Our experience at SCORE indicates that most small business owners are almost always constrained by a lack of time. Specifically, they lack time to do marketing and market research, to deal with suppliers and establish credit, to develop a website, to set up accounting records and a bookkeeping system, to review and meet regulatory or government paperwork and filing requirements, to communicate with established customers, to answer mail and to establish a plan and budgets for the coming year.
It is human nature to first do those things that we like to do, or those things that we are good at doing. If this is the case or if you are weak in certain areas of responsibility such as marketing, finances, website integration, etc., then outsource these tasks or seek partners to complement your skills.
One major reason for a business plan is to identify the important areas of the business and to make sure they are not forgotten. Within each of these areas are details that must be attended to, and priorities should be assigned.
Another reason for a business plan is to do your market research before you start your business. Most markets applicable to a new business have several segments. It is usually impossible to address all market segments upon startup. Analysis of your markets based on the amount of return from the least amount of your effort and resources and your ability to satisfy the customer can help you establish initial target markets on which to focus. Your enthusiasm for the many markets you can serve must be tempered by the limitation of your time and resources. It is prudent to focus on a few target market segments. If you try to reach them all you may not reach any of them sufficiently to sustain the business.
Many startup businesses originate in the home and out of necessity remain home-based. Usually there are distractions, and it takes discipline and family cooperation to minimize the many things that can pull you from the tasks of running the business. It is imperative to establish a routine that family members agree to and then stick to it as much as possible.
Startup businesses can place tremendous stress on a family, especially if there is minimal capital and/or no other source of income. Startup entrepreneurs must have discipline and focus if they are to be successful.
At SCORE we emphasize the following priorities:
Start your day focusing on your market segments.
Check your numbers weekly, specifically cash flow.
Resolve any customer issue immediately.
If you are struggling, ask for help.
This article is a modified and edited version of an article written by Kenyon Riches, a SCORE volunteer with the Buffalo-Niagara Chapter. Riches has contributed to several previous articles.