How to Ensure Your Business Survives – When Others Don’t

When you start your own business, there’s no guarantee that your business will survive. Nearly 50% of all small businesses fail within the first 2 years. The 2 main reasons for businesses failing is the lack of a proper Business Plan and the lack of capital.

Before you go overboard getting into debt to finance your business you need to have a strong Business Plan detailing your strategies on how you are going to survive and thrive in those first few years.

Here are some ideas to consider from businesses that have thrived for 5 years or more and what they have in common.

YOUR IDEA:

1. All successful businesses start with an idea. Does your idea stand out from the rest? How do you know if you have a good idea?

  • Does your idea provide a solution to a particular problem?
  • Does your idea satisfy a need or want? (what people want or need are two different things)
  • Does your idea create an opportunity?

Most successful businesses have found a solution to fixing problems (real or perceived) or have products or services that bring enjoyment to their customers. Successful ideas should create a repeat need for a product or service in your target market.

YOUR MARKET:

2. If you can answer yes to the following questions then your chances of survival are better than most.

  • Is there a ready market for your product or service? (It’s easier to fill a need than it is to try to create a new market)
  • Are your products or services affordable for your target market? (it doesn’t matter how good your products or services are if your potential clients can’t afford them, they won’t sell)
  • Are your products or services valuable to your potential clients? (If they want it but don’t believe the value is there they won’t buy it)

YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND ABILITY:

  • Do you have the knowledge and competency to provide the products and services you want to sell? If not, do you have partners or employees that can fill the gap on the things you are not able to do or don’t like to do? Do you have sufficient manpower?
  • Do you have a consistent supply source for your product? or do you have the ability to provide the service you are offering on an ongoing long term basis to your target market?
  • Do you have a USP (Unique selling proposition) that will help you maintain a competitive edge?
  • Do you have a Brand that properly represents you and your product and is consistent throughout your Business so it is memorable and separates you from your competition?

You need to develop a strong Business Plan. The idea is that your business plan should be your ongoing road map to use on your business to be changed and tweaked as you go along so you always know were you are and were you going. A Business Plan is not just “my idea is good so I deserve to get funding” – that just doesn’t float with banks or investors.

Make sure you use your Business Plan, don’t waste time creating it to file it away in a file cabinet. Your business plan will help keep you on course to growth and success and keep you on track with your goals.

Next you need to ensure you get sufficient funding. Having enough capital to keep your business afloat is vital to the survival of your business. Many small business entrepreneurs tend to underestimate how much capital they will need and forget altogether to allow for cash flow. The first few months of your business are likely to be cash strapped as you develop and grow your market and you need to ensure you have enough funds to survive during that time. Be realistic with your figures and allow a cushion for unexpected expenses.

In addition to the usual sources of funding – banks, investors, family etc. here are some resources you might be able to tap into for grants or loans.

  • Your local Small Business Associations
  • Small Business Development Centers
  • Economic Development Centers

These resources can usually point you in the right direction even if they cannot assist you directly.

Model other successful businesses – what do you like about them? what do you think they are doing that makes them successful?

No one can do it alone, even with great skills and abilities no-one does everything well. You likely know your own strengths and weaknesses already. Rather than ignoring them and having them affect your business find a Mentor who can advise and help you in your weak areas.

If you build a good business plan designed to succeed, you can create a strong business to pass onto future generations, and a business that other entrepreneurs will look to as model for their businesses.

How a Mentor Can Help You With Growing Your Business

Research in both educational settings and in the world of business indicates that students, employees, and CEOs are more likely to succeed if they had a mentor. Fortune 500 CEOs were asked what contributed most to their success. Many listed an effective mentor as one of the key factors. As a result, more and more entrepreneurs and business owners are following the lead of their corporate counterparts by engaging the services of professional business mentors.

Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which a more experienced person, referred to as the mentor, assists another person less experienced, referred to as the mentee, in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less experienced person’s professional and personal growth. Successful mentoring programs do not just happen; they are the result of careful planning and implementation.

Working with your own mentor can have a tremendous positive impact on your business. Whether you are an established company or just starting up, your mentor can teach you how to increase your confidence, develop vital business skills, and implement effective strategies to transition your business to the next level.

Even if you consider yourself to be an expert in your field, a recognizable knowledge or experience gap may still exist or be present. You may have a great idea for a new business, but you feel like you need to verify the feasibility of your new venture or to confirm the strategies that you are considering using. Seeking the guidance of an experienced mentor who has had similar experiences is the best way to get your question answered with valuable professional advice.

What does a professional business mentor do?

Your mentor serves as a trusted counselor, a guide, a source of information, a provider of perspective, and the voice of experience in addition to performing a number of different functions:

• Teaching you about specific business practices and functions.

• Coaching you on specific business skills.

• Facilitating your growth by providing resources and contacts.

• Challenging you to move beyond your comfort zone.

• Creating a safe learning environment for expanding your horizons.

• Focusing on your total development, both professional and personal.

What benefits will you realize from working with a professional business mentor?

• You will gain from your mentor’s expertise.

• You will receive critical feedback in key skill and knowledge areas.

• You will develop a sharper focus on what steps are needed to develop professionally.

• You will learn specific skills and knowledge that are relevant to your personal goals.

• You will gain knowledge about business tactics that are critical for success.

• You will adapt more quickly to changes in the marketplace.

• You will have a ‘friendly ear’ to share your frustrations, as well as, successes.

Professional business mentors are a valuable asset to any business organization.

When you struggle all alone in your business, it can lead to costly and demoralizing mistakes. Having an experienced mentor spares you the trouble of having to crack the business success code on your own. A seasoned, professional mentor is the perfect person to offer help and advice, especially if you are just starting out or facing difficult challenges. An experienced mentor has been there and done that! He/she knows what works and what doesn’t work.

