How To Start A Small Town Business
by Tom Egelhoff
One of the great things about the internet is that there are sites like this one to help answer some of the questions people have who want to start their own business. My father was in the floral business for many years and he used to travel to nearby towns and learn the business from other florists that were willing to share the "business secrets" with him. I still think that's a good idea. Find someone who's doing what you want to do, successfully, and do what they do.
According to the SBA (Small Business Administration) there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses that start each year. Add home based businesses to that list and it's probably in the millions. For most people, starting a business means that you are going into uncharted territory. Sort of like going on vacation to a strange place and just about the time you are ready to leave you begin to know your way around.
Unlike a vacation, there are certain risks to avoid when starting a new business and starting one in a small town has more risks than the same business in a larger city. For one you have a smaller customer base to work with and that may take longer for the business to become self-sufficient. There are other risks involved that may take your business down before it even begins. This article will help you deal with some of those.
Lower Your Risk Of Failure
Years ago many business experts used to say the principle reason for business failure was location, location, location. With the internet and various types of mass media advertising that old adage no longer applies. In my opinion, the most common reason for failure is management skills.
Most new business owners are extremely talented at what they do. If they create a product they normally do it very well. But because they've never been in business before they are often at a loss when it comes to actually running the company.
Before starting your new business, consider taking some management courses at the nearest University. Yes, you can become a student and take one or two classes in the evening. Check out your local business section of the public library and see what books they have available on management techniques. As I've said many times, school may have ended for you but learning is a life long job. Read as much as you can about your business or industry. And, best of all find a mentor. Someone who is successfully managing your type of business and do what they do.
There is a ton of helpful information on all kinds of businesses at your local library. For a list of info you might want to look at: How And Where To Find Small Business Information.
Good Small Town Business Owners Are Good Planners
I don't care how small your business is you need a good business plan. Your business plan will give you focus and direction. Just like a map will tell you how to drive cross country your business plan is a road map to success.
You Need The Support Of Those Who Love You
In order to be successful you need the support of family and friends. This is not always easy to accomplish. For more on this See: Small Business Failure: (Three Reasons Why Your Business Will Fail And How To Avoid Them) Starting a business is going to infringe on some of their time and you need to come to an understanding that a new schedule of your time with them will need to be created. Be sure to make time for family while your business is growing. Find the time to make the soccer game or the school play. You still have the responsibility to be a good parent.
Be Prepared To Give Your Business Enough Time For It To Work
I have seen so many businesses fail that were right on the verge of success because the owner became discouraged that success took longer than they had planned. Very few businesses are overnight successes. There are sometimes years of discouragement before there is that one special event that takes your business to another level. You are all alone in your business start-up and the constant decision making takes its toll on some people. After years of having the decisions made for them not it's their turn to make them. See the link above for more on this.
How Much Time Should I Give My Business?
I ask a lot of people this question and the most common answer is six months. My answer is three to five years. What can happen in six months? Your advertising and marketing plan is just starting to work in six to nine months. You need a couple of years to establish some trends and develop a customer base. Don't quit too soon unless it's going to put you and your family at financial risk.
Look Before You Leap
Another problem for the small business owner is decision making. Are you the kind of person who assembles all the facts before making a decision? Or, are do you make decisions by the flip of a coin? Decisions that are well thought out are often much better for the health of your business than those made on the spur of the moment. In the beginning of your business you might want to sleep on major decisions. If they still seem right the next day they probably are.
Do What You Like To Do and Delegate The Rest
Many times, on this site, I have spoken of the value of a good bookkeeper or accountant. These folks are worth their weight in gold. Do the things that you do well and let someone who is good with figures take care of your money.
The same with an attorney. Have the people who make their living doing this sort of thing advise you. Yes there may be a cash outlay larger than you would like to start with them but in the long run they are very inexpensive for the value they return.
Don't Be Too Proud To Pack It In
Sometimes the best ideas just don't work. They look great on paper but in the light of the real business world they just don't survive. It's ok to be persistent. It's not ok to be stupid and keep pouring your hard earned money into a business or service that no one wants.
The Last Word On Small Town Business Start-up
While you're at the library check out phone books for other cites of your size. Buy a phone book for the area if you can't find one. Why? You want to look for businesses like yours that are already established. How do they advertise? How did they overcome the hurdles of small town business start-up. No one has all the answers but you can learn by the mistakes of others.
Most small business owners like to help each other unless they happen to be direct competitors. Call businesses in other towns and ask their advice. Most will be happy to share their success story with you.
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Based in Bozeman, MT, Tom Egelhoff is the author of How To Market, Advertise & Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town, and The Small Town Advertising Handbook: How To Say More And Spend Less. He is also a seminar and workshop presenter and trainer. He may be reached at 888-550-6100 or PO Box 271, Bozeman, MT 59771-0271
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