Four steps to start or refresh your business

A potential client contacted me with two business ideas. He thought one could be a nonprofit, but he didn’t know anything about IRS Letters of Determination or any other rules. The other idea was really about revitalizing his current business. I said he needed to do a lot more research, made some suggestions and sent him this summary of our conversation.

Step One. Start with this one-page business plan that I adapted from $100 Start Up. Use no more than two sentences to answer each question. Use a pencil so you can change your answers as you talk to industry experts, potential customers and other business people. Ask them to be totally honest with you. Even if you already have a business, this is an important exercise.

  1. What product, service or idea do you want to sell?
  2. Who will buy it? (Who’s your primary customer?) NOTE–Your customers and end users may be completely different people.)
  3. How does your business idea help people? (What’s in it for them? What pain does it take away? Why should they care?)
  4. Who’s your competition? (Believe me, you have competition.)
  5. What makes you different than your competition? (This is usually the hardest question to answer.)
  6. What will you charge?
  7. How will you get paid?
  8. How else could you make money from this?
  9. How will your customers find out about your business?
  10. What could you do to increase referrals?
  11. How will you know when you’re successful? Number of customers? Net income? Achieved world peace?
  12. What are your major problems and/or challenges?
  13. Proposed ideas to overcome #12

 Step Two. Use plain everyday English. Try to avoid utilize, prioritize, unique, solution, drive results, maximize, leverage, world-class, global leader, strategic, mission-critical, paradigm, end of the day, impact as a verb, helmed, penned, best practices, and other business bingo terms.

 Step Three. Make an appointment at your local Small Business Administration office and take your answers with you. Almost all SBA services are free. The ones that aren’t are very low cost. Make sure to spend some time at the SBA site. Write down any questions you’re bound to have and take that list with you, too.

 Step Four. Contact me when you’re ready. (I intuited that this particular potential client didn’t have the money to hire me to do this beginning work for him.)