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Achieving Product/Market Fit For Your Small Business

AFor any startup to succeed, achieving product/market fit is among the most vital of goals. But verifying that your product meets a strong market need and can stand up to competitors is not an exact science, nor does it typically happen in one grand a-ha moment. Likewise, building momentum in a market requires patience and comes with no guarantees as customers’ needs, regulatory landscapes, and competitive pressures change over time.

Consider that your business will only succeed if it adds real value for the user. In this case ‘value’ means that businesses or individuals will understand they need or want it enough to pay you a price that will give you profit and success. Start by understanding your target market’s need and then whether you will be a better solution than your competition.

Despite the uncertainty and risk you face when starting a business, there are some actions you can take to increase your success in accomplishing product/market fit:

Do your homework to understand your customers’ current needs and anticipate what they’ll need in the future. Research your target demographic by spending time with prospective customers, read industry blogs and print publications, attend industry tradeshows and webinars, and seek out a professional in your industry who might serve as a mentor to you as you develop your products and services. 

Focus on one primary and critical value proposition. It’s impossible to be all things to all customers. By homing in on what’s most important to your target customers, analyzing significant trends in your industry, and identifying where competitors are falling short in solving customers’ problems, you can deliver value out of the gate. If you’re solving a pain point for your customers from the start, they will be more patient in waiting for you to add other features and options.

Listen. Learn. Adapt.

Have a business plan, but be open to change as you listen to feedback and ideas from your early customers. Learn from what they’re telling you can improve your products or services. And be prepared to adapt your systems and processes to make your business more viable and sustainable.  

Good planning and research will pay off in money/costs avoided and a far better marketing strategy and tactics that will resound in your customers’ minds. It is not ‘how’ you bring your product or service but rather what the benefits are in the language the customer understands. 

Further advice on doing business with your new small business is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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Six tips for maximizing the benefits of a business mentor

Ask SCORE


Embracing the help of a SCORE business mentor offers many advantages to entrepreneurs. Whether you’re in the early stages of exploring a business idea or already running an established business, a mentor can provide valuable guidance, serve as an objective sounding board for listening to and evaluating new ideas, and motivate you to be more accountable. With a SCORE mentor, you benefit from expertise and experience that can help you launch and/or grow your business.

Before you begin working with a mentor, consider what you can do to get the most fulfillment from your mentor/mentee relationship. 

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Come prepared with a list of questions and issues you’re facing to every meeting with your SCORE mentor. Mentors are there to answer even what seem to be the silliest questions. They don’t judge you by what you know or don’t know. They are there to develop your understanding and awareness. And if they personally don’t know the answer to a particular question, they can tap into the expertise of other SCORE mentors within their chapter or nationally. 

• Focus. 

When you talk with your mentor, be entirely present and ready to focus on your business issues. Unless you need them for research during your meeting, put your digital devices away so they won’t distract you from your conversation.

• Have realistic expectations. 

Your mentor is there to advise you, not to do the work for you. You will gain insight and direction from a mentor, but you will still have to work hard. Starting and running a small business requires effort—no exceptions.

• Follow through. 

Do your homework! You should walk away from every meeting with your mentor with next steps (a.k.a. action items). Make sure you tackle what you agreed to do between meetings. If you slack off and don’t take the initiative to complete the tasks necessary to move forward, you won’t be able to take full advantage of your time together. 

• Keep an open mind.

You and your mentor may not always see eye to eye on certain ideas or approaches. Rather than instantly discarding suggestions that don’t align with your initial thoughts, consider your mentor’s frame of reference and experience in working with other SCORE mentees who faced similar challenges. The right answer may not always be what you want to hear, so it’s important to listen with an objective ear. 

• Keep the lines of communication open.

When first starting your business, you will probably find you need to meet with your mentor on a relatively frequent basis (possibly every week). As time goes by, your need to consult your mentor may ebb and flow depending on the nature of the competition you’re facing, industry changes, or opportunities you want to pursue. Even when you don’t feel you need to meet very often, keep your mentor up to date on what’s happening in your business via email or a periodic phone call. That way, your mentor will be informed and better equipped to provide guidance when you do face a new challenge.

Getting Started

To find a SCORE mentor in your area who has expertise in the specific aspects of small business you need help with, visit the SCORE website  www.grandrapids.score.org  

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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How The Business Structure You Select Affects Your Income Tax Treatment

The business structure you choose for your startup will affect your company from a legal standpoint, and it will have an impact on your taxes, as well. Before you decide on the structure for your small business, you should do some research and talk to tax and legal professionals for guidance. The better you understand your options, the more likely you’ll be to operate under the structure that will benefit your business the most. 

