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Tag Archive | "Business"

Businesses struggle under extended closing


by Judy Reed

Busy Moms Bakery is one local business that continues to see good customer turnout during the stay-at-home order. Here, 3-year-old Maverick Hunt enjoys a tasty donut while out on a walk to get some fresh air. Photo by Rachel Hunt.

A temporary closure that was only supposed to be until just after Easter has now been extended until the end of May, according a recent executive order signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Executive Order 2020-69 extends her previous order that temporarily closes certain places of public accommodation such as theaters, bars, casinos, and more. In order to maintain social distancing the order also limits restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.

“Although we are beginning to see the curve flatten, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Whitmer. “We must all continue to be diligent, observe social distancing and limit in-person interactions and services to slowthe spread of COVID-19.”

It’s been tough for many businesses here in Cedar Springs and the surrounding areas. Those that are considered essential—such as those that serve food—have taken a big hit. Some closed temporarily immediately, such as Classic Kelly’s and Big Boy. Others opted to stay open and try to do take out. Cedar Rock Café on 14 Mile Rd couldn’t sustain their business and closed their doors permanently.

Some businesses have been thrown a lifeline. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Wednesday that more than 2,700 small businesses around Michigan have been awarded a total of $10 million in grants by local economic development organizations through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program. The grants under the Michigan Small Business Relief Program are intended to support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce and may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.

In addition to the $10 million in grant funds, the Michigan Strategic Fund also approved $10 million in loans through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program that are being referred to the MEDC from the local EDO partners. Those loan applications are currently being reviewed by a loan review committee including the Chief Business Development Officer and Senior Vice President of Business Development Projects as referrals are made from local EDO partners. All loans made through the Michigan Small Business Relief Program will be approved through Michigan Strategic Fund delegated authority and announced as they are finalized.

Red Bird Bistro, a relatively new business in Cedar Springs, applied for both a grant and a loan. “I received a grant but they are still processing my loan application,” said owner Jody Arp. They are one of the downtown businesses doing take out. We asked how business was going. “We are just trying to survive this,” she said.

We also spoke with the Cedar Springs Brewing Company, who has been doing take-out, delivery, and putting some of their product in area supermarkets. We asked owner David Ringler how business was going and if he’d applied for any of the loans.

“We’re treading water, thanks to the amazing support of our community, which we appreciate greatly,” said Ringler. “We’re focused on diligent safety procedures, takeout, local delivery and catering at the present time and we’re doing our best to be here when we get back to normal,’ whatever the new normal may be,” he explained.

“We’ve applied for anything we thought was a fit, but most of these programs are ill-designed for hospitality and simply do not fit well…or they add debt, which is a separate issue for any small business,” remarked Ringler.

At least one new business in Cedar Springs is seeing a good flow of customers. “We are actually doing okay,” explained Tom Wilkes, owner of Moms Busy Bakery. “No real change in our pace. As long as things stay as they are we should be just fine.” He said that they did not apply for any of the loans.

The news media is also considered essential, and the Post, your local newspaper, is surviving week by week on advertising by the local businesses. We appreciate any support you can give us during this tough time, and hope readers will patronize the businesses seen on our pages.

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Know the difference between standard and itemized deductions


IRS Tax Tip 2020-17

It’s a good idea for people to find out if they should file using the standard deduction or itemize their deductions. Deductions reduce the amount of taxable income when filing a federal income tax return. In other words, they can reduce the amount of tax someone owes.

Individuals should understand they have a choice of either taking a standard deduction or itemizing their deductions. Taxpayers can use the method that gives them the lower tax. Due to tax law changes in the last couple years, people who itemized in the past might not want to continue to do so, so it’s important for all taxpayers to look into which deduction to take.

Here are some details about the two methods to help people understand which they should use:

Standard deduction

The standard deduction amount adjusts every year and can vary by filing status. The standard deduction amount depends on the taxpayer’s filing status, whether they are 65 or older or blind, and whether another taxpayer can claim them as a dependent. Taxpayers who are age 65 or older on the last day of the year and don’t itemize deductions are entitled to a higher standard deduction.

Most filers who use Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors, can find their standard deduction on the first page of the form.

Taxpayers who can’t use the standard deduction include:

*A married individual filing as married filing separately whose spouse itemizes deductions.

*An individual who files a tax return for a period of less than 12 months. This could be due to a change in their annual accounting period.

