Opinion: The challenges and opportunities of starting a small business

Opinion: The challenges and opportunities of starting a small business

By Kathleen Mechem | Business Review MLive.com

While the rewards and satisfactions of starting and owning your own small business are many, there are equally as many challenges to be confronted at first and along the way. It is hard and demanding work.

First in the minds of many business owners: Financing. How do you get it, and in the right amount and terms? Next is likely product delivery and your market.

Who wants your product or service, where are they located, and how do you reach out to them and engage their interest and, eventually, purchase or investment? How do you develop a sound and reliable client and customer base? Then, there is pricing. How do you determine the correct pricing structure to cover your costs, attract a sufficient number of customers, re-invest in your business and also make a profit?

There is also the challenge of determining the legal structure of your business and any licenses, certifications and permits you may need for the type of business you are starting. How do you determine which paperwork to file with the appropriate units of government, and how do you go about it?

A thorough business plan will help you address these and other issues and questions. This should include: Market analysis, company and organization description, services or product description, financial statements and cash flow projections, and attachments such as testimonials, references and visuals.

Once you thoroughly consider research, analyze and describe in writing your solutions to the challenges noted, you will have a business plan and an action plan. There are many resources available online and through locally based entrepreneurial classes, counseling and training programs that can assist with this process.

One challenge many startup business owners underestimate is isolation. As employees, most people are accustomed to operating in a team environment where you depend on others for input and assistance of various types.

As a startup, you may operate as a staff of one with no employees. Apart from the physical isolation you may feel, how do you make all the difficult and crucial financial, marketing and administrative decisions on your own without the input and expertise of teammates?

This challenge is addressed in several ways.

First, by networking and getting to know others in business. Attend professional conferences in your line of business. Join local and statewide professional, trade and business organizations. Be active, attend their events and make sure you have plenty of business cards and promotional materials when you do. Through these organizations, make acquaintances and get to know other business people and professional service providers who can mentor or otherwise help you.

Second, many of these organizations offer cost-effective services from marketing to referrals to discounted business services that can help you with the hard decisions you will need to make for your business.

Also, if you are working on your own, get out and make at least one professional or social contact every single day. Keep in touch with friends and business associates to keep updated. Stay active!

Use social networking and the Internet as means to keep in contact with colleagues and to research current thinking and business issues and solutions in your line of business. It is also important to keep up with current events through the media and online sources to keep abreast of political, economic and social issues that may affect your business and customers.

To grow your startup business, and to grow as a person and professional, you will need to take all of the challenges that come your way and turn them into opportunities.

Kathleen Mechem is president of Organizational Solutions in Battle Creek





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