An Overview Of A Few Of The Most Common Business Structures

Sole Proprietorship

By default, businesses are considered sole proprietorships (partnerships if more than one owner) if their owners don’t register them formally as independent entities. Many at-home businesses start this way because sole proprietorships require the least amount of registration paperwork and ongoing compliance efforts. From an income tax perspective, a sole proprietorship is also considered one in the same as its owner. Your business profits and losses flow through to your personal income tax return.

(Note that with a sole proprietorship, your personal assets are not separated from those of your business. This poses some risks. Your home, bank accounts, retirement savings, and other personal belongings might be in jeopardy if someone were to sue your company. When you form a Limited Liability Company [LLC] or incorporate your business, however, your personal assets receive some protection from legal action brought against your business. Be aware liability protection and tax treatment may vary depending on the state where a business is incorporated matters, so it’s important to talk with an attorney and tax professional.) 

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

You can form an LLC as either a single-member (single owner) or multi-member (multiple owners). This legal structure provides the limited liability advantages of a corporation and the flexibility of a sole proprietorship. As with sole proprietorships/partnerships, an LLC’s profits and losses flow through to owners’ personal income tax returns. In addition, LLCs offer some tax flexibility; you can elect to have your LLC taxed as an S Corporation or a C Corporation.

S Corporation 

The S Corporation structure has gained the favor of many small business owners because it offers one level of tax at the shareholder level and some relief from the self-employment tax burden on owners. Only an owner’s reasonable wages/salaries are subject to self-employment (FICA) tax, and profit distributions to shareholders flow through to the individual shareholders’ income tax returns. 

C Corporation 

C Corporations offer more extensive personal liability protection and growth potential than other structures, and the way income taxes are applied differentiates this structure, too. With a C Corp, income is taxed at the corporate tax rate when your business earns it. Profits are then taxed again at the personal income tax rates when shareholders’ distributions are made.

Partnerships

Another important type of business structure, partnerships come in different legal forms, including corporations, limit liability, and managerial control. Tax treatment and personal liability protection vary depending on the type of partnership you form and the state in which you incorporate.

Get The Right Help To Make The Right Choice

The information we’ve provided here is meant to share some of the basics you should know when deciding on the business structure for your small business. It is not intended as professional legal or accounting advice. Carefully consider your type of business and long-term plans when determining the best legal structure for your business. We also recommend you consult a reputable attorney and business tax expert for insight and guidance. If you need help finding trustworthy professionals in your area, talk with your local SCORE chapter for recommendations.

Further advice on doing business is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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Will Contractors or Hiring Staff Benefit Your Small Business Most?

ASK   SCORE. SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business, Free Business Counseling

As your small business grows, you will find you can’t do everything on your own. To obtain the help you need, you can choose to outsource tasks to independent contractors or hire employees to whom you can delegate work. 

To decide which will make the most sense for your company, it’s important to first understand some of the key differences between working with independent contractors versus having employees on staff. 

Employees Vs. Independent Contractors: Four Points Of Comparison

• Compensation

Independent contractors who do work for you operate under their own business names. They are not on your payroll, and they will issue you invoices for their services rendered—typically based on an agreed upon flat fee or a per hour rate. With employees, you provide regularly scheduled paychecks that reflect compensation according to the salary or wages you agreed to pay them. 

• Tax Withholdings

With hired employees, you withhold their federal, state, and local taxes from their paychecks—and you’re responsible for submitting those tax payments to the tax authorities. Independent contractors, on the other hand, must submit their own federal, state, and local income tax payments—including self-employment taxes (Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid)—to the tax authorities directly.

• Company Benefits

When you have employees, you may be required by law to provide certain benefits, such as offering medical insurance, paying half of the employee’s Social Security and Medicare tax obligation, workers compensation insurance, and family and medical leave. You are not, however, required to provide benefits to independent contractors. 

• Management Of Work

With employees, you have more control over how work is done, when it’s done, and where it’s done. With independent contractors, you can’t dictate their hours, the equipment they use to perform their work, or tell them how to do their work. 

Which Should You Choose?

That depends. Using independent contractors might save you some money on labor costs, minimize liability, and give you more flexibility if you choose to discontinue your working relationships. On the other hand, hiring staff gives you more control over the skills development of your employees and you call the shots on how, when, and where work is performed. 

If you choose to sign on independent contractors to help you with your work, make sure it’s clear they are not employees. Consider having them sign an Independent Contractor (or Work For Hire) Agreement and request they sign a W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification) form to identify them as a contractor. 

