Start Your Own Business
Part One
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How to start a successful Business I: Some Guidelines

How to start a Business II: The Business Planning Process

How to Start a Business III: Creating an Internet Business Presence

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How to Start a successful Business


As the economic conditions get worse, there are more and more "business opportunities" for making a promised quick return, offered on TV and on the Internet. Many are of the more "lunatic kind", but a few are quite legitimate and sometimes even workable. So beware of scams and stay clear of unrealistic claims of potential success!


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The main purpose of a good business opportunity has to be to make money in an agreeable environment. In addition, when you have been laid off, the amount of money you can afford to invest, has to be negligible and the risk associated with losing it has to be very low. Now, whether you want to start a business on the internet or elsewhere, is, for the planing part of it, quite immaterial. Both areas of business require a lot of thought, and a lot of work.

Using the internet has the advantage that you have an almost instant business presence. However, that does not mean that your site is known and that people can find it, or that it appears in search engines. Despite claims to the contrary, usually, by guys wanting to sell you their "search engine expertise", it takes weeks and sometimes months, before you appear on search engines like Google, dmoz.org or Yahoo. But, if the site is there, and you have a domain name for your business and good website hosting, you can always point clients to your site, when you talk with them and through your letterheads, flyers and business cards.

In making suggestions and selecting the opportunities, we did not look at whether the business opportunity was something "hip" or "trendy". Instead, we concentrated on whether there was a reasonable chance to succeed, provided you put effort into building on an idea and, in creating a genuine income producing business from that idea.

When you go out to assess your chances and try to look at a business opportunity, we determined, that the key criteriae in your selection should be:

If you take someone else's idea, the opportunity has to have a purpose and has to be understandable (an amazing number of "so-called business opportunities" offered, simply cannot be duplicated, whatever its originator says)
You have to be able to build up a business and create a survivable income stream within a reasonable time. We have used the time frame of one year.
The entry costs have to be reasonably low, because, being without a job, you have very limited resources to spend. Don't participate in risky schemes. The only winner on those, is the guy who sells it to you.
Your selected business opportunity
  • either has to be in a field you have intimate knowledge (for instance, consulting in a specific area), which you have acquired through the years you spend as an employee, through your hobbies or some other association, or
  • it does not require specific up-front knowledge, over and beyond common sense. In this latter case, you have to be able to acquire the knowledge for running the business as you build up the business.
There is no need to finance, purchase and keep inventory.

The most promising sectors that fit this bill, are either

selling advice, or
providing some type of consultancy, or
coaching,
mentoring

or, whatever euphemism you use to describe, that you are telling someone, how to do things. For these types of businesses, an Internet presence is probably a good idea. Other. strangely enough, quite lucrative possibilities, are offered by activities that require some initial physical effort, such as cleaning services, organizing jobs or events, or similar areas. In other words, they often tend to be home based, or are not very glamorous.

But remember, the basic criteria is to make a solid good income with the prospects of making a substantial income within a relatively short time. Of course, once your business starts to take off, you are going to need resources, like an online credit card terminal to track your business and achieve continued success

Some of the problems with selling advice is that, you need good sales skills and once you have sold the solution to the client, you then require the skills to bring about the solutions. Those are quite different skills and you have to sort out the mental process, that is required to do this. Many consulting businesses fail, because their initiator did not clearly understand these two distinct aspects. Often, consultants are not good at selling the solution to the client.

As stated above, for many business ideas an Internet presence will greatly help, even though, it will take time for your site to be registered with the search engines. But, if the site is there, and you have a domain name for your business, you can always point clients to your site, when you talk with them and through your letterheads, flyers and business cards. That gives you much more time to explain your capabilities, than during a short interview or phone conversation. The costs of creating an internet presence are quite low and the process of telling someone, an outsider, what you will do for him, is most likely a help for your own understanding and a clarification of what is required.

Apart from selling physical goods through services like eBay, the Internet is well suited for selling

  • knowledge based programs
  • businesses ideas which provide a service that sell, in one way or another, your specific skills or abilities; and
  • internet affiliate sites (i.e. selling someone else's products through your site).

