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Starting A Business? Learn to Juggle First!

Starting a small business has been compared to juggling. The most accurate comparison probably would be juggling with chainsaws and flaming torches.

If you’re considering a small business launch, or currently trying to grow one, you probably know much of this. But a few reminders are always a good idea.

Starting and running a small business is definitely not for the weak kneed. It requires gaining expertise in scores of areas, from loan requirements to workman’s compensation. Those challenges are part of the reason many dream of becoming entrepreneurs but never do. In many cases, the hesitation is justified. If you’re not prepared to face these issues then building a small business may not be for you.

But if you decide to take the challenge, keep these ideas in mind:

• Keep it simple! Don’t let your ideas and passion grow into a knot of expensive and complicated mess that would be difficult for a large and well-funded organization. Keep your focus and if you have other ideas that seem promising, set them aside for now. Get your business going with the most promising idea first.

• Research the legal requirements for operating a business in your location. It’s pointless to plan on operating a machine shop from your home if your city code prohibits such operations in residential areas (which it probably does). Likewise, you want to know all possible costs that might come up, not just taxes but everything from pollution requirements to professional certification. It might be a good idea to speak with a small business accountant before getting too far along.

• All of this brings up the topic of business planning, not notes on a napkin but a formal, comprehensive business plan that includes elements such as projected markets, competitor analysis and staffing needs.

• Cost estimates are one of the biggest challenges. One suggestion is to make your absolutely best estimate then double or even quadruple it. This may be excessive, but you’ll almost certainly find that unexpected costs will occur repeatedly. If you haven’t allowed for them, they can be fatal to your business.

• These expenses are why it's probably a good idea to wait before you count on your new business for full-time income. If you’re currently employed, stay that way for as long as you can, if at all possible.

• One area that causes many entrepreneurs problems is marketing. Even just talking about your business can be difficult. But it’s important that you market your company and a great way to start is word of mouth – your own mouth. It’s also a good idea to reduce your business concept to an elevator speech, a short and even catchy description that quickly communicates what your business is about. You’ll need that in an expanded form for your formal business plan so developing it up front is smart. The process will also help you critically analyze your ideas for weaknesses.

• Trying that speech with friends, families and successful business owners would be a good follow up. You’ll be able to practice your delivery and get feedback. That’s why learning to listen is just as important as perfecting your presentation. It might even be a good idea to take notes then transfer them to a document that you use as a running list of pros and cons. And as you listen, learn to be a “police profiler.” Some people, especially friends and family, may hesitate to be critical but you might learn from their body language, choice of words and other tips that people often give about their feelings.

All of these and more are a good place to start building or perfecting your small business plans. There’s also a lot of good information available to help. MSBF has created this “Strategic Planning and Goal Setting” document (PDF) that is a good overview of business planning. The federal Small Business Administration also has a wealth of information, including this section on business planning. Other in-depth information is available, including through outstanding area sources such as the Kauffman Foundation and KCSourceLink.

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Midwest Small Busness Finance | 7001 N Locust St. | Gladstone, MO 64118 | Phone: 816-468-4989