*An individual who was a nonresident alien or a dual-status alien during the year. However, nonresident aliens who are married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien can take the standard deduction in certain situations.

Itemized deductions 

Taxpayers may need to itemize deductions because they can’t use the standard deduction. They may also itemize deductions when this amount is greater than their standard deduction.

Taxpayers who itemize file Schedule A, Form 1040, Itemized Deductions or Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors.

A taxpayer may benefit by itemizing deductions for things that include:

*State and local income or sales taxes

*Real estate and personal property taxes

*Mortgage interest

*Mortgage insurance premiums

*Personal casualty and theft losses from a federally declared disaster

*Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income

Individual itemized deductions may be limited. Schedule A, Form 1040 Instructions can help determine what limitations may apply.

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City Clerk receives certified clerk designation


The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks (MAMC) recently awarded Rebecca Johnson, the clerk for the City of Cedar Springs, the Certified Michigan Municipal Clerk (CMMC) designation. 

The CMMC program was launched in 2014 to encourage City, Township, and Village Clerks to seek continuing education specifically related to the duties of Michigan Clerks. MAMC believes a focus on education is essential for municipal clerks to provide informed, quality leadership for their communities in the face of constant legislative change and increased demands on Michigan’s public servants.

Rebecca Johnson

A clerk must invest a minimum of 120 hours of educational programming over three years to qualify for certification, and must continue to obtain education points to maintain the certification. Whether elected or appointed, municipal clerks serve a powerful role in coordinating public programs and influencing legislative initiatives. City Clerk Johnson is to be commended for the hard work, perseverance, and commitment expended to attain CMMC certification and the dedication to providing quality service to the public and the municipality they serve.

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Ask Score:


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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Local nurse named Special Programs Caregiver of the Year


Zana McClure, CNA, has been named a Special Programs Caregiver of the Year by Maxim Healthcare Services, a provider of home healthcare, behavioral care, healthcare staffing, personal caregiving, and population health and wellness solutions. The Pierson resident is being recognized for her dedicated care of patients at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.  

McClure has been working at the long-term care facility for more than eight years and currently cares for 29 veterans. She helps her patients, who range from octogenarians that served in World War II to veterans of modern conflicts who would otherwise be homeless, with a variety of needs. McClure is known among her patients for her clinical skill, as well as her companionship. When she’s not providing medical care, she is walking patients around the grounds, preparing them to eat and assisting with extracurricular activities like woodworking and ceramics.  

McClure’s commitment to the veterans in her unit is a personal one. Her husband served in the armed forces for 15 years and unexpectedly passed away in 2017 while working as a mechanical engineer. Following his tragic death, McClure coped by throwing herself into her work where her responsibilities took on new meaning. “This is something I need to do to honor him,” she said.

When McClure is not at work, she is taking care of her own mother at home. Her teammates contend that McClure treats all her patients like family and is always willing to step up for others. “She does all of this because she is committed to the veterans, their families and her teammates. She is dedicated to ensuring our veterans never go without care, and her level of selfless service goes unmatched,” said Jawn Oilar, portfolio director at Maxim.

A panel of judges selected McClure and three other regional winners to be recognized at a special awards ceremony hosted by Maxim Healthcare Services in Orlando, Florida, on January 30. McClure’s commitment to quality patient care will be highlighted in a tribute video debuted at the ceremony.

Now in its seventh year, the Caregiver of the Year Award program celebrates nurses and home healthcare aides for the key roles they play in delivering quality, patient-centered care to some of the nation’s most medically fragile and chronically ill patients.

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How do I decide on a business for me?


 

By Bob Cooper, SCORE Counselor

Deciding on the product or service that you can form into a business, starts by looking at yourself. What skills and interests that you possess? You are going to devote a lot of time and energy to the enterprise, so it is necessary that you enjoy doing the activity that will be your business.

For example, don’t decide to operate a restaurant just because you love to eat. You might even be able to make a super hamburger on the grill, but to translate that into a full time occupation of operating a restaurant, with no knowledge of the restaurant business, would be a mistake.

Therefore, the first job is to investigate you to determine your skills, interests and desires. The best of entrepreneurs love their chosen business, and are prepared every day to be challenged by the tasks that need to be done.

If you are presently employed, keep your present job while you start your new business. Calculate the amount of money it will take to keep you and your family afloat for at least six months. This is the amount of money you need in the bank before you should leave your present job.

