Friday, August 23, 2013

Starting A New Business: Getting Started

Small Business Characteristics
As a business owner, you must know and meet your customers’ needs. You must select your location with an eye to market centers or neighborhoods. You must hire and train your own staff, arrange for banking services and insurance, do your own buying and record keeping, make your own plant, office, or store layout complete with window displays, and promote customer goodwill while maintaining proper credit control.

Because it is necessary for you to know about the many and varied aspects of business, this blog is designed to help you develop basic managerial knowledge. You cannot become an expert in banking, real estate, insurance, purchasing, inventory control, record keeping, regulation, advertising and credit, but there are certain things you should know about each of these subjects. You should also consider turning to specialists who are available in your community.

Also, look for small business workshops and seminars offered by government agencies (such as the Town of Brookhaven Economic Development Office), chambers of commerce, banks, libraries, educational institutions, and trade and professional organizations. They are frequently listed in the business section of your local newspapers.

Getting Started
By your interest in this blog, it is assumed that you have taken a personal inventory of your skills, aptitudes, likes and dislikes and have decided to be your own boss. Studies show that most small business owners choose to strike out on their own for the following reasons:

  1. Pride in Product/Service
  2. Control
  3. Freedom
  4. Flexibility
  5. Self-reliance
  6. Customer Contact
  7. Income
  8. Employee Contact
  9. Recognition
  10. Privacy
  11. Security
  12. Status
  13. Pride in Self-Achievement

Your interests, experience and knowledge of trends in different trades will determine your selection of the kind of business to operate. Assuming you have already made that decision, how much capital – cash and credit – will you need to start a small business?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Starting a New Business: The Big Idea

Origin of the Business Idea
The origin of the business idea is one of the most mysterious aspects of a new business. Remember the following about any idea for a new business:

  • Always be on the lookout for ideas. They can come from anywhere: your work experience, a hobby – or even your experiences as a consumer when an existing product or service does not meet your needs.
  • Identify a niche. Usually this opportunity area will be a proven idea in a new market or a unique idea in an existing market.
  • Learn everything you can about the business you want to start and the marketplace you will be operating in. This means getting work experience and collecting information so you will know the market inside and out.
  • Make sure your idea is so focused that you can express it clearly in 50 words or less.


  1. Summarize your business idea in 50 words or less.
  2. Where did your business idea originate (from a specific experience, long observation of an industry, a sudden inspiration)?
  3. If your idea is for a new product or service, describe how you expect to get it known and accepted in the marketplace.
  4. If your idea is for an improvement or variation of an existing product or service, describe why customers will use it instead of what is already there.
  5. Describe your market niche in 50 words or less.
  6. List at least three qualifications that you have that will allow you to pursue a business in this market niche (work experience, education, research, reputation, etc.)
  7. What are your two most important personal goals for the next five years?
  8. How will this business help you achieve these personal goals?
  9. List and describe briefly the two most significant barriers you expect while launching and operating your business.
  10. Explain how you expect to overcome these problems.

Testing Your Idea

As you evaluate your idea, keep in mind the following:
  • Market research does not have to be complicated or expensive, but you must do it.
  • Do research to determine whether enough potential customers exist to support your product or service. Use the following sources for statistical and demographic information:

- Library (specifically, the Miller Business Resource Center at the Middle Country Public Library is a valuable resource)
- Computerized databases (available at many libraries)
- U.S. Small Business Administration
- U.S. Bureau of Census
- Trade associations for your industry
- Local Chamber of Commerce

  • Test your idea with potential customers and others who can offer constructive feedback (e.g., friends, relatives, bankers, suppliers, business executives). Keep a written record of responses.
  • Be prepared to make changes based on the responses.
  • Study and evaluate the competition.
  • How will your product or service be an improvement over the competition?
  • Price your product competitively – higher if your product or service improves on an existing one, and lower if it will be equal to what is on the market. Be sure you can make a profit.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Starting a New Business: Evaluation

Self-Awareness and Evaluation
Begin your business career with a careful self-examination. Make sure you realize what you are getting into. Do not be afraid to ask questions about things you do not understand. Do not accept every statement at face value. You need to know what you are doing. Remember that a business – large or small – is a BIG responsibility.

To help you along, consider these questions:

  1. Do I get along with people and inspire confidence?
  2. Am I willing to shoulder the responsibility of meeting a payroll and paying debts on time?
  3. Do I like the business I want to enter so that I would not mind working long hours and making other personal sacrifices?
  4. Do I understand that business is speculative, and am I willing to take the risk involved?
  5. Do I like to sell?
  6. Can I keep the financial books?
  7. Can I make decisions and can I weather wrong ones?
  8. Am I resourceful in emergencies?
  9. Am I a good organizer?

