There's no doubt that America and other industrialized countries are small-business-friendly right now. In a year where elections around the world will play a key role in how economies continue to recover, there is at least one subject that most people agree on and that's small businesses. Politicians believe that small business is the key to economic growth and countries like the United States are passing legislation to make it easier for small businesses to thrive.
Robert Litan, economist from the Kauffman Foundation, the largest foundation in the world dedicated to the growth of small businesses, estimates that in order to add one percentage point to the United States' gross domestic product, or GDP, it would take 30 to 60 "home run" $1 billion companies.
Is your business idea a home run idea? Being a successful small business owner doesn't require your company to be a $1 billion company, but entrepreneurs like to think big. National Federation of Independent Business Education Foundation (NFIB) estimates that only 40% of all small businesses are profitable and another 30% merely break even. These statistics prove that even with all of the incentives, it's difficult to turn your business in to one of those home run companies. Experts agree that you can improve your odds of success with careful preparation. Here's how.
Identify the Need
What is the mission of your business? What is the need in the marketplace that you're filling and is it something that will appeal to a large portion of the population? Have you ever received a survey from a company asking you what you think of a product and if you would be likely to purchase the product and for how much? This is the first step in market analysis. Don't just conduct an Internet survey. Go to a mall or other place where there are a lot of people and ask them to evaluate your idea.
How is your business different than others in the marketplace? If you have competitors, what will make somebody come to your business instead of your competitor? Successful businesses have a USP or unique selling point that is used as the cornerstone of the business. The more you blend in the more you directly compete with others. Avoiding the head to head competition, especially for a brand new business, is well advised.
Specifically, how big is your market? Does it include both males and females and people of all races and religions? How fast is the market growing or contracting? If you design a product or service that only appeals to a small niche market, it will be difficult to gain enough market share to sustain a profitable business. It will also take a significant amount of advertising funds to find the people that comprise the niche market.
Based on your market analysis, how much of a market share do your competitors currently hold? What is left over for you or what is your strategy for taking share from them? Your business may have broad market appeal, but if the market is already saturated, the battle to gain customers may be too expensive. Startups trying to manufacture new automobiles have found it exceedingly difficult to take market share from existing car companies. Evaluate whether that's a battle worth fighting and if you have the funds to fight it.
How much will it take to open your business? If you have family obligations, you'll probably have to pay yourself, adding additional costs to your budget. How will you get the money? Recently, Washington passed the JOBS Act, a law that made crowdfunding legal. This may provide a way for small businesses to gain funding without the use of banks or venture capital, but even with all of the recent legislation, businesses are finding it difficult to secure funding.
The Bottom Line
As an entrepreneur, your dream is likely centered around being one of those $1 billion or more businesses, but remember that many businesses fail and that's largely due to poor planning. Before investing a large amount of money in your business idea, create a plan and make sure that your idea is something that customers would be excited about purchasing. There are plenty of great opportunities waiting for a small business owner who follows a business startup system.
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