As you’re making the decision to hire staff or contract an independent worker, consider asking for insight and guidance from legal and accounting professionals. Mentors at your local SCORE chapter could also help you weigh the pros and cons of each option so you can better determine which will best serve the current needs of your small business.

Further advice is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

Free and Confidential Counseling

SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616-771-0305

www.grandrapids.score.org

e-mail: score@grandrapids.org

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Information small business needs to keep

ASK   SCORE

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business – Free Business Counseling



One of the most important administrative responsibilities small business owners face is keeping accurate and current records. Not only is it critical for assessing opportunities and risks that can affect your company’s profitability and potential for growth, it’s also necessary for ensuring legal and regulatory compliance. 

Regardless of the type of business you’re running, record keeping comes with the territory. Some types of documentation and information are required for all businesses and others may or may not be necessary depending on your industry. 

Here’s a list of some commonly required records businesses need to maintain. While this list is not all-inclusive, it will give you a good idea of the basic items you need to track and keep in your possession. 

• Accounting records

• Expenses

• Income

• Invoices 

• Customer payments and transaction records

• Tax filings (annual, quarterly, and monthly if applicable)

• Bank and credit card statements

• Contracts (with clients, vendors, partners, etc.)

• Purchase orders

• Licenses and permits

• Employment applications

• Vehicle mileage logs

Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Organization (depending on your business’s legal structure)

• Operating Agreement

• Annual Meeting minutes

• Trademark, service mark, and patent registrations

• Inventory logs

Without a doubt, there’s a lot to stay on top of as a small business owner. To help prevent important details from slipping through the cracks, you need to stay organized and educate yourself about what information and documentation you need to keep. 

Software programs (such as accounting tools, sales and customer relationship databases, inventory software, etc.) alleviate some of the work, but remember they all require some manual attention to make sure information is logged and entered correctly. If information is missing or inaccurate, you (not your software) are ultimately responsible for the integrity of your records. 

Also make sure you back up your digital data. Many cloud-based software applications provide backup of the data you’ve entered, but your computer files (Word documents, Excel files, etc.) should be backed up, too. Consider backing up your data on an external hard drive AND through a cloud-based data backup service such as Carbonite, CrashPlan, SugarSync, or one of the many others available. 

Consulting with professionals who specialize in taxes, accounting, and business law can also help ensure you meet regulations and requirements. If you find it difficult to dedicate time to maintaining good records, you might also consider transferring some routine record keeping tasks to a trusted and capable bookkeeper, virtual assistant, or a consultant. For help knowing where to look and what questions to ask when locating reputable professionals in your community, consider asking a SCORE mentor at your local chapter, your local chamber of commerce, or business colleagues for advice.

Further advice on planning for your small business is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.

Free and Confidential Counseling

SCORE, 250 Pearl Street NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616-771-0305

www.grandrapids.score.org

e-mail: score@grandrapids.org

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Benefits of using the business model canvas

 

The Business Model Canvas is an entrepreneurial tool that enables you to visualize, design, and reinvent your business model. Swiss business theorist and author Alexander Osterwalder developed it. For many startups, using the tool can help them develop a clear view of their value proposition, operations, customers, and finances. As a small business owner, you can use it to identify how the different components of your business relate to each other. That’s powerful when deciding where you need to focus your time and attention as you start and grow your business.

“Many start up entrepreneurs and small businesses are so busy trying to get started and survive that they spend little time planning. When they do try to plan, they are often confused and don’t know where to start,” explains Bruce Gitlin, SCORE mentor and business development expert. “This tool sets an overarching framework for developing a business strategy, a detailed business plan, and/or a prioritized action plan.”

According to Gitlin, the Business Model Canvas can help move entrepreneurs to address specific risks and acquire more information (about competitors or a market niche, for example).

The Business Model Canvas has nine different areas of focus that make up building blocks in a visual representation of your business. 

  • Key Partners—Who are the buyers and suppliers you need to form relationships with? What other alliances will help you accomplish core business activities and fulfill your value proposition to customers?
  • Key Activities—What are the most important activities you must engage in to fulfill your value propositions, to secure distribution channels, to strengthen customer relationships, to optimize revenue streams, etc.?
  • Key Resources—What resources do you need to create value for your customers and sustain your business?
  • Value Propositions—What products and services will you offer to meet the needs of your customers? How will your business be different from your competition? What challenges will you solve for your customers?
  • Customer Relationships—What types of relationships will you forge with your customer segments? What are the relationship expectations of each customer segment? How are they entwined with the rest of your business model?
  • Customer Segments—What sets of customers will you serve? Which are most important to your business?
  • Channels—Through what means will you reach your targeted customers and deliver your products and services to them? Which are most cost effective? How are the channels integrated?
  • Cost Structure—What are the key costs your business will face? Which resources will cost the most? Which activities will cost the most?
  • Revenue Streams—How much will you charge for your products and services? What are customers willing to pay for? How will customers pay? How much will each revenue stream contribute to your overall revenue?

