By Dede Gossage/Program Coordinator
Entrepreneurs are a unique breed of people. Hearing their stories is sometimes like reading a diary of a personal adventure with extreme highs and lows. I have observed people start or obtain a business for many reasons; fulfilling a personal mission, out of necessity or possibly by family succession and every business owner is faced with tough challenges.
If you don’t like making decisions, you won’t like being a business owner. Cash flow, marketing and management growth, when to hire, when to fire, management by the numbers, management by reward…the list goes on and on. The decision making process is a combination of risk mixed with relevant influences (and outliers). One choice produces a myriad of consequences, some of which create unwanted outcomes. Facebook’s public offering was one of the most publicized tech IPO’s (Initial Public Offering) in history. But the decision didn’t quite pan out as the CEO Mark Zuckerburg and the investment banks had hoped.
Given the challenges, it is amazing that the American dream of owning a business is still thriving today. I have a friend who started a successful business several years ago who says that there has never been a better time in our country to start a business than now. She started her business during the recent recession and has grown the business over 300% in just a few years.
Here are a few points I’ve noticed that CEOs consider when operating a business:
1. Cash really is King!
Cash Flow – Knowing how the cash flows in and out of your business is important. If you are not a bookkeeper, find a good one you can trust and one that understands your industry.
Cash Solvent – when planning your business (consider writing a business plan) make sure you have enough cash for your business to operate during the cash cycle. Planning your expenses against when you will get paid is crucial to your livelyhood the first couple of years you are open for business.
2. Creating a go-to-market strategy – You don’t have to spend a lot of marketing dollars, but you do need to plan on how you are going to reach your market and that includes knowing WHO your primary customer is. (I assure you, it’s not everyone). It will cost you something though…your TIME. Account for this time in terms of dollars and measure every marketing platform in terms of dollars and outcome. Your collateral pieces should also have a metric tied to them (ROI) and begin to build a fluid brand. After all, they are just that, collateral against a future profit.
3. Find a good insurance agent. These people can be invaluable in the event of crisis. You will be glad you made the decision if you get injured or your business suffers natural disaster.
4. “What have I done”? – When you get to this defining moment (and you will) remind yourself of your mission. Why did I start this journey in the first place? An SBDC Consultant is a good place to start for some free coaching and if you find a good one, he or she may end up being a business friend during the life cycle of your business.
5. Legal Forms – Think twice before you create a partnership (especially a 50/50 partnership). Enlist the assistance of a lawyer to protect your assets and educate yourself about tax issues.
6. Rest, Sleep and Relax – When you go home at night, shut it off! Your family and your health have to come before your business. You won’t be there for either if you don’t take care of yourself first. Find another hobby besides your business so that when you have down time, you can retrain your thought life.
7. Humor/Optomitic outlook. My dad used to tell me that this one thing saved his mind and kept him running his business with joy for over 30 years. Thanks for the great advice dad.