10 Steps to Starting a Small Business

IntroductionIf you are looking for the most effective way of starting a small business without spending a lot of wasted money and time, this article is a great place to start. The advice you get from this article may be a totally new way of approaching your new small business. As I provide each of the following steps, I will give you very good reasons for why this method is the best. I provide business planning services for many new small businesses. In so doing, a business plan is often an essential aspect of getting funding.The Secret To Starting A Successful Small BusinessLet me tell you the one single factor that will assist you in obtaining funding – Customers! If you already have customers before you go to banks, friends, colleagues or relatives for money, I assure you that your efforts in raising money will be greatly reduced. I cannot tell you how many times that I have been really excited about new business ideas that my customers have brought to me. I can tell you this though, that the banks see dozens of new business ideas every day. Dozens… Their excitement level is measure a little differently.How To Get Small Business FundingYou know what the only thing banks get excited about?… Money and only money. The closer your are to making profitable sales when you ask for funding is the only way that you are going to get heads nodding behind walnut desks. Imagine yourself going to a bank dressed in your best business outfit for a loan. Think about how truly confident you would be in asking for this money, when you know that you already have the names of customers that would purchase your product now if you just had funding.How To Get Customers Before You Have A BusinessesSo you may be wondering how will you have customers before you have a business. The answer is that nearly any business that you can conceive of now has informational products that can be purchased on the internet. Whether it is a farm, auto shop, hair salon, or home improvement. These businesses all have audio or video or e-book products that can be sold on the internet that complement these businesses. How about a video product that you sell to women entitled “How to Maintain Your Hair Between Hair Appointments,” or audio podcast program series for farmers to listen to on “Advanced Crop Yield Methods” while they are busy on the tractor. All of these can be created and sold easily on the internet with a simple website. So the idea is to move into the info business first, then formalize the business into its fuller implementation after proof of concept.So let me me summarize the 10 steps to starting a small business:10 Steps To Starting A Small Business1. Market ResearchWhat is market research? Simply stated, market research is knowing that the number of customers you think are out there for your product really exist. To translate your product into customers, it is only essential that you identify the keywords that characterize your customers’ Google searches. You can easily get these numbers free through the use of the internet. Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool (adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal?defaultView=2) is easy to use and after you get a free account, it is awesome in getting quantitative data to know 1) how many people are looking for what you want to sell 2) how many competitors already are out there. Once you have a website done in the next step, you can use the brand new Google Search Based Keyword Tool (google.com/sktool/#) to refine your market research. If you have a website type in your url and your keywords.2. Build WebsiteYou website initially needs to do only two things – 1) let others know that you exist and who you are 2) communicate to them that you know their needs in terms of what are their pains and desires and how you product is absolutely the best solution for them in the world. Your website does not need to cost more than $1,000 and can be put together in a matter of days (not weeks or months). If you want to do it yourself, you can use Word Press or call us.3.Traffic and PromotionUse Google Analytics to track the number of visitors to your website to ensure that you are getting the attention to your message that they deserve. Before you get people to your site, you will need to do some promotion to ensure that this happens. There are a lot of ways to do this, but having the website 1) optimized for on-page manageable factors (meta tags, title, attractive web address (url)) and 2) getting a large number of back links to your website are the most controllable factors.4. Build List of Customers – Email opt-inWhen customers get to your website, this is where you want to get the big prize – the customer list. In order to get a list of customers, you offer them a free written, audio or video product that provides some truly valuable information to them in exchange for the their e-mail address and name. It is important to note that you will only get a sustainable business if you provide something of significant value as a “give away” at this point. I have seen many – free PDF reports, “how to” audios or videos that are really useful. Make sure that your is too. You can use Aweber or Constant Contact as auto-responder services to obtain the e-mail addresses. These are services that provide the website scripts, capture e-mail lists, provide confirmation e-mail and provide information product.5. Sell Affiliate ProductsAfter you create your website, you will go and find products that are already available that you can sell as an affiliate. What is an affiliate? An affiliate is someone (you) that is selling into a niche market that understands the needs of the customers and can sell products created by someone else. Who is the someone else? Many – Amazon, Commission Junction, Clickbank. Nearly every big internet retailer has an affiliate program. Look at the bottom of their home page for the words “affiliate” or “associate.” They provide the whole shopping experience and you get a small commission for doing so. They will give you the tools to list these products attractively on your website with html scripts that are easily implemented.6. Create information productsNow that you have a good idea of who your customers are and what they want, you can easily create your own information products in writing (e-books), audio or video. All it takes is the ability to write, record, film and edit this information in a near professional manner. The content of these products is what is really important. This process sounds very complex, but can be made very simple by someone that does this on a day-to-day basis.7. Sell own informational products and through affiliatesNow that you have your own information products, you can sell your products on your website and also through affiliate programs such as Clickbank and Commission Junction. You will need to augment your website to allow products to be listed, purchased and to accept payment. Since you are now the vendor of these products you will also need to create a purchase, return and shipping policies (if either of these applies). Most customers will want to know about these things before they purchase from you and often will not purchase until they know that you are reliable and that their money is well spent with you.8. Create business planNow that you have proven your business concept on an informational level (and at an affordable level of investment I might add), you are in a much better position to judge for yourself whether this business is investment grade. What is investment grade in this case? The answer to this comes in the form of another self-question: Would you bet that you will get a good return on the money that you are asking others to invest? There are many good business plan templates available for free. All it requires is to get basic questions answered in each section and to formalize into an attractive and readable document.9. Get fundingGet dressed up as appropriate for the money people. If they are bankers, dress in a suit. If they are family or friends, dress as friends or family. If they are colleagues, dress as a colleague. Be professional and honor their time. Make sure that you keep their interest by asking yourself what is in it for them. That is all that matters to them. For family matters, the issue is a little bit different. They will be concerned with family solidarity. In other words, what would happen if you could not pay them back? Would this permanently disrupt your relationship with them? Think about this before you go to them. When you get money there are two questions you will always need to answer for them up front 1) what will you use the money for? 2) from what source will you pay the money back? Know these answers.10. Formalize business organizationThis is the part that most people think about when they think about starting a business. Do you find it strange that this would be the 10th step in this process? Don’t worry, most other people would too. However, doesn’t it make more sense to formalize the business after it is making money first and then to formalize it? When I speak about formalizing the business, I am talking about 1) creating an appropriate legal entity (corporation, limited liability corporation or other) within your state or country 2) create tax status with the tax authorities 3) publicly announce the business formation through public recording or periodical announcements or both 4) get a checking or bank account. Note that I am not advocating subverting tax or legal guidelines…as a matter of fact I am suggesting that you follow the rules, through making your business profitable first.In SummaryThat is all there is to it. What else is there left to business than that? A business is nothing more than delivering answers to problems (pains or desires) of customers and doing so while making profitable sales. Creating new products is just using lateral thinking to create other related products that meet the needs of customers. And what a great life that is….help other people while you make money.Follow me on Twitter – http://twitter.com/frank_dobner© Copyright – 2008 Frank Dobner