Almost everyone starting a business needs support. That support may take the form of money; however the best support takes the form of an experienced entrepreneur with whom you can discuss your ideas. When you are starting a business a person with experience can be the best support system of all.

Once you have an idea for a business that you have an interest in, and that you feel you have the experience to excel in, you must determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. As part of your marketing effort, list all of your potential competitors and their strengths and weaknesses, and then compare your product or service to your list of competitors. Will you be better, cheaper or faster than your competition? In other words, why will your customers buy from you? It is important to recognize that the day before you started your business, all of your potential customers had the products and services that they needed from someone else. Then why should those customers, a day later, need your product or service?

The other side of your marketing effort is to determine who your customers are and how you will connect with them. Keep in mind that every person or company is not your customer. Make a list of the demographics that best describe your customers, and based on that list, determine how you will connect with them.

Do research on your product or service to determine how successful and needed it may be in the marketplace. The world will not beat a path to your door just because you are in business To develop customers, you need to market your product or service to your network of potential customers.

Be professional. You are planning to start a business and that business is a reflection of you, so treat the business and yourself professionally. You want people to know that you are serious, and that you will treat the business and your customers as a professional. That includes having business cards, a business phone, a business e-mail address and having a website on the Internet. Part of being professional is building a business plan and planning ahead regarding the management and operation of the business. Do your homework before starting a business.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305. Visit our website at www.scoregr.org or email us at score@grandrapids.org.

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ASK SCORE: Do I Need a  Corporation, a Partnership or an LLC for my business?


by Bob Cooper, SCORE Counselor

Prior to starting a new business it is important to select the proper legal structure.

It is possible to start a business by yourself without creating any separate structure; this type of structure is commonly called a “Sole Proprietorship.” In a Sole Proprietorship, all income and expenses are recognized by you on your income tax return, and the business tax ID number would be your social security number. The Sole Proprietorship is the simplest form of business structure, and works well if the business has little likelihood of incurring liability or costs, if something going awry. The owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business, and therefore the owner’s property is subject to claims of business creditors.

A husband and wife filing jointly can be a Sole Proprietorship. A name for the business can be adopted by the sole proprietor and an assumed name certificate is filed with the County Clerk’s office.

Every form of business structure, other than the Sole Proprietorship, is formed by making application to the State of Michigan, because every other form of business must receive approval from the State before operating. Also, every other form must receive a tax ID number from the Federal Internal Revenue Service in order to file documents with the IRS.

A second form of business structure is a general “Partnership” which is formed by two or more people who will own and operate the business together. The Partnership is controlled by a formal partnership agreement stating a partner’s contribution, control, management and the sharing of losses and profits. The agreement should also attempt to spell out what happens when a conflict arises, such as death of a partner or disagreement between the partners. A Partnership continues by agreement of the partners, unless it is ended by certain acts, such as the death of a partner, as provided by State law. All partners in a general Partnership are liable and responsible for all obligations of the Partnership. A name for the business can be filed as an assumed name with the County Clerk’s office.

A third form of business structure is a Limited Partnership which simply means that one or more of the partners operate the business while others are strictly investors.

Another form is the “Limited Liability Company,” commonly called an “LLC.” The benefit of the LLC is to limit the liability of the owners. When someone has a claim, the claim must be made against the company and not against the owners, as long as the company is operated correctly. The management of the LLC is defined by a management agreement and filed with the State at the time the LLC documents are filed. An LLC files an information return with the IRS. This return tells the IRS the names of the owners and the percentage amount of the income received by the business upon which each owner must pay the taxes.

A “General Corporation” is another type of business structure. The Corporation is the most widely used but the most complex form of structure from the standpoint of paperwork and administration. However the Corporation allows for easy investment by the use of stock or shares in the company. The Corporation has an identity and existence separate from its owners or shareholders. The Corporation gives the most protection to the owners, or stockholders, from claims, which can only be filed against the Corporation. The corporate structure shields the owners and/or stockholders from liability for wrongful actions of the corporation. The Corporation can have a perpetual existence, unlike the other types of business structure. A Corporation is required to file a tax return separate form the tax returns of the stockholders, and is subject to taxation on its income. The Corporation must request permission from the State to do business under a different name.

In the business structures that provide a shield from liability for the owners, the owners must operate the business separately and distinguish it from themselves, as a separate entity.

Get free and confidential counseling with SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Call (616) 771-0305. Visit our website at www.scoregr.org or email us at score@grandrapids.org.

