Every year millions of people answer “Yes” to that question and every year that answer costs many of them money, time, confidence, and heartbreak.
The Small Business Administration estimates 580,900 new small businesses are opening each year and that number does not include the small one-person entrepreneurship that pops up every day.
However, even if you are your business’s sole employee then there is still something to be learned from the SBA’s numbers.
According to the SBA, two-thirds of new businesses survive at least two years and 44 per cent survive at least four years. Two of the key factors in the businesses survival and ability to thrive: the owner’s education level and the owner’s reason for starting the firm in the first place.
How can you make sure that you are among the winners rather than the losers in this high stakes game? The answer is inside of you. You must ask yourself four key questions to determine whether your own small business will survive and thrive.
- Are You Ready
Have you mentally prepared yourself for the switch from an employee (or student or whatever label fits you currently) to a boss? You are going to be the one making decisions now about everything from office products to product line. This total control is one of the driving forces behind many people who take the plunge into starting their own business but it is also one of the elements that drives new entrepreneurs crazy. When you start there is an endless list of decisions that need to be made and new questions crop up every day.
Even more important you will need to remember that in a small business you will wear many hats. Even if you manage to start with one or more employees you will each fulfil more than one role in your new business. And if you are running a one-man or one-woman show then you serve in every capacity from file clerk to maintenance crew to salesman to CEO. Can you handle switching from task to task and role to role like that? Are you willing to make those switches?
Similarly, have you prepared your family and friends for this switch in attitude? Your life is going to change — probably pretty drastically — and that change can have a positive or negative impact on your family life and social interactions. It will make things much easier if your friends and family are supportive going into the process.
- Where Is Your Niche?
Have you identified your niche yet? One of the reasons many businesses fail is that they fail to focus on a target audience. Yes if you are a major discount chain then you can sell everything from peanuts to wallpaper but this type of business requires vast resources that just aren’t available to the small business. But small businesses dominate the marketplace (creating more than 50 per cent of the private gross domestic product last year) by finding a different approach — a niche.
Knowing your niche means you are better able to find, target, and maintain your customers as well as provide the best possible goods and services to that customer base. That focus is one of your best chances to not only survive but to thrive in a very competitive marketplace.
- What Is Your Plan Of Action?
Another key factor in the survival and ultimate success of your business is how much planning you do before you open your electronic or physical doors. You need to decide if your business will be based on the internet or include more traditional models. Are you going to work full-time or part-time at your new business? Are you going to hire help or go solo? Have you written (or at least outlined) your business plan? Dreaming, thinking and planning can save you much trouble and waste later when things are hectic and problems strike. Planning can also help keep you focused and to balance your spending and time.
- Who Are You Going To Call?
At some point, no matter how experienced a business person you are, you will need help. You will need support, advice, tools, or information — or all of the above. One of the beautiful, and most frightening, aspects of growth is that it can lead you to places you never imagined. No matter how much planning and experience you bring to your new position as CEO the unexpected will arise. How will you cope with this? It is important to recognize that no business is an island. It is not a failure to seek help. Failure is when your business shuts down because you didn’t get the help you needed.
The best way to get timely help is to work on your support system while you work on building your business. That way you will already have a ready list of resources available that you can quickly tap into when emergencies strike. In today’s world, there are many marvellous resources available to you no matter what your business model may be. These include:
~ Publications (newsletters, magazines, books)
~ People (professional advisors, mentors, teachers, consultants)
~ Networks (organizations and forums in your niche as well as general business and marketing)
~ Education and training (tutorials, courses, and seminars)
After you have answered these four key questions you are now ready to ask yourself that one big question again — are you ready to start your own business?
Easy Invention Ideas
Easy invention ideas? Why easy? Sometimes it’s just too intimidating to think about building a new type of the car, television, or other complicated invention. So these are ideas for garage or basement tinkerers. Coming up with a prototype for most of these will cost no more than the money in your pocket. They are not patented yet, as far as I know.
Wild Game Carrier
Deer hunters regularly die of heart attacks while carrying their bucks out of the woods. The invention here would solve that problem. It would have an inflatable wheel, using coated nylon that won’t puncture easily. Once you get your deer, blow up the wheel, and using the clamps on either side, you attach two poles or sticks that you cut on site. Attach the simple nylon sling between the sticks, and you have a wheel-barrow-like device that will carry a deer over even rough trails. Probably weighing no more than two pounds, it could be carried easily in a day pack.
Perhaps it is been done, but I haven’t seen them sold yet. With some lift from the helium, these kites could be flown in any amount of wind. Properly designed, they would still fly something like a kite, and with some manoeuvrability, is designed like a stunt kite. The prototype could be a kite with a small helium balloon attached. That’s an easy invention.
