QUESTION: I am a college graduate who was displaced when the small company I worked for merged with a larger company. I am either over qualified or the available jobs offer a fraction of my former salary. Any suggestions?
ANSWER: If you are one of the thousands of U.S. workers who have been affected by layoffs or downsizing of recent years, this may be a good time to consider starting that small business you have always dreamed about.
The first steps for creating a successful business are planning, research and more planning. Running a business is different from working for one.
Ask yourself, “Can I be my own boss?” Try to objectively assess the pros and cons. Every responsibility — sales, marketing, bookkeeping, taxes, insurance, locating office space, buying paper clips — falls on your shoulders. That’s in addition to actually doing the work itself.
To begin, construct a written business plan. This a living document that enables you to conceptualize your dream, chart your course of action, and set short and intermediate terms goals, all without spending a dime.
SCORE offers an excellent business plan outline that can be accessed at https://tinyurl.com/zfzvje8
You will need a clear idea of how much money you need to get started and how much you will be able to make, after expenses. The business plan includes cash flow and sales projections, as well as a projected profit and loss statement for your first year of operation.
There is no substitute for experience, so talk to other small-business owners who are in the same line of business you are considering. Find out how they got started, what mistakes they made, and what they would do differently.
Tell friends and colleagues of your plans. Even if they are not prospective customers, they may volunteer other contacts who may be interested in using your services and offer useful perspectives.
Make planning an ongoing effort. Update your business plan as you collect useful intelligence.
In today’s fast-paced business climate, your entrepreneurial plans may have to take a back seat to other developments in your life. Always put your family’s financial security first.
If a good job opportunity arises, it may be best to take it and put your dreams aside for a while. But don’t abandon them completely.
Many successful small businesses have started as part-time ventures, enabling their owners to eventually shed the worries of working for someone else, with no guarantee of job security.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. To ask a question or request free and confidential business counseling, go to Richmond.score.org/mentors. Learn more about SCORE’s workshops on the website or by calling (804) 350-3569.