Small Business Planning Tips
Starting your own business in this economy? YES YOU CAN!
Almost everyday for the past 18 months, news outlets have bombarded us with dismal economic statistics. Headlines read, “National Unemployment Rate Increases to 10%,” “Real Estate Prices Continue Their Steep Decline,” and “Foreclosure Rates At An All-Time High.” Although a representation of our economic reality, the daily news can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, never mind being optimistic about the future. The good news is that we will, eventually, see better days. For ambitious individuals who may find themselves unemployed or underemployed and have a great idea for a product or service, now may be the time to assume the title of “Entrepreneur” and start planning for the future.
Although hard to believe, history has proven that economic recessions are the best time to launch new businesses. Sixteen companies that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average were started during recessions. A few examples of other success stories include Disney, established during the recession of 1923; Microsoft created in 1975; and locally, Enterprise Bank, which opened its doors in the midst of a banking crisis in 1989.
So to those of you with an entrepreneurial spirit who have dreamed of creating your own business and becoming your own boss, now could be the ideal time to turn your dream into reality; but before you do, please be sure to do your research and take advantage of the many resources available. Here is a guide of how to get started, where to go and who to talk to:
- Create a Business Plan: This isn’t as scary as it seems and it doesn’t need to be formal but it should include a written outline of your strategy consisting of your ideas in detail. Your plan should include an explanation of your products or services, identify your customers, recognize your competition and determine where your business will be located. If you start by organizing this information into categories, things should begin falling into place. Your business plan should also include financial projections; what you expect your sales to be compared to your expenses, and how much money you will need to open your doors and keep the business operating. Make these figures realistic, and take industry standards into consideration.
- Review your business plan with a professional (i.e. the Small Business Assistance Center, a Certified Public Accountant, or a Business Consultant within the industry you’ll be joining) and modify your plan accordingly. Many times a third party, especially those familiar with businesses similar to your new venture, will help keep your financial projections and your expectations realistic.
- Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website (www.sba.gov) for information regarding government secured loans designated for start-up companies and grants that are available for businesses within specific industries, or to owners within certain demographics. This information may also be available at the Small Business Assistance Center.
- Schedule a meeting with a commercial lender at a local bank to discuss your plan and obtain financing. Yes, banks are lending money! Many banks have commercial lenders who specialize in SBA secured loans and are knowledgeable regarding government programs. Before meeting with a bank, be sure they are a Certified SBA Lender.
- Have a family meeting. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a customer who explained that the most important meeting he had while planning for his new business was with his family. In this meeting he explained that in order for the business to be successful, each member of the family would have to be understanding and supportive of the commitment and sacrifices inherent with starting and growing a business. Setting expectations and having everyone on the same page was essential to his success.
- If you’ve passed the family test and are securing bank financing, meet with a CPA or a tax attorney to determine what kind of business entity you should establish for tax purposes (i.e. Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, Limited Liability Company or Partnership). You may be able to start as a sole proprietorship (often referred to as a d/b/a) for the first few years of operation, but check with a professional before making this decision.
- Surround yourself with knowledgeable and competent advisors that share your business values. This should include a Certified Public Accountant, attorney and a banker.
Lastly, go into your venture with tenacity and the courage to truly believe what Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Good Luck!
A graduate of U/Mass Lowell, Sandra Brinquinho is a Commercial Lending Officer/Assistant Vice President at Enterprise Bank in Lowell. For further information, Sandra can be reached at 978 656 5553 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.