Why Is Good Nutrition Important?

If you’re like me, you first heard about nutrition in school, and thought, “boring.” All the dietary facts and statistics are like dates and events in History class. Once we start learning why the events happened, history becomes interesting and relevant to us now. When we learn why it’s important for our current and future lives, good nutrition goes from boring to interesting and essential. Forget the boring details, this article is all about how to keep from having a weak and tired, mentally slow, impoverished, diseased, short life…now you’re interested!Forget Nutritional Values: Most health articles are all about how much of this you should have or that to avoid…what is good and what is bad. You can find that anywhere. Until you know why that stuff is important, none of it matters. It just sounds like someone lecturing you on how to live. I don’t know about you, but I’m too busy living to want to spend much time being preached at. People preached at me for years about smoking being bad for me, but until I experienced what it was actually doing to me, I wasn’t interested in quitting. Once I knew why to quit, how to quit was easy. Once you know why to have good nutrition, how to do it will be easy, too.Nutrition And Energy Now: Stop drinking liquids for 2 days and tell me how you feel. Tired? Go 3 days and you’ll be dead. Water is essential. Every nutrient works the same as water on a slower scale. The worse your nutrition is, the less energy you will have to live your life. When we’re young, we can usually go a long while before we crash, but the crash is certain if we don’t have a balanced, healthy diet. When we’re older, we can feel the crash coming…trust me. The first thing nutrition does for you is give you energy for the physical activities of life, today.Nutrition And Mental Ability: It isn’t just for physical activities. How fast you learn and whether you can work through thinking problems all depend on good nutrition. Deficiencies in some cases can actually cause you to have the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, or Schizophrenia, for example. By maintaining good nutrition, you can improve your ability to learn and process information. Tests of students at all age levels have confirmed this. Mental ability has to do with more than learning facts and solving problems, though. Social success depends on picking up and understanding subtle clues. Often, people are considered slow because poor nutrition causes them to miss those clues and react inappropriately. If you’ve ever been laughed at by your peers, it’s possible a good diet can help prevent that.Nutrition And Income: Energy, mental ability, education and social skills all combine to determine how we do in the business world. Since all of these things can be improved, the relationship is obvious between good nutrition and how much money or satisfaction you have, professionally. One executive put it this way, “It isn’t that people are angry, uncooperative and don’t want to work, it’s just that they’re ill due to their poor nutrition choices.” Diet changes your emotions; how you see things, how you react to things, what you feel. It’s no accident that some executive interviews occur over a meal. Employers know that people who follow good nutritional habits are better, more productive, more cooperative, healthier employees.Nutrition And Disease: It’s probably very obvious to most people that poor diet and disease are related. Many major diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, have been linked to nutrients for most of our lives. What isn’t as obvious is the link between good nutrition in general and almost every disease, from the common cold and flu, to cancer. Good, balanced nutrients give your body what it needs to fight off minor colds and the terrible, frightening, crippling and life-threatening diseases. Even if you have a genetic pre-disposition toward certain diseases, good nutrition can reduce the risk of actually getting most of them. Daily, scientists are finding more and more evidence of the importance of diet in fighting, preventing and curing diseases.Nutrition And Long, Quality Life: I guess it’s obvious if the above is true, your life will be longer. Many studies over the past 6 decades have confirmed a strong relationship between nutrition and longevity. They’ve also found that the quality of life is greatly enhanced.Why is nutrition important? Because you can have more energy, more mental ability, more money, less disease and more life by simply making sure you have a good, balanced intake of nutrients. Now that you know why, here’s a resource for information on the what and how of good nutrition. Knowing why it’s important will help you navigate the sea of information on vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, antioxidants and everything else that’s out there. Enjoy!

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?