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Thinking about starting your own business? Let me talk you out of it!
By Rhonda F. Waters   Printer Friendly Version

Actually, I do not want to talk you out of starting your own business, but I do want to make sure that you have realistic ideas about what owning your own business means. You need to think very hard about not only how this will impact YOUR life, but about your family members as well. If you are planning to send your three kids to Ivy League schools while still taking your yearly month vacation in Antigua, you may want to rethink starting a business right now. Of course if you have prepared your children to pay their own way through college, things may still work out!

1. You must have a burning desire to help others. The service or product that you will provide must be of value to others in some way. That does not mean you have to know the solution to cold fusion, but you will need to be an expert in the field of miniature horses from Pennsylvania, if that is what you plan to sell or provide information on. Don't even think of starting a business just for the money. It will take awhile for the cash to start rolling in, many times it takes years. Money is probably not solely what motivates you now. If you think owning a business is just about making money, read no further. You are not going to like running your own business.

2. You need to know how much money you have, and how much you MUST have to live on each month. Seem simple? Do you know the answer? MUST have money is your mortgage or rent, car payments, insurance (health, property & car), grocery money, (don't start thinking that you will live on peanut butter & jelly for two years), school bills, clothing, elder care for your parents. If your life partner is going to provide financial support make sure you both understand that this is going to be a very lengthy process and that the cost will not just be in financial terms but also in time spent apart.

3. Find out what it will cost you to run the business of your dreams. If you plan to open a storefront, you need to know what it will cost in rent. Scope out an empty location that you would like to have and call the rental agent. Find out what rent, utilities, telephone, stocking the store, employee payroll, would cost monthly from the appropriate vendors. What about security for the location? Planning a home office, hold on there! If you plan to have clients visiting you, better check zoning regulations in your neighborhood - discreetly. Do you need additional wiring for telephone service or high-speed internet access? What about more electrical outlets to support the equipment? Will you need a laptop, copier or other office equipment? What about support staff? Can you create your own letterhead, brochures & web presence, or will you have to pay for them? That opens a whole 'nother can of worms. That is the minimum you will need. There will always be emergencies, problems, floods, some issues will be personal, some business related. Things that you have never heard of will suddenly fall over on you.

4. Add #2 & # 3. The total is a rough estimate of what you will need monthly to support yourself and run your business. Once you have figured out all this stuff - add 25%.

5. You must have a self-development plan. You will need to become an expert in as many things as you can. Reading and studying are great ways of saving money. The more you know, the less you will have to spend paying other people to do things that you are capable of doing. I do not mean that you need to become a finish carpenter to build the displays in your store, but you will need to understand what is basically involved in the process in order to make sure that things turn out the way you have planned them. You also must be able to understand and keep track of your personal and business finances. Stories of bad investments and misplaced trust are everywhere. If you do not know where your money is, probably no one else does either. No one will ever watch your money as closely as YOU will.

Think about going back to college to learn special skills, or complete a degree program. Then go DO IT! Especially if your current employer will pay, even if they won't. An adult learner-centered college will be very different from what you knew as a high school student! Find a place that is user friendly to what YOU need.

6. Think of ways that you can ease into being your own boss. Join local support groups, like chambers of commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary or other networking groups. There are several government programs that provide training in many areas of small business start-ups. Some local non-profit organizations may also provide help in this as well. Unless you are opening a known franchise store or service, no one will have heard of you before! This is one reason why so many new businesses fail. They have not anticipated how LONG it will take for people to get to know you enough for them to give you their hard-earned money. Get on the board of a non-profit organization that you believe in. Join professional associations that are appropriate to your business. By joining groups of influential caring people you will be building up a potential client base and referral system as well as doing good things. In order to build your credibility as a businessperson you must not only "join" these groups, but you must "work" in them. You will also be opening a door to invaluable first-hand information that you will need in your business. Note: These groups will have dues and meeting attendance fees. Don't forget to budget for them in item #3!

Wondering why I have not mentioned a business plan? Well, before you know most of these things you can't even start writing one! There are lots of places to learn about writing a business plan, and many different kinds of them too. Some kinds are particularly useful if you need a bank loan. Others work best for sole proprietors, others for family-owned businesses. Does this seem like a lot to do?

Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship!

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