How To Start Your Own Business(2)
Click above to read transcripts from the whole series.
Financial experts agree that part of the economic slowdown over the last few years can be attributed partly to the demise of the so-called dot-coms. Investors threw lots of cash at these start-up internet businesses, despite having no clear idea of how to make money. This lack of a clear business plan is often cited as the reason so many small businesses fail. This morning, we continue our series on starting your own small business. 90.3 WCPN®'s Mike West explores the critical role of having the right plan, and how to put it on paper.
Mike West: Decisions that will mean thousands of dollars rest on how much research and effort goes into a business plan. Banks, government agencies and community organizations that back loans or provide grants and tax breaks will demand specific answers.
Steve Millard: I think one of the values of the business plan is it's your chance to put your ideas on paper, many times for the first time and many time see if they really hold water after you've looked and them and tested your assumptions a little bit.
MW: Steve Millard is the executive director of the Council of Smaller Enterprises.
SM: What most business plans... all business plans have to do is have to clearly articulate your idea the uniqueness of your idea and why your idea is better than other people who have had the same idea before, why you are better able to execute it.
MW: The good news is there are many agencies willing to help write that plan, free of charge. In fact, there are even contests that award up to $50,000 to the best-written plans. The local office of the small business administration and cose, to name a couple, can point you to experts and volunteers that will help you write a business plan.
Joe Lopez is the owner of New Era Builders. Today he's at this job site on the east side of Cleveland where workers are putting up a communications tower. He says a well-written plan was essential to the growth of his company.
Joe Lopez: I did it solely after reading a lot of books and actually talking to people and involving myself with a lot of organizations that assisted in either business plan writing or classes that were offered. Like Turner Construction and the city of Cleveland offer a class in construction management I went to that, and went to as many classes as I could afford to go to.
MW: Lopez says even though he's been in business for over a decade his plan never gets a chance to gather dust. He says a smart business owner uses their plan as a point of reference. Lopez also believes in having his plan handy in case a financial opportunity comes up:
JL: We wrote more than one business plan and we continually massage the business plan to accommodate what we are doing. We alter our vision and when there are opportunities we try to fill those needs. So the business plan does get re-written and reviewed on a regular basis.
MW: COSE's Steve Millard says your plan should also includes details on cash flow to and from your bank account. Another good idea is to detail your experiences in whatever type of business you plan to start.
SM: Why are you qualified to run this business, what kinds of experience do you have, or the people who are going to be working with you have, that uniquely qualify you to make a success of this idea. Finally, financials - every good business plan has financials that shows again how you make money, how you spend money and also show what the long term projections are. That's often the place most people look first when they open a business plan.
MW: But not everyone plays by the rules. Tamiko is the owner of the Tekogi Salon in Beachwood. She's only been in business for about 8 weeks. Tamiko didn't wait until she had a completed business plan to open her doors. Instead she used a rough outline. She says by using credit cards and her own savings she avoided the need to write everything down.
Tamiko: I just decided to do it right now, so basically that's what I did, with some money I had saved up, as well as having I'd say "B" credit and took that and just ran with it. Hoping that business would pick up.
MW: Tamiko believes she can get away with only having a partial plan because this is her second salon. Since the business is self-financed, no one has asked to see a business plan for financing purposes. But even Tamiko advises others not follow in her footsteps.
Tamiko: I would tell anyone though, if this is something you're thinking about and this is any type of small business in whatever you're trying to do, to try to have a business plan. Because if you run into a situation where your running out of money it's easier to go to a bank and show them this is what we have planned and this is what we whan to do, versus like "oh, I'm just a hairdresser or a skin care specialist and I'm think I'm really good and I have a clientele so can I borrow 50 grand," and they're going to look at you like you're crazy.
MW: According to the Small Business Administration most new businesses fail, but of the ones that succeed in the Cleveland area, 78% have a business plan. It's a lot of work, but a strong plan could just be the edge most start-ups need for success. In Cleveland, Mike West, 90.3 WCPN News