Small-business success begins before plan is set


March 11, 2012|By BOB POOR

Q: My husband and I are considering starting a new small business. What is the first thing we should be doing?

A: Ask more questions.

That might seem like a rather flip response, but it’s true.

Success in small business hinges on gathering as much information as possible in order to make sound, informed decisions. That includes understanding your target market, your resources and — perhaps most importantly — yourself.

Entrepreneurship has many rewards, but also many responsibilities. If you are not prepared to handle them, those dreams of being your own boss will almost certainly become real-life nightmares.

So before drafting a business plan, brainstorming catchy company names or pricing office space, pose a few hard questions to the person who will literally make or break your business: you.

1. Is this the right time to start a business?

According to Chicago-based business adviser Carol Roth, author of “The Entrepreneur Equation,” “Your finances need to be in order. Your responsibilities should be consistent with the ability to invest time and capital, and you should have the appropriate experience under your belt.”

2. Can you handle the economic roller coaster?

Long before volatility defined the general economy, businesses of all sizes experienced good and bad financial times. You need to get used to variable income versus having a regular paycheck, unless you retain your job.

3. Have I taken a hard look at my industry or service, market and competition?

Have I made revisions to my original idea accordingly? That includes making a commitment to short- and long-term planning from the outset, being continually aware of things that can affect your business, including threats and opportunities.

If your responses have you second-guessing your small business plans, SCORE Hagerstown has help at the ready. Bob Jones, chapter chairman, said HCC and SCORE provide the “How to Really Start Your Own Business” seminar series on Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at HCC on April 5, 12, 19 and 26. This provides an overview of how to design and build your own small business, including finding the money, and successful marketing strategies and tactics.

For more information, go to or HCC’s spring continuing education catalog. To register, call 240-500-2800, ext. 2236.

Free SCORE mentoring is offered during and after completion of the series. To contact SCORE Hagerstown, call 301-766-2043.

• Robert A. “Bob” Poor is a local small-business owner/operator. He is a small-business mentor and a regular contributor to the Ask SCORE column. Questions may be emailed to him at or sent by mail in care of The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741, ATTN: Ask SCORE column.

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