Making Your Dream a Reality

By Joyce Ezrow

You have a dream about starting your business. This is a wonderful time to be thinking of starting a business. Economic development agencies at the federal, state and local level of governments are ready and willing to help you get that dream off the ground. You can tackle the start-up process yourself, or you can team up with agencies such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) or Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) that provide free counseling for businesses-both start-ups and existing businesses. Your local library has numerous books to help you through the process as well.

The first step you must take is to determine whether being self-employed is really the path you want to follow. It has many rewards, such as independence, profit potential and flexibility of schedules. But, the road is not all paved with gold—do you have what it takes in terms of motivation and drive to succeed? Do you have the support of your friends and family?

Do you have both the technical and business skills that you will need to achieve success? If your answer to any of the above questions is not an unequivocal yes, then maybe you need to assess what steps you should take to better prepare yourself to succeed.

Training is available through many sources in the community if you need additional business training. You do not need a college degree to succeed, but you do need a working knowledge of business skills, such as management, accounting and marketing, to grow your business. Check out the local community college for both their credit and non-credit business courses. The non-credit offerings often include seminars that meet for only a couple of hours but are targeted to very specific business topics, such as hiring employees or effective networking. Longer courses are available, such as the Fast Trac© program, which takes 15 weeks to help you develop a complete business plan.

The Internet is a great source, with many tools for small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Check out the Small Business Administration’s Web site, www.sba.gov, for help with planning, financing, marketing and management issues. The Web site also includes sample business plans to help you formulate your plan. The SBA is affiliated with many community partners that offer training courses as well. The complete calendar of courses is available on their Web site.

The more you learn and plan for your business, the more prepared you will be to deal with the roadblocks ahead.

Do not underestimate the amount of capital it takes to start a business. You must cover all of your start-up and operating costs until you reach the point at which you break even. Understanding where and when this point will occur helps you determine how much financing and what type of financing you must procure. Writing a business plan helps you anticipate the potential problems and develop a “plan B” to overcome the hurdles.

The following checklists will help provide you with a path to achieve your dream!

• Is a small business the way to achieve your goals?

• What qualifications do you bring to the business?

• What is your comfort level with risk?

• Is your family supportive of this venture?

• What do you hope to achieve with this business?

• What type of business are you interested in starting?

• Is there a market for the product or service you want to provide?

• Who is your target market for this product or service?

• What is the competition like in your selected market?

• What would be your competitive advantage?

• Is the competitive advantage sustainable?

How will you organize the business? Each of these structures has different tax and liability implications.

• Corporation

• Partnership

• Limited liability company

• Sole proprietorship

Select a location for the business.

Determine anticipated start-up expenses.

Develop a list of potential monthly expenses.

Identify all financing resources available at the local, state and federal levels of government, and determine which are most appropriate for your type of business.

Establish a bank account for the business.

Determine the suppliers that you will need to run your business and investigate the credit terms available from each.

Investigate all start-up procedures specific to your industry (do you need any permits or licenses?).

Meet with an accounting professional to determine the recordkeeping needs specific to your type of business.

Meet with an insurance professional to evaluate your risk management plans.

Write a business plan to outline your business strategies for the next three to five years.

Secure financing if needed.

© 2010, Joyce Ezrow

Joyce Ezrow

Professor, Business Management, FastTrac© Certified Instructor, Anne Arundel Community College

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