Lorrie Abounader, business development manager, Buffalo Niagara EnterpriseMany people dream of starting their own business. Whether they want to be their own boss, supplement current income, or turn a hobby into a career, over 600,000 Americans start a new business every year. So how does one start a business? How can one reduce the risks or avoid the pitfalls that cause businesses to fail? There is not foolproof method but a strong, healthy business starts with a strong business plan.
A business plan is your roadmap for success. It outlines the route an entrepreneur intends to take to reach, maintain and grow their business. Not only does a business plan act as the guidebook for the business owner but also expresses the goals that the owner has for their company. It tells the story that you have envisioned for your future business and provides the storyboard in which an outsider can follow the intended progress you have imagined. Very few of us have the eloquence to translate verbally our ideas and a plan is a consistent message that can be easily shared and viewed. This can be especially important in earning the support of banks and investors for raising capital.
There are several resources to use online that provide templates for a business plan, but just as two entrepreneurs are never alike, so are their businesses. The elements of a business plan are fairly consistent but what you do with your business is unique to what your goals are for it. It is important to customize the plan according to your ultimate ambitions, your commitment to working on the business and your creativity to shape the business. To avoid a cookie-cutter business plan, work with the professionals at your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Hosted by local colleges and universities, a SBDC is a one-stop source for professional guidance on writing, researching and constructive feedback on your plan. In the Buffalo Niagara region, we have three excellent SBDCs at Buffalo State College, Niagara County Community College and Genesee Community College. At Canisius College, women entrepreneurs can use the resources of the Women’s Business Center.
Remember that your business plan is a living document – it changes as the business changes. What you planned for the business in year one will differ after the business has matured. Update the plan every 3-5 years with the assistance of the SBDC. They are not just for start-ups but for any business needing guidance.
Starting a new business can be daunting but an entrepreneur knows that the risk of starting a new business is often outweighed by the rewards. Having your guidebook in-hand and up-to-date is important to the success of your business.
To learn more about starting a business and to find additional resources, please visit:
Small Business Administration www.sba.gov
Small Business Development Centers www.asbdc-us.org
Canisius Women’s Business Center www.canisius.edu/wbc/