So you’ve worked at GM (General Motors) for years and just found out that you’re getting fired. Nearly 15,000 workers just heard this news. What are your options? Live off the buyout package. Get another job. Start your own business.
Use the unexpected turn in your career to do something great! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to start your own business, but you were comfortable at your job and the pay was good. But, now you’ve been forced out of your comfort zone. Time to turn lost job lemons into lemonade. This might be the perfect time to take the next step in becoming your own boss and to commit to building the your own business.
Building a business is no small feat.
The good news is, according to the Small Business Administration, there are 29.7 million small business owners in the United States.
Many have walked this road before you and have been successful, which means you can be a successful small business owner too. If you do choose to start your own business, here are the answers to a few questions you may be asking yourself:
1. What am I skilled at?
Take an inventory of your professional skills and determine 2 or 3 things that you do best. Think about things that you do better than anyone else. This can be the foundation or a “hint” of what you might want to consider selling. You have years of knowledge and experience in your HEAD. Someone, some company, needs that skill set. You have to sell it to them. Some skill ideas?
- Project management.
2. What am I passionate about?
Maybe you’re skilled at finance but you hate it. Can you find the right combination of what you’re skilled at and also excited about doing? As you start and grow your small business you’ll want to get out of bed EXCITED about the workday that lies ahead. Write down a list of what you enjoy doing and cross check it with your list of skills. Where do things intersect?
3. What problem can I solve?
For example, a hotel solves the problem of safe accommodation for people away from their homes. A speech therapist helps those struggling with communication to learn to communicate better…etc. Are you equipped to solve a problem better than those already doing it? Is the demand for your product or service great enough?
4. How can I market my small business?
Sales is the ONLY way to have a successful business. You must have a plan to GET new customers and have customers as repeat buyers and who will refer business to you. Write on a piece of paper what your ideal customer will look like.
- What’s the DEMOGRAPHIC profile (how they look, where they live, how old they are, their socioeconomic level, their education level, etc.)
- What’s their PSYCHOGRAPHIC profile (how they think and act). Seth Godin says it best, “people like us do things like this.”
Now that you have these 1, 2 or 3 types of customers in mind – go FIND them.
- Where are they?
- Busy moms dropping off kids at daycare centers?
- Single wealthy females?
- Older men looking to sell their companies?
There are lots of ways you can market your new business. Word of mouth (tell everyone!). Ask for referrals. Have business cards, a good website, and social platforms. Test buying advertising on Google search or a social media platform.
5. Business operations
Business is not that complicated, but yet it is. Here’s what I mean: To succeed at business, at the most basic level, you need to understand the basics of marketing, business finance, and operations. Here are a few things to consider:
- How will you make and deliver what you’re selling? Whatever you’re selling, how will you deliver it to the customer? Are you going to do consulting? Creating an online course? Go to the offices of your clients? How will you create and deliver your product or service? If you have a product business and you’re manufacturing it, you’ll need to REALLY study the entire business of manufacturing, fulfillment, supply chain…etc.!
- What’s the cost? Knowing how much to sell your product/service for is important. Price is a function of your brand position in the marketing – the $5,000 Tiffany’s ring or the $279 Walmart ring. Also, it’s about your profit margin and ensuring you’re MAKING money on each sale.
6. Business Legal Entity
It’s important that you establish a business legal entity – LLC or S Corp so you can have some shield of protection to separate your BUSINESS from yourself personally and your family. Also, set up a separate business bank account.
7. Your Team
You might start out by being a solo entrepreneur but as you get further along, you’ll need a team to help you scale and better serve your customers. I’ve found that for very small businesses (which I am) as opposed to those who are growing to a 50, 100 or 2,000 person company, you should at the very least have an executive assistant to help you. For other things, you can easily work with freelancers for specific needs such as design, marketing, and content.
8. Get Help Starting Your Own Business
If you’re new to business, and not sure where to start or what to do, take the time to visit SCORE.ORG at one of their hundreds of offices or online. They offer free help to get your business started with personal mentoring and coaching. Another great resource is your local ASBDC (Small Business Development Centers) which offers free counseling and low-cost training to new entrepreneurs.
9. Resources and Quick Tips
It’s important to market your small business and yourself (especially if you’re doing coaching or consulting). While your business’s brand is, of course, important, as a very small business, it’s even MORE important to focus on your personal brand. Here are some great resources on how to build your personal brand:
One of the most important things you can do when starting or growing a business is to get your information out there. Luckily, in the digital world we live in, there are so many tools you can use to ensure your small business thrives. Here are just a few:
- Business cards – Moo.com, VistaPrint, Staples
- Websites – Wix or Squarespace
- Customer relationship software – Zoho, Salesforce Essentials, Infusionsoft
- Social platforms – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Business cards – Moo.com, VistaPrint, Staples
Check out Ramon’s talk on social media marketing for some really helpful ways to use social media to market your business, here.
In order to have a successful business, at the end of the day, you need to know where your money is going. But, managing your small business account doesn’t have to be hard. There are software programs out there like QuickBooks, Freshbooks, Xero…etc, that basically do the work for you, and investing in one is a wise decision every small business owner should consider. Along with a software program, if money isn’t your thing, get help! Start with a sort of “Business Finances 101” to make sure you are heading in the right direction. Score.org has a ton of financial resources to take some of the stress out of crunching the numbers, here.
If you’re looking to expand your team, Upwork is one of the best platforms for finding freelance professionals to help you grow your business. Find someone for a one-time website update, or find a long-term freelancer to help manage your social media accounts, marketing, or blog content production.