Birthing a Business

By Linda Lord

It takes approximately 16 days of gestation before a hamster is ready to enter the world; 60 days  (depending on the bread) for a dog, 336 days for a horse, 280 for a human baby, and 624 days for an Indian elephant; but how long does it take to prepare a business to enter the marketplace? Just as times are only approximations for mammals, there is no one answer for birthing a business either. There are some things that have to be considered, and handled, before opening a business and based on my years of working with small business owners and entrepreneurs, the more successful ones take the time to gestate their business concept. For those of you who have been running your businesses for a long time, I encourage you to reflect on these questions as a review to ensure that you are still on course.

Start with a clear understanding of what you expect from your business. Is it intended to be a second income; a source of vacation funding, or your retirement plan? Will it be an expression of your God-given talents or simply a way to make money? You may choose to answer these questions alone, or in consultation with the members of your life, as they will be affected by your decision to start a business. I always encourage my clients to communicate the journey they are on with their spouses. Many people who start businesses do so after they have worked for someone else and have brought home regular paycheques. Both they and their spouses believe the start-up business will make money right away. Some businesses are profitable immediately; but many more are not. Starting a business is difficult enough without the additional hazard of a spouse who has very different expectations of the business than you do.

With answers to the above considerations, you are able to determine the best model for your business. Do you want to work full-time hours, part-time, or only a few hours a month? Do you want to be home when the children leave for school and when they get home each day? Do you want to work from a home office? Do you want it to be a ‘bricks and mortar’ business or online? Do you want to work alone or with others?

First consider the home-based business model. Technology has made home-based businesses competitive and a legitimate player in the marketplace. They are generally less risky and have lower start-up costs. The downside can be that working from home comes with a lot of distractions and greater demand on your ability to self-discipline. ‘Brick and mortar’ businesses are the traditional model with a physical location outside of your home, offering retail, wholesale, manufacturing, or services to your customers. The advantages are that a physical location provides the increased opportunity for face-to-face contact with walk-in traffic. The downside is the full-time commitment of leases, equipment, inventory and personnel. There is also the e-commerce model. This model depends heavily on ‘web-foot’ traffic. The upside is your market is the world and the downside is your market is the world. An e-commerce business has to be able to attract the right people, have the right products and services, and be able to process payments from around the world. Of course, you may choose to go the franchise route, which allows you to buy someone else’s proven business processes. You pay for these upfront and usually pay a portion of revenues. The upside is that you have support and samples to use that are already successful. You usually have an established brand and the success rates tend to be higher. The downside is the initial investment and franchise guidelines. You may also consider network marketing ventures that ask you to sell their products. Usually start-up costs are low. The downside is that many people do not realize the financial outcomes they originally sought.

The next step is to develop, or review, your business plan. There are many resources on the Web to assist in this process, but the major topics to include are: Business Description including a Mission Statement, Market Analysis, Marketing and Distribution, Personnel, Financials and Exit Strategy. Additional pieces may be necessary if you are requesting a loan or financing. It has been amazing to me, the number of existing businesses operating without a plan of any sort, and only during the recent economic crisis did the owners see the merit in having one.

Combine your talents with your business plan to generate SMART goals and a solid action plan. At some point, you will know it is time to birth your business. Just as no one has to tell a woman when she’s in labour, you will come to the point when the planning is done and the next step must be taken to become the parent of a new business.

I use this analogy knowingly. I am a business owner, too. I birthed my business 14 years ago in May. Infant businesses are just as dependent upon the owner as a new baby is on his/her parent. You will spend hours nurturing and growing your business. You will make choices in the first few months and years to support its development. You will grow to care about its health. And like a child, the business will enter other life stages and your role will change. Like parenting, enjoy each phase of being a business owner, because although it can be exhausting, it is also a very rewarding experience.

About Linda Lord As a Human Agriculturalist and Storytiller: Linda produces presentations that grow people. She fertilizes the performance ground with H.O.P.E. (honesty, optimism, perspective, and experience) and plants seeds of L.I.F.E. (laughter, information, focus, and encouragement) that cultivate the individual's ability to C.O.P.E. (clarify, organize, plan, and engage). Linda integrates meaningful content with her experience as a workshop leader, business person, and performer. Her delivery is dynamic, interactive, and entertaining. Participants reflect on character, circumstances and choices to enhance their soft skills. Linda can be contacted on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or by phone 1.519.257.7363.

By Adam

February 02, 2011