 

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SCORE: A Quick self-assessment of your business


 

The beginning of the year is always a great time to pause and ask yourself, “How is my company doing?”  Very often we as business owners are so busy solving day-to-day issues and running the business that we don’t take time to reflect on “Is my business performing the way I want it to?”

The following Self-Assessment can be completed in less than 5 minutes.  If you answer “No” or “I’m not sure” to any of these 11 issues, it may be time to sit down with a SCORE Counselor for a free and confidential session.

SCORE can ask the additional questions that can help identify the improvement opportunities for your firm.  We can then guide you in developing an action plan.

Most of our initial sessions last less than an hour so what do you have to lose besides some problem spots in your business?

Financial:

Is your firm as profitable as you think it should be?

What are the trends of your profitability over the past 3 years?

In your opinion, why are you not meeting your profit expectations?

Is your firm in a solid position with your cash flow?

Marketing:

What makes your product/service better than your competition?

What is really important to your customers when they consider your product or service?

Are you satisfied with your market share compared to your competition?

Do you have a good handle on your sales trends over the last three years?

Customer Service:

What do your customers say and think about your overall customer service?

How many customers do you lose annually due to service issues?

What portion of your customer’s purchases come from your company?

Your Chamber of Commerce can connect you with a SCORE representative for a free and confidential session to help you improve and grow your business or contact Score at 616 771-0305.

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Ask Score


 

By Paul D’Amato, SCORE Counselor and former franchise Owner 

 

Franchising 

Franchising accounts for 40 percent of all retail sales in the United States, employs over 18 million people and accounts for roughly $1.5 trillion in output.[1]  Many people that are interested in becoming an entrepreneur look at franchising as a viable option to help them start a business. Be careful.

Franchising is not for everyone, and it is likely you will work at least as hard or harder for yourself as you do working for someone else. If franchising is something you are considering, here are some things to think about before going too far:

Is the business a good fit for your personality?

Nearly all franchise companies will tell you that they have such a clearly defined business that anyone can run it. Even if this is true, and I feel in many cases this is just a sales pitch, it is important that you are happy doing whatever it is. For example, there are some excellent franchises that rely on the franchisee making sales calls. If you are skilled at sales and enjoy it then these franchises may be a good fit for you. However, some people may hate to make sales calls and a business that relies on the franchisee making sales calls may be a big mistake. Whatever business it is, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can get someone else to manage it. You will be extremely involved and will be overseeing every aspect of the business. Because of that, it is critical you find something that is exciting for you and is a good fit.

Due diligence

Due diligence is a term given to the process of verifying for yourself that the business is what it claims to be. You should plan to spend as much time as it takes in this process to make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting into. A full description of due diligence is certainly beyond the scope of this article, but I do want to point out a few of my favorite things to look at when I first start looking at a franchise.

Time Commitment

It has been very enlightening for me on several occasions to compare what franchisors claim for time commitment against what the actual franchisees are saying the time commitment is. Recently I was looking at a franchise that claimed on one of its video presentations to take no more than 10-15 hours per week for the franchisee. In fact, they said that you could easily run this franchise and continue to be involved full time in another job. This seemed almost too good to be true to me, and when I started talking to franchisees it turned out that it was. I called and talked to five different franchisees in various parts of the country and every one said that they were spending at least 40 hours per week running the franchise and that it was a much greater time commitment than what they had been led to believe. Be sure to do your homework and research.

Profitability

The central question of every investor in a franchise should be; are you going to make money? Unfortunately, this can be one of the most difficult questions to answer. It is not required that franchisors make an earnings claim in their disclosure materials to you. Many franchisors do not make a claim about earnings because it opens them up to liability with their franchisees. If the franchisor tells you that you are going to make a 20 percent return on your investment and you lose money, the franchisor might end up in court.  So, although there are arguments why some franchisors do not make earnings claims, I would be leery of any franchisor that is unable or unwilling to give you any information about how your investment might do. I would be much more inclined to invest in a franchise that publicly makes an earnings claim.

Whether the franchise gives you an earnings claim or not, you are still going to have to verify profitability by talking to existing franchisees in the business. Unfortunately, franchisees can be hesitant to give you actual numbers. It would be very rare for a franchisee to fax you their income statement and balance sheet for instance. However, I have been quite successful in asking enough questions that I arrive at a pretty good picture of how they are doing. For example, asking how many customers they have and their average ticket price per customer is a good way at getting their gross sales figure without asking directly.