The last one has recently become slightly tainted, because your success is, to a large extent, a function of someone else's, namely the original product providers, effort. Many, though not all, of the products sold through affiliate networks, are of doubtful quality and you could spend a lot of effort "flogging a dead horse". This means that you have to be especially careful in selecting the products you sell. Trying to be successful with an affiliate marketing and sales site will be very hard and at the very best, it will only provide you with a very small and highly volatile income.


Some Tools that help you to start


There are some useful tools which will help you turn your business idea into a workable proposition and the to control and build up your business. These tools, if you buy them from a third party, have to be good value for money and reasonably easy to use.

After you complete "The First Steps", we think it is important that you work out a business plan. Maybe, you think that making a business plan is peripheral, since you are not going to attempt to raise money from a bank or from investors or involve outsiders. We, on the other hand, think it is important that you give some thought, as to what your resources are, and what you want to achieve. The creation of a business plan will help you crystallize your own thoughts about what, and how to do things. Most businesses fail, because the people behind them work unplanned, are disorganized, not very disciplined, work sloppily without attention to detail, and have little persistence. A business plan, the footprint for your business, gives you at least some format, within which you can work and measure your progress. It will be an incentive to succeed and might increase your persistence. But if you are still not convinced, start without it and don't spend money on a tool or framework for a business plan! Your chances of succeeding though, provided you follow the business plan you drew up, might be severely reduced. We have provided out own business plan blue print for free, but there are many other providers, for which you obviously pay.

Other tools relate to your web presentation and making your business known to other people. Again, you may or may not need them and you have to be selective about which ones you use. But, if your business has a web presence, they are good tools to place yourself in the market. You have to be seen by your clients or the public at large to be successful, and these tools will help you do that. We have all used these tools and know that they work!



The First Steps


You should start with an assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you can create a business opportunity that is based on your own strengths. In other words, don't become a lifeguard if you cannot swim! Obvious, you think, but you would not believe how many people start a business where the main success is dependent on a skill that they themselves cannot supply. So start with a simple table with your five best and worst qualities. You will have had to do the same for your job search:

My Strengths My Weaknesses
Organizing people and processes Selling
Accounting and Finance Public speaking
Creating good written material Trying to manage too many plans at the same time
Ability to work effectively within a well defined task. Limited financial capacity
Have supportive family Can't delegate tasks. Want to do everything myself!

Once you have created your list of Strengths and Weaknesses, which can really be any length, you should determine which business opportunities you want to tackle. Again, start with making a list of maybe five or ten business areas that you think you could handle or would be interested in.

Then go back and look at each of the business opportunities and ask yourself, what the key strengths required will be in order to succeed. Also, look at the most important aspects which will make the business most likely to fail and see which strengths and weaknesses you have and how they match your list. But be truthful about it. While you can compensate for your weaknesses, you have to create a plan for how you go about to overcome them.

The process about should not be some slap-dash quickie, because your own and your family's success will depend on it. So take a little bit of thought and time and make it iterative, i.e. go from step to step and revisit these steps often, changing them as you might have new thoughts on issues. Maybe, even have someone else review them, someone from whom you can expect an honest opinion.

Once you have determined the area of business you think you could, given your strengths and weaknesses, be successful in, proceed to the next step:

Creating the Business Plan


Before you go to the next step, you might want to read the opinions of some other people. We have, on purpose stayed clear of the more ridiculous claims people make, when they want to sell the book (i.e. "How to start a Business in ten Days and become a Millionaire in two Weeks", etc.). There are large numbers of books available, the four below we have looked at and, we think, they provide some insight that should help you.

Some Books about Starting a Business from amazon.com

Just one small word of advise: Try to stay clear of suggestions from friends on the golf course, who have friends (or friends of friends, or uncles of friends of friends), who have been very successful selling "green colored widgets with built in GPS's" and have ended up living the life of millionaires in St. Barth's or the French Riviera!


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