Success doesn't come easy when you start your own business. It takes talent, drive, guts and more than a dash of plain, old luck.
It also helps to have some rock-solid partners in your corner.
As we celebrate National Small Business Week, it's important to recognize that Minnesota’s small businesses don’t go it alone (or they don't have to, anyway).
In case you entrepreneurs have been too busy taking care of business to notice, this is National Small Business Week.
So, in your honor, the rest of us Minnesotans pooled together and got you something nice: It's the recognition and gratitude you so richly deserve. Go ahead, try it on. Feels good, doesn't it? Yeah, looks good on you, too.
It may have happened a week ago or a decade ago, but most every small-business owner can tell you exactly when they had the “Gulp!” moment.
That’s the time when the excitement, optimism, and euphoria of starting their businesses suddenly gave way to a breath-stealing, temple-throbbing, sweat-inducing panic.
Selling goods and services to federal, state and local government offices and agencies can be profitable for all companies, no matter their size or target industries. But government contracts can be especially important for the stability and growth of small businesses.
That's why government at many levels takes pains to nourish small businesses by making sure they get a healthy slice of the procurement pie.
Bigfoot ... the Yeti … the Chupacabra … the Loch Ness Monster … the Government Small Business Grant.
Each is a myth, a flight of fancy, an expression of wishful thinking, a figment of someone’s runaway imagination.
Of course, people can be forgiven for believing in such folklore. We humans seem to have a genetic gullibility when it comes to monsters and money.
Meaningful financial projections are essential to business success. How much revenue will you take in? How much will be profit? Will the profit be enough to sustain the business?
No one should ever start or buy a business without a clear plan of profit and a realistic understanding of the sales volume needed to achieve it.
What business topic can induce deep sleep faster than a cocktail of warm milk and Ambien? If you said “Accounting-ssssssnnnnnk-zzzzzzzz” and then dozed off, you nailed it.
By now, your lids may be drooping and you’re fighting back a yawn, so it’s time to get up, pour yourself some strong coffee, do some jumping jacks, slap yourself on the cheeks a few times, and clear your head enough to wrap it around this simple truth:
You can’t afford to be bored by accounting. Not if you hope to stay in business.
Up to now, we've focused on fundamental issues that anyone thinking of starting a business from scratch should understand before diving in.
But what if you've got your eye on an existing business or a franchise? Well, the same organizational and operational basics still apply. But before you even get to those, you have to know a whole lot more about the prospective business.
Careful evaluation of any business opportunity is an essential first step, one that is too often skipped entirely or given short shrift as over-eager entrepreneurs leap before they look, their judgment clouded by sheer excitement and warm-fuzzy hopes for the business instead of being guided by cold-blooded financial analysis.
There’s money in a well-told story.
And not just for best-selling novelists, Oscar-winning screenwriters and witty public radio yarn spinners. It’s true for small businesses, too.
Think about it. A well told story has the power to help you entice, win and keep customers. It has the power to convince lenders and investors to risk their money on your success. It has the power to stir government to enact pro-business policies and laws. It even has the power to harm your business, if told by someone else.
Minnesota Cup, an organization focused on helping entrepreneurs, inventors and small business people conceive, refine, and commercialize breakthrough business ideas, will be hosting several upcoming seminars that should prove quite valuable to anyone who is contemplating a startup or has recently launched a business. All are offered at no cost.
Over the next few months, panels of experts will cover legal, accounting, financing, marketing essentials and more in a new series dubbed Minnesota Cup 101. And a half-day seminar slated for early March takes a comprehensive look at challenges and opportunities for women entrepreneurs.