Exit Strategy

I have a good friend who is a business consultant at McKinsey and one of his favorite questions to ask his clients is “okay, but what then?” If everything works well, and in 10 or 15 years you want to retire, will you be able to?  Some franchises do not allow the transfer of the franchise to another party. On the other side, some franchises are more than happy to buy you out at a fair price whenever you are ready to sell. It is much easier to ask these kinds of questions before you get involved with a franchise than once you have signed on the dotted line. It is always good to have an exit strategy even if you never use it.

Evergreen Provision

Similar in some ways to an exit strategy is what is sometimes called an “evergreen provision.” This provision in the franchise agreement gives the franchisee the right to transfer the franchise to your kids without the franchisor blocking the transfer in some way. Personally, I would love to be able to pass a business along to my kids someday so this is another thing I look for.

Defined Territories / Encroachment

Most lawsuits in franchising seem to come out of encroachment.  Encroachment is when the franchisor opens another store right across the street from your store and half of your customers leave. This is a nasty practice and certainly something that you should be very careful to research before you enter in to any franchise. What makes this subject so complex is that you want lots of branches for brand recognition – just not right next to your branch. One of McDonald’s strengths, of course, is that they have locations all over the world. However, even McDonalds has to be careful not to open their branches so close together that neither can survive. Exactly how this is managed varies from franchise to franchise, but is a very important thing to take into account. The policy should be clearly spelled out in the agreement so you don’t wake up and find a new location right across the street.

Franchising is a very important part of business in the US and the rest of the world. Franchises come in virtually every industry and in a myriad of shapes and sizes.  I would encourage people who are planning on becoming an entrepreneur to look into franchising as an option. As my mother says, “you won’t know any less.” But you need to be careful. Do extensive due diligence. Talk to franchisees, talk to your friends, get advice from accountants, get counsel from lawyers, and come into the SCORE office in Grand Rapids (111 Pearl St. NW) for some free advice paid for by the Small Business Association.  wwwscoregr.org

 

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ASK SCORE


How to Decide on a Business for Me?

Submitted by Bob Cooper, SCORE Counselor

 

Deciding on the product or service that you can form into a business, starts by looking at yourself. What skills and interests do you possess? You are going to devote a lot of time and energy to the enterprise, so it is necessary that you enjoy doing the activity that will be your business.

For example, don’t decide to operate a restaurant just because you love to eat. You might even be able to make a super hamburger on the grill, but to translate that into a full time occupation of operating a restaurant, with no knowledge of the restaurant business, would be a mistake.

Therefore, the first job is to investigate you to determine your skills, interests and desires. The best of entrepreneurs love their chosen business, and are prepared every day to be challenged by the tasks that need to be done.

If you are presently employed, keep your present job while you start your new business. Calculate the amount of money it will take to keep you and your family afloat for at least six months. This is the amount of money you need in the bank before you should leave your present job.

Almost everyone starting a business needs support. That support may take the form of money; however the best support takes the form of an experienced entrepreneur with whom you can discuss your ideas. When you are starting a business a person with experience can be the best support system of all.

Once you have an idea for a business that you have an interest in, and that you feel you have the experience to excel in, you must determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. As part of your marketing effort, list all of your potential competitors and their strengths and weaknesses, and then compare your product or service to your list of competitors. Will you be better, cheaper or faster than your competition? In other words, why will your customers buy from you? It is important to recognize that the day before you started your business, all of your potential customers had the products and services that they needed from someone else. Then why should those customers, a day later, need your product or service?

The other side of your marketing effort is to determine who your customers are and how you will connect with them. Keep in mind that every person or company is not your customer. Make a list of the demographics that best describe your customers, and based on that list, determine how you will connect with them.

Do research on your product or service to determine how successful and needed it may be in the marketplace. The world will not beat a path to your door just because you are in business to develop customers, you need to market your product or service to your network of potential customers.

Be professional. You are planning to start a business and that business is a reflection of you, so treat the business and yourself professionally. You want people to know that you are serious, and that you will treat the business and your customers as a professional. That includes having business cards, a business phone, a business e-mail address and having a website on the Internet. Part of being professional is building a business plan and planning ahead regarding the management and operation of the business. Do your homework before starting a business.

For free business counseling, contact SCORE at (616) 771-0305 or email score@grandrapids.org. Visit their website at www.scoregr.org

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