According to Gitlin, gaps in planning stand out when using the tool, making it effective for entrepreneurs who are new to starting and running a business. 

“The Business Model Canvas helps visualize what is important and forces users to address key areas. It can also be used by a team (employees and/or advisors) to understand relationships and reach agreements.” 

Further advice on the Business Model Canvas is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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What you must know before buying a business

Rather than building a small business from the ground up, buying an existing company offers the opportunity to move along the path to entrepreneurship more quickly. With all of the startup tasks already taken care of, a staff in place, an established customer base, existing vendor relationships, and processes and procedures laid out, you have a head start. 

But that doesn’t diminish the importance of doing your research before making the decision to buy a business. Acquiring an existing small business requires substantial examination so you avoid the many pitfalls that befall eager entrepreneurs who leap before they look.

According to William Comiskey, a SCORE Mentor at the Southwest Florida SCORE Chapter, “Investing in a business is the same as investing your savings in a mutual fund or stock portfolio to secure both your future and possibly your retirement. You study and review the past performance and the current condition and seek help and advice from professionals on the prospects for the future.” 

Before purchasing an existing business, you need to get answers to some critical questions:

Why is the current owner selling the business? Seek the truth. If the business is in a declining neighborhood or the owner has caught wind of an upcoming market change that will negatively affect revenues or cost structure, you might put yourself at risk of failure from circumstances beyond your control. Uncovering the real reasons for a sale may be difficult. Be wary and realize that smart business owners don’t often walk away from profitable endeavors unless they have strong personal reasons (illness, retirement, etc.), or they have received offers that are too good to refuse.

How is the business doing financially? If it has been losing money or hasn’t been generating a satisfactory profit, you’ll want to dig deeper into the reasons why. Unless you’re confident you can operate it more profitably than the current owner, you might end up with a sinking ship on your hands.

What sort of reputation does the business have? When you buy an existing business, you’re getting the brand reputation along with it. That will either work for or against you. Turning around an existing business’s poor reputation will be difficult and could take years—and it might even be impossible depending on how negatively the company is perceived by customers, suppliers, and the public. 

If the business has a favorable reputation, find out what has made it so. A strong reputation based on personal relationships between the owner and customers might not easily transfer to you. Be particularly cautious of this if the business relies primarily on a few key customers or suppliers. 

Are you getting everything you need to seamlessly take over running the business? Find out if the purchase will include essentials such as: leases and contracts; customer lists; patents, trademarks, service marks, and trade names; key employees who are vital to the business; and other important components. 

As Comiskey suggests, you don’t have to embark on the process alone. Consider tapping the expertise of professionals (such as SCORE mentors) who can help you assess the opportunities and risks of buying an existing business. 

Further advice on the purchase of an existing business is available from SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training, and free counseling designed to help entrepreneurs nationwide build productive, profitable businesses. 

A SCORE Counselor can serve as a sounding board and will provide valuable unbiased feedback on how to improve things. The SCORE Counselor can also look at the business from the perspective of a bank or other investor, and raise questions you may have overlooked.

All SCORE counseling is offered as a free and confidential community service. There are 30 counselors in the Grand Rapids office of SCORE. Call 616-771-0305 for an appointment with a knowledgeable counselor or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org.  

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Positive attitudes generate positive results

 

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business

Free Business Counseling

 

Everybody has a bad day at work at least now and then. If you’re not careful, those bad days can become the norm rather than the exception for your small business. Without a positive attitude among everyone involved with your business (including yourself), a business suffers in tangible and intangible ways. Employees with poor attitudes affect customers negatively, discourage other workers from doing their best, and fail to perform to their own level of capability. Customers can sense when the person helping them is indifferent about their work, and they may wonder if it extends through the entire company.

When examining employee attitudes, start with your own. Be genuinely interested in the other people you work with-not only employees but also customers and suppliers. Respect your employees’ dignity. Let them know that they are important to your and your business and that high performance will be rewarded. Help employees identify realistic approaches to making them feel fulfilled by their jobs. While you want to be sensitive to the emotions of employees, do not ignore poor performance.  When an employee does not perform up to standards or has made a mistake, meet with him or her in private to discuss the issue.

