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Basic Business Cents: So you want to start your own business

Building a new business concept

Owning your own business can be the most satisfying, exasperating, enjoyable, frustrating, exhilarating, tiring, experience of your life. In all honestly, it is probably all of the above, maybe in the same day. It is hard work and you can expect to put in long hours, but if you enjoy what you are doing it doesn't seem so long or hard.

Start out defining your dream of what you would like to be doing at the height of your career. In this vision of the future, what would you or your organization look like? Remove restrictions for the moment, if you could make anything happen that you would like, what is the dream? Then ask, what is stopping you?

The next step is to develop strategy of what you need to do to achieve the dream. The marketing part of the strategic plan should identify the niche you want to be the center of your focus, where you can be the dominant force. Identify the means of promotion of your organization and its products. Bear in mind that the world is changing and social media is proving more effective than traditional methods. Consider how you can start a positive word-of-mouth campaign to create buzz for you.

The financial plan is extremely important because you need to ensure you have sufficient capital to exceed your start up costs. It typically takes 6 to 18 months before the business starts to make a profit. Be as detailed as you can in estimating startup costs, including equipment, material, licenses, insurance and legal costs. Make notes on your assumptions and continue to update this plan to learn from it. If you need to borrow capital, this plan is critical because the lender wants to see how you can pay back your loan.

Training is available from a number of sources, like local seminars sponsored by SCORE, Northwest Minnesota Foundation and the local Chamber of Commerce. A host of materials and online training can be found on the website www.score.org. This includes templates for business plans, marketing plans, financial plans, promotional concepts, etc.

An excellent reference book, titled "A Guide To Starting a Business in Minnesota," is available free from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Their phone to request the book is 800-310-8323.

A friend of mine was fond of saying, "Never fail by yourself." There are many resources to advise and help you in your venture. SCORE is an affiliate of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and offers free mentorship from experienced executives. They have a local presence and their phone number is (218) 732-2259.

Another affiliate of SBA is SBDC and they also offer free consulting.

A good relationship with a local banker can be helpful. People like to be asked for advice and bankers have experienced a lot with other companies.

An advisory board comprised of friends, experts in the intended market or experienced business people can be helpful. The advantage of an advisory board over a board of directors is that you are not bound by their advice and do not have a financial obligation to them. Again, people like to be asked for advice and might be flattered to be asked to be on your advisory board.

Do your homework, work hard to follow your strategy, obtain and weigh advice, and persevere to achieve desired results. You will not be sorry you decided to follow your dream.

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