE counselors, which they say helped build their knowledge and confidence. Although they didn’t have experience in the sign or design business, they did have backgrounds in business and customer service as well as a strong desire to make the venture viable.

“SCORE provided counseling, training, ideas, suggestions and information plus the opportunity to meet with other new business owners,” added Haws. “Their effective program provided us with the knowledge, confidence and ability to move forward with our business.”

Baynard and Haws utilized SCORE’s comprehensive selection of workshops to help them obtain business and tax certificates, locate financing and legal contacts, develop business plans and operating budgets, and discover effective methods to advertise and market their business. They learned about new tools and resources, such as the Internet, to help them establish and build business relationships that could lead them down the road to success.

But most importantly, SCORE counselors continue to visit their business, offering continuous counseling and guidance as well as the opportunity to attend continuing education courses that can give their business a competitive edge. After just five months in business, they had an operating profit and their sales are steadily increasing.

The sisters say that SCORE has not only helped them with the transition from employees to owners, but also to focus on the many challenges associated with operating a business. But what the organization has really given them through its unique programs and services are the freedom to make their own choices, opportunities to be creative while making money, and more control over their destiny.

“Because of our involvement in SCORE, we’re always looking for ways to improve our business,” Baynard said. “Although it seems difficult in the beginning, the control over the potential for long-term benefits is the best part of owning a business. We’ve learned that with education, hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”

And for individuals who have witnessed the sisters’ success and ask them how they were able to accomplish it in such a short period of time, they simply flash the small-town smile that they say goes hand-in-hand with their big city service.

“The first thing we tell them is to visit the SCORE web site and call a SCORE counselor,” Baynard said. “It’s free, so they have absolutely nothing to lose and plenty to gain. And if they decide to attend a workshop, the cost is minimal considering the valuable information you can obtain.”

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