By Jim Donovan
Great! You've made the decision to start your own home based business.
Now what? How do you get started?
In all likelihood, you've chosen a business in which you have skills and knowledge along with a high level of interest. Depending upon the type of business, you may or may not be starting from scratch. For example, in a franchise, business opportunity or network marketing company, there are systems already in place, ready for you to use them. What if your not in one of those businesses? What if you¹re starting on your own in a product or service business? Either way, you will want to incorporate some of the ideas in this article since they will help you become more focused on your own goals. Once you¹ve taken care of the basics of the business, like registration, licensing, talking with an accountant and attorney and setting up a basic office or space in your home where you will run the business, you¹ll need a plan.
While I'm a big believer in business and marketing plans because they serve as road maps to show you how to get where you're going, they are not within the scope of this article. We will, however, explore the basic concepts behind a good plan. For more formal business plans, there are many excellent books and software programs you can use. My goal here is to help you get up and running quickly. Another advantage to the written plan is that it acts as a measuring device which you can use to guide you in your decision making. Let me explain. Recently my wife, Georgia, and I were discussing some strategic decisions concerning her online designer consignment business, Style Management. The decisions involved whether or not to add a particular line of merchandise and whether to expand into retail or industrial space to accommodate the businesses growth. I suggested we go back and look at her original mission statement and basic plan for guidance. Since the mission of the business is providing her customers high end designer consignment clothing and vintage jewelry, the lesser quality merchandise we were considering was out. It did not fit our plan. The space decision was easily made by, once again, referencing the plan. Since her business is operated solely on the Internet, selling to a global customer base, there is no need for retail space. This distinction alone saved us thousands of dollars by preventing us from renting a high priced retail store when what we really needed was simple storage space. Understanding your businesses mission and having a written plan will make it easier to make day to day decisions wisely and not get caught up in the excitement of the moment.
Let's begin. First, write a simple mission statement that reflects what you business stands for and what it is you do. What is the purpose of this business?
Next, sit back for a moment and close you eyes. Project yourself five years forward. In your mind, see your business. What does it look like? When it is fully developed, what is it? Business consultant, Michael Gerber, suggests drawing an organizational chart showing all the necessary positions. Even though you are probably the only one working in the business now, you¹ll want to know ahead of time what skill sets you'll need as you grow. This will force you to look at the separate functions of your business and enable you to see where you will need assistance.
Next, take a notebook or journal and write your short (3-6 months), medium (1 year) and long term (5-10 years) goals. What are your income goals? What are your sales goals? How many customers will you have? Will you open other locations? How much growth do you want? You may find you'd rather have a moderate business and more time to spend with your family. If so, write it down. This is a critical step. If you do not know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? We each measure success differently so it's important to know your goals for your business.
Your marketing plan
Now, you'll want to think about your marketing plan. Don't confuse marketing with advertising. They're distinct and separate areas of your business. Simply put, marketing is determining who your customers are and how you will to reach them. Advertising is letting them know you¹re here. A basic marketing plan can be simple. Ask yourself some direct questions like, Who are my customers? If you answered 'everybody,' think again. The more clearly you can define your customers, the easier it will be to reach them. Where are they? What do they do for a living? How old are they? What is their lifestyle, educational level, habits, etc? In Georgia's case, they're online, therefore, local advertising would be a waste of money. On the other hand, if you're a home improvement contractor, advertising in a national publication and in many cases, the Internet, would be a waste of ad dollars. Identifying your market and market area will save you valuable time and money when we get into advertising and promotion.
How will you reach your market? Is this a retail business, a mail order operation, in home sales, direct sales, MLM or a combination of these? Do you sell a service that is delivered by telephone, like coaching; in person, like a massage therapist; by E-mail or a combination of these? What business are you in? This may sound like an oversimplification but it's amazing how many people don't understand this simple concept. You're not selling computers, home services, massage, health, or anything else. People do not buy these things. People buy BENEFITS. They buy results. They buy the beauty of a well landscaped property, the good feelings from a massage, more energy from vitamins and increased productivity from a computer. Clearly define the business you are in. What is the end result experienced by your customer? List as many of the benefits of your product or service as well as the specific benefits of doing business with you. What makes you different?
This should give you enough to do to get you moving forward.
Jim Donovan is a keynote speaker who has spoken to hundreds of business groups and is a member of the prestigious National Speakers Association and is the author of the International bestseller, Handbook To A Happier Life. His new book, This Is Your Life, Not A Dress Rehearsal, just released, is already receiving rave reviews ands is in its third printing. His articles, book excerpts and a free subscription to his newsletter are available from http://www.jimdonovan.com. Jim can be reached at (215) 7943826 or E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.