Include your employees as team members. Ask for their suggestions and respect their ideas-even if you do not always agree with them. When you implement an idea contributed by an employee, remember to give the employee credit. This practice helps all employees see their value to the company the way you see it.

Allow employees input into the business operation when you can reasonably do so. For example, if your small business were to conduct an employee survey, would you then be willing to respond by making changes in the business? If left unaddressed, the problem areas that surface within companies and can lead to employee dissent and hinder productivity in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

If you would like to discuss employee surveys and team-building, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of volunteer counselors providing free, confidential advice to entrepreneurs. For the Grand Rapids SCORE chapter, call 1-616/771-0305, or find a counselor online at www.scoregrandrapids.org.

These ASK SCORE articles are submitted by the Grand Rapids Chapter of SCORE where there are 35 SCORE counselors ready to serve you and your business needs. To reach the Grand Rapids office call 1-616/771-0305, or find a counselor online at www.scoregrandrapids.org.

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Set realistic goals for your web site

 

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business

 

The advantages of having a business website have been well documented. For some customers, your site is the first place they will gain awareness of your company. From there, the opportunities appear endless.

An effective website is one that is meeting both your business’s needs and the informational needs of visitors to the site. Assuming that you already have established a Web site, how do you think it’s doing on both fronts? Clearly, an unproductive Web site will be a waste of your money and your visitors’ time.

Here are some factors for objectively evaluating your site-to see it not only through the lens of your business goals but also through the eyes of a prospective customer. It should:

• be current. Making regular changes to the home page is vital to sustain the interest of regular visitors.

• be located easily using the major search engines. ·

• have working hyperlinks to other relevant sites, such as a trade or professional association whose members are potential purchasers.

• be easy to navigate. The files and graphics should be small enough that most visitors can download them quickly. Links within the site should make it easy for a visitor to get back to your home page.

• offer customers and prospects relevant information-that is, material that will help them understand  your products and services and their potential value to them.

• be a secure site, if you are conducting e-commerce on it.

• personalize or customize information for different segments of your market.

• use cookies or other features to capture information about your site visitors and their buying habits without costing them significant time.

• offer customers an easy way to contact you with questions or feedback without their having to leave the site. (And you should be able to respond promptly.)

To sum up, you want your Web site to work for your visitors if your larger goal is to maximize your business potential. So every now and then, step back and become the person you’d like to visit your site.

To learn more about the many dimensions of marketing on the World Wide Web, contact SCORE. SCORE counselors  donate their time to consult with and mentor entrepreneurs  providing free and confidential business counseling to America’s small business owners. Call the Grand Rapids SCORE chapter at1-616/771-0305, or find an online counselor at www.scoregrandrapids.org.

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Manage your home office the right way

 

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business – Free Business Counseling

 

Sooner or later, in a moment of frustration, any home-based entrepreneur will ask, How in the world did I get myself into this business? You did your research, found your niche, worked out the start-up money and household logistics. Self-employment was a dream that one day became a reality. Some days, though, it seems impossible to manage. You’re not alone. ·

Perhaps your number-one goal has been to survive your first year of entrepreneurship. Consider these tips for sustaining a mind-set of success:

  Don’t go it alone. A sense of isolation is a common hazard of being in a home-based environment. You may have fond memories of comparing notes with coworkers at your last job when a problem needed solving and miss that camaraderie.  Consider creating an advisory board of knowledgeable allies: trusted colleagues with some business acumen of their own who want to help you succeed.

• Reward yourself. You’re the boss. Now and then, give yourself the rest of the day off, or at least take extra time away from your office for a family project or an overdue lunch with a good friend. Let them know what you have to celebrate and a little about how you have succeeded so they can share your sense of accomplishment. Small victories add up.

• Stay focused on your primary goals for your business. Your long-term goals can affect the decisions you make in your first year. The reverse is also true. If necessary, revisit your business plan. This is the best way to make the tough decisions about how to spend your valuable time and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Not every task demands perfection.

• Lastly, keep your perspective. Every entrepreneur has bad days, difficult customers and unfortunate setbacks. Don’t let them snowball, sapping your energy and productivity and leaving you totally discouraged. Remembering why you’re in business for yourself will do wonders to restore your faith in tomorrow.

Contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” for guidance on how to make the most of your home-based business. SCORE is a nonprofit organization of volunteer business counselors who provide free and confidential business mentoring to small business owners. Call 1-800/634-0245  for the SCORE chapter nearest you, or find a counselor online at www.score.org. You may also call the Grand Rapids Chapter of SCORE at 1-616-771-0305 or find a counselor online at www.scoregrandrapids.org.

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