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Big Business Dreams Begin with Important Small Steps

January 15, 2010

If you have been affected by the economic downturn of the past few years, this may be a good time to consider starting that small business you’ve always dreamed of. 

The first steps for creating a successful business are planning, research and more planning. Ask yourself, “Can I be my own boss?” Try to objectively assess the pros and cons. Running a business is different from working for one ─ even if you are an experienced manager. Every responsibility — generating new work, paying taxes, locating office space, buying paper clips —falls on your shoulders … in addition to actually doing the work itself. 

There’s no substitute for experience, so talk to other small business owners who are in the same line of work that you aspire to enter. Find out how they got started, what mistakes they made, and what they would do differently. These discussions may also reveal opportunities to team with existing businesses for special projects, workload overflows or complementary services. 

Put yourself in the position of your potential customers. What impresses you about the businesses you use? The little things, such as home delivery or online shopping, consumer resources. Consider the time, cost and energy required to support value-added services. What value will you offer? Why would someone buy from you vs. others already in that business?  Do a competitive analysis – who, what, where, how many? 

Tell friends and colleagues of your plans. Even if they are not prospective customers, they may volunteer other contacts who may be interested in using your services and offer other useful perspectives. 

Make planning an ongoing effort. Update your business plan as you collect useful intelligence. In today’s fast-paced business climate, your entrepreneurial plans may have to take a back seat to other developments in your current work life, such as a major new project or a change in your job responsibilities. 

Put your family’s financial security first. If a good job opportunity arises, it may be best to take it and put your entrepreneurship dreams aside for a while. But, don’t abandon them completely. Many successful small businesses have started as part-time ventures, enabling their owners to eventually become their own bosses. 

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to planning and opening a small business. A great place to find this valuable resource is SCORE Lancaster, “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” There you’ll meet knowledgeable counselors ready to help you with every aspect of realizing your dream. SCORE’s small business counseling is free, and all discussions are confidential. Call us at 717-397-3092, or find us online at www.scorelancaster.org

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