By tapping into the wealth of knowledge and experience of a mentor, you can fast-track your business success by minimizing the mistakes most entrepreneurs make… Why try to re-invent the proverbial wheel, when you can engage the services of a seasoned, professional mentor to help you navigate the minefields associated with growing your business.

Don’t be trapped into thinking you don’t need a business mentor simply because you think know your business. Just like sports, running a business is highly competitive. So, if top athletes employ coaches/mentors, then it makes perfect sense to follow in the footsteps of these top athletes and employ your very own mentor!

Just like a good sports coach, the right professional business mentor will not play the game for you. They will simply assist you in determining the most effectively strategies in order to maximize your rewards and minimize your risks!

How to find a professional business mentor

Choosing a mentor is a serious decision. It is important that you select a business mentor who is competent, experienced, and has both integrity and expertise—an individual that you can trust in this newly formed fiduciary relationship.

There are a couple of avenues you can use to find a good professional business mentor… First, you can reach out to your local sphere of contacts. Talk to your existing advisors — your CPA, your attorney, your banker, and your insurance agent. Second, you can use the Internet. Fortunately, with the Internet you are not just limited to your local geographic area when seeking a business mentor. Many professional mentors provide their mentoring services via the telephone or Skype. This is often more convenient and more flexible than having to personally meet with a business mentor.

When evaluating your business mentor candidates it’s important to consider

· Confidentiality: Sensitivity to the importance of confidentiality is critical. Since a business mentor will be privy to highly confidential information about you and your business, it is very important for you to discuss bonds of confidentiality with him. A signed confidentiality agreement is recommended.

· Non-compete: Make sure that the business mentor candidate is willing to sign a non-compete agreement and to refrain them from advising/mentoring any of your direct competitors, not only during the course of the engagement, but also for a certain period of time thereafter.

· Chemistry: It’s not just for romantic relationships! There has to be certain chemistry with your business mentor. This is someone you are going to work closely to grow your business. You have to feel a connection and a sense of trust with this person. To gauge your level of comfort with your prospective business mentor, arrange to have a couple of pre-engagement discussions with him/her.

· Learning: Some experts believe that what you will learn from a particular mentor is far more important than the chemistry you have with that particular mentor. The critical question you must answer is, “exactly what I’m I going to learn from this particular business mentor that I can apply to overcoming my current issues and challenges.”

· Confidence: Make sure that you have the level of confidence that you need in order to move forward, and that the person-the business mentor — is as passionate about their business as you are about your business.

Should Business Startups Be Afraid of the Dark? Part (2)

Fledgling Business? It is vital, to [email protected]@K for what you Cannot See!

Reading this won’t teach you to see the invisible. That, by definition, is impossible. What you will learn, is a greater awareness of some of the things that might harm a fledgling business.

When seeking a tantalizing business location, no doubt you will consider localities that are thriving. New York’s Greenwich Village perhaps. Madrid’s Puerta del Sol or ChinaTown in London’s West End.

This article draws to your attention two points. By the way, the aim is to raise your awareness, not to scare you.

  1. Not all businesses compete on a level paying field. Look for the uneven.
  2. What happens when Rights to Protest, infringe on the Right to do Business.

You may find, it isn’t a Level Playing Field

A startup Taxi business may appear appealing from the outside. Or a business that manages driving instructors. These are typically awarded local government contracts, to monitor parking offences. This type of business would manage a fleet of traffic wardens. But can an entrepreneur make a reasoned assessment on whether to enter these sectors. Is it a level playing field?

If you don’t take time to understand the demographics, you may find that your new business simply cannot compete. Your labor costs may be sky high. A taxi firm, may tap into sources of petrol and diesel that you may consider is borderline legal.

All this can spell curtains for new business entrants. A taxi business will need to pay sky high license costs, every increasing road taxes.

Vehicle depreciation can add insult to injury. All the while, the cost of insurance services is on a way one street to the clouds. To make money, you may have to walk a fine line. If you are not prepared to do this, or cannot access some of the less obvious services, your enterprise may quickly go to the wall.

The Right to Protest can Infringe on Your Right to Do Business

Since 2008, when many banks and financial institutions had to be bailed out, the right to protest, has faced up to the rights citizens and businesses have, to peacefully go about their lives. And to go about their business.

Running battles with the police in Madrid (Spain), in Athens (Greece), and in many western countries, means that businesses, already hit by the economic slow down and austerity handed down by governments, take a double hit as customers stay away from streets that resemble a war zone.

Small businesses like restaurants and shops, depend on a street, busy with shoppers, not busy with the police. These sole traders and retail outlets, depend on a street not busy with rioters. Many business owners were left aghast, during the August 2011 England Riots, because an enterprise depends on a street, not busy with looters.

All this disharmony and discord is delivering pain long before you count one of the largest socio political events of our time. The Arab Spring. The drop in tourism to some parts of the world has destroyed the standard of living, which was already in a precarious and fragile state.

Why help out the Small Business Owner?

Why should anyone care? Why should we lift a finger to put money into the hands of business owners? Small businesses, including startups, are the engine room of any economy. Their success brings aspiration to the communities that have been flowerbeds to these enterprises.

It is important though that governments, local and national, as well as the institutions that are in place to nurture and support fledgling small businesses, get to work on the types of problems highlighted in this article.

Being afraid of the Dark is a misconception!

When we ask each other “Are you afraid of the dark”, the reality is that none of us fear “darkness” per se.

We fear what lurks in the undergrowth. We fear the things that pose a grave threat to our prosperity. In summary, we fear that, which we cannot see!