If you can answer most of the above questions affirmatively, you can feel quite certain that you have the personal aptitude you need to start a business.

The importance of the questions may vary, for example: Question one is exceedingly vital. The success of many a business has hinged on the way the proprietor dealt with customers and employees. The idea that you can get business merely by opening a shop is an outdated notion. There is plenty of competition to face, so plan on dealing with your customers just a little bit better than your competitors.

You will find that courtesy and understanding are important factors in handling the public. The main thing is to get along with people, understand their needs and inspire their confidence. From the time you sit down with your banker to negotiate a loan to the time you try to convince a customer to buy your product or service, your personality and reputation for honesty and reliability can make the difference between success and failure.

Business owners who lack tact in dealing with people and who do not love their work probably cannot stay in business long. No doubt, you may recall many persons who have started new businesses and attracted customers by their geniality and warmth, and others who have driven customers away by their negative attitude. Your employees, too, will reflect your way of doing business. Be pleasant even when you must say “no”.

When you become your own boss, you alone are responsible for what happens. Your earnings are not guaranteed; they will be what you make them. Some weeks will be big, some weeks very lean, and other weeks they may be non-existent. You must be ready to face these facts as they arise and meet them without worrying. That takes good sense, as well as confidence and courage.

As an employer, you will also find that hours do not stop at forty (40) per week. Long after others have gone home you may have to stay on the job checking odds and ends, getting books in order, going over inventory, rearranging stock, seeing that repairs are made, and a thousand and one other details. You will find early in the game that anyone who launches into business will not be able to keep golf appointments at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Selling, to varying degrees, enters into all business practices. Sales skills are related to your ability to inspire confidence, but it also involves an understanding and enthusiasm for selling. You will need to convince others that they need what you offer, whether it is in the form of goods or services.

If you are keeping your own books, consider taking courses in these subjects before entering into your venture. The State Education Department has course outlines and other materials on a variety of business subjects. These become the focal point of local adult education programs, which are sponsored by schools throughout the state. SCORE, The New York State Small Business Development Center, and The State Division of Veterans’ Affairs all offer guidance and assistance. Veteran counseling centers are conveniently located in every county of the state.

Some people have the ability to make wise decisions quickly, while others learn decision making the hard way – by experience. If you possess decision making skills, you will be able to apply them successfully in business. It is a quality closely related to resourcefulness, the ability to adjust and re-adjust rapidly.

Finally, as a business owner, you must be a good organizer and administrator, even if you have no employees. You must be self-disciplined and able to arrange your own time profitably. You must coordinate the parts of your business so that they fit together and operate at maximum efficiency. You must gear your buying to your selling, and your selling to your customers’ needs.

When you hire employees, you must plan their work in order to obtain the full value of their services. You must arrange to meet payments and wages on time and to avoid, as much as possible, having a surplus of funds at one time and a shortage at other times. You must maintain your credit rating, since credit is as good as money and there is much more of it (credit) available.

Business is not a “bed of roses”. Basically, it is a great adventure and calls for initiative, integrity, good judgment, courage and determination. You probably have some or all of these qualities or you would not consider going into business for yourself. You may have to grit your teeth many times and perhaps survive disappointments.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Starting a New Business: Pitfalls to Avoid

Starting Your Own Business

Despite the ups and downs of business, the chances for individual success depend largely upon the knowledge, experience, intelligence and care used in setting up an enterprise. The Town of Brookhaven’s Business Advisory Council, which is charged with acting as liaison between government and the business community, has created this blog to help guide you toward a successful plan of action.

Avoiding Pitfalls
In the past, there have been few agencies to which men and women planning to start a business could turn for advice. As a result, many who had scraped together a small amount of capital plunged ahead full of confidence, but with little actual knowledge or appreciation of the problems they faced. That they did not always achieve success is understandable. Business records over a period of years reveal how difficult the going can be.

Today the United States government offers assistance from the Small Business
Administration. The New York State Small Business Development Center located at SUNY Stony Brook, The Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Economic Development, SCORE, and the Miller Business Resource Center at the Middle Country Public Library are all valuable resources. Additionally, the Town of Brookhaven offers this blog. While businesses differ in nature, the same fundamental principles apply to all. Every entrepreneur should STOP – LOOK – THINK before starting a new enterprise.

Experts agree there is no substitute for experience. It is possible, however, to operate a business successfully through the exercise of prudence, common sense, willingness to devote time and attention to it, boldness in making progressive decisions and alertness in anticipating where and how mistakes can be avoided.

Next Post: Self-Awareness and Evaluation