A famous quote from Mark Twain reads, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Considering this edition of CRL focuses on small business, this is a quote that is very applicable to today’s entrepreneurs.
Acting on the decision to start your own business is sometimes the most difficult part of the entire process, especially in uncertain economic times. Overcoming the voice inside your head that fears all of the unknowns, is the first and hardest step in your entrepreneurial journey.
In 2009, I had the privilege to be part of The Leadership Institute, a professional development program offered through the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Each monthly session featured a variety of accomplished business people from across the region talking in detail about a specific professional skill set. The panels always included one or two small business owners and they all echoed a similar message about making the leap: none of them regretted taking the risk and surprisingly, many wished they had done it sooner. They offered valuable business tips, some of which I’d like to share for those interested in becoming their own boss.
Do your homework. This is probably the most obvious, but most important piece of advice to consider. Going into business isn’t cheap and it doesn’t happen overnight. Gather as much information as you can and talk to as many professionals as possible, especially in the areas of law, insurance and finance. As a lawyer, I know that the liability aspects in particular make consulting with an attorney extremely valuable to protect yourself from unexpected claims. In addition, many chambers of commerce and local government agencies offer entrepreneurial training programs with industry experts and can sometimes match you with a business mentor to provide the added benefit of real-world experience.
Develop a plan. There are many schools of thought as to how long and thorough a plan should be, but all will agree that having a Business Plan is essential. Just like a realtor will emphasize “location, location, location,” a financial expert is going to insist “plan, plan, plan.” If you hope to get traditional financing through a bank or credit union, the first thing they’ll be asking to see is a copy of your business plan. Not only will it help you understand the needs of your business today, it’ll provide a roadmap of where your business should be in the next three to five years.
Create a buzz. Get the word out, early and often. Social media has changed the marketing landscape, and successful promotional campaigns are now much easier and less expensive to develop. Having a comprehensive web presence including Facebook and Twitter is quickly becoming the standard and small business owners with savvy Internet marketing skills can reap the rewards. Creating a steady marketing buzz about your new business could very well be the difference between a good start and a phenomenal start. So as you start checking things off your list, be sure you’re leveraging every contact and taking out the marketing bull horn to spread the word.
Believe. As any entrepreneurial spirited individual knows, it takes a lot of hard work to develop and pursue a new business; there will be many great and difficult times ahead. But don’t give up! Believe in yourself. If you truly provide a great service or a great product, people will appreciate you and your business and success will follow. Just like raising a child, a successful business will grow and change, and being prepared for those changes will make all the difference. Networking, staying current on trends (and your competition), connecting with your customers and standing behind your service or product are all great points from the pros to remain successful over time.
Although the E. Stewart Jones Law Firm specializes in Personal Injury and Criminal Defense law, many of my colleagues in the Capital Region legal community assist local entrepreneurs with all facets of starting and growing their small business. If you’re strongly considering starting your own business or if you’re already established and are looking to expand, please feel free to contact me at 274.5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly introduce you to an experienced attorney to help realize your small business dreams. I wish you the best of luck on this exciting journey and look forward to reading about your success stories in future editions of CRL.
E. Stewart Jones, PLLC is a locally-owned law firm representing Personal Injury and Criminal Defense clients in the greater Capital Region since 1898. Attorney George LaMarche, III has been with the firm for more than 10 years and serves as Partner along with E. Stewart Jones, Jr. For additional information, please visit www.esjlaw.com.