This is more of a marketing idea than an invention. Have advertisements on kites and get paid to fly them at the beach or during big outdoor events. In my former small-town home, they paid for planes to drag ads around during festivals, so the market might be there.
If dollar stores can keep putting t-shirts on the shelves, we know they are getting cheap to make. So how about a line of shirts that are low-quality, but good enough to use, and cost very little to manufacture? You sell them in boxes of 12, as “disposable clothing.” Where’s the market? Maybe people who want less laundry to do on long trips. I set aside old clothes for just that purpose, which is where the idea came from. Also, some people might want to have some cheap things to wear for doing dirty jobs.
Imagine this: You are wearing two little “kayaks” on your feet. Two smaller ones at the end of two ski poles help you balance as you walk across the nearest lake. At 8 feet long and 8 inches around, they would hold about 170 pounds each, by the way. To try this one, remember that to figure the volume of a cylindrical object, you multiply pi (3.14) times the radius squared times the length. Oh, and each cubic foot of air will support about 64 pounds.
An easy invention idea from childhood. I and my brothers spent summers at the beach, on Lake Michigan. Many nights, the wind blew steady off the water, and we discovered that we could make a “wind tent” out of an old blanket. With three sides pinned down, using rocks and sand, the wind held the “tent” open. We camped out in these tents, although when the wind died, the tent did. Maybe someone could make and market a plastic version. A colourful square of plastic – this is one of the easiest of the easy invention ideas.
Business Name How To Pick One From A Legal Perspective
A business name can be a huge factor in the ultimate success or failure of the entity. Unfortunately, many people fail to give a lot of thought to it before moving forward. There are many factors to consider including something memorable, a name related to your area of work and, potentially, the availability of the domain name.
Picking a business name is like getting married. You are going to have to stick with it till the bitter end. It is estimated a prospect will need to see your advertisement and business name at least 22 times before doing business with you. Once they associate your business with a certain name, making a change will be disastrous. Once you pick something, stick with it.
Naming Your Business
If you are going to be married to your business name, you need to make sure the bride isn’t already married to another suitor. There are four significant issues to consider.
Initially, you must determine whether the name is already being used in your state. The Secretary of State controls the names of all corporations, LLCs and partnerships. Most also have a web site where you can conduct name searches. Even if you are a sole proprietor, you should check the name against those already registered in the state database. If the name is being used, you will need to consider an alternative.
Assuming the name passed must with the Secretary of State, you should check it against existing trademarks file with the Patent and Trademark Office. The “PTO” maintains an online database. As with the Secretary of State, you can conduct an online search to make sure no other business is using it.
In this day and age, many businesses incorporate a web site as part of their business model. If you are in this boat, you need to check to see if the business name is available as a domain. If it is, you should register it immediately. If not, you can either change your business name again or focus on a domain name incorporating your service or product instead of the business name.
Your business could be devastated if you do not take these precautionary steps. Imagine the negative impact on your business if the name has to be changed three years down the line. Take a breath before you select a business name. As a spouse, it can be either a good or bad choice.
Business Systems Not Just For Big Business
When I mention business systems to you, what comes to mind? Do you think of an IBM mainframe computer sitting in a big room in the middle of your building? Do you think of expensive, highly specialized software? That’s what many small business owners imagine. And they think it’s not for them. If that’s what you think, you’re only half right.
Half right because expensive, highly specialized software is probably not for you. Half wrong because good business systems most definitely are. A business system isn’t hardware or software. It’s the way that you do any part of your business. It’s how you do things. You are using systems all the time, you just may not be using them efficiently.
I regularly urge business owners to get everything they know about their business out of their head and onto paper. I’m urging you now to do the same with your systems. Start writing out how you do things in your business. At a minimum, write out how you treat your customers or clients, how your paperwork for each sale flows, how your production systems work, how you market to clients, and how you do your bookkeeping.
Do this in detail. For each area, make a very detailed description of every step in the process. Include what you do and why you do it. Include the subtle parts that make your company uniquely you. Include the parts that you are proud of. Include the tricks that make it efficient. Include what you tried that didn’t work and explain why. Each system should become a very rich, highly detailed system. Why so much detail?
Because this is the beginning of being able to consistently deliver results. And the beginning of being able to consistently deliver results even when you aren’t around. Documented (written) systems make delegating much more manageable. Delegating is one of the keys to success in growing your business while still having a life.
Maybe you don’t want a bigger business. Maybe you want to keep yours small.
Still, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go on a long vacation and turn the keys over to someone else to run and make money for you while you are gone?
Without systems, that wouldn’t be remotely possible. With systems almost anything is. Now, does that sound like something that should only be for big business? I think not.