SCORE is a national organization and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Tuolumne County SCORE chapter covers Tuolumne and Calaveras counties and has counselors who provide clients with 100 percent confidential and 100 percent free one-on-one small business counseling. We would love to talk with you about your business ideas!

This is article No. 5 of a monthly series published by SCORE. I talk with many clients who are ready to launch their own business, and want to know how to get started. I applaud them, as this is a huge step that takes guts, fortitude and a true desire to provide worthwhile products or services. But true success takes more than this — it also requires having vision, strategy and knowledge of the steps needed. This is where SCORE can help!

Vision

One doesn’t launch a successful business without a clear image of what the business will become, goals and objectives (short-term and long-term), the products and/or services offered, and how it will sustain itself. It’s equally important to know what your business will not become — because you can’t “be everything to everybody.” Your business vision should embody your perspective of the world, and how your business fits.

Writing these thoughts down in a one- to two-sentence Vision Statement helps to solidify your thoughts, address fundamental questions about the business direction, and give your business a clear focus. You will likely rewrite this statement several dozen times, distilling many ideas into an easily-understood, concise essence of your business vision, with exactly the right wording. When finished, you will be able to clearly enunciate what “your business” is to everyone, including yourself, your staff (if you hire employees), lenders (if you need financial help), business associates, customers, vendors, and even your family. Memorize this as part of your “Elevator Speech,” a 30-second introduction of your company to others.

Strategy

Once you have defined your Vision Statement, you’ll need to figure out how to bring it into reality. While the “how” does include tasks and steps, before you jump that far, it’s extremely important to think strategically. I know several people who jumped from an incomplete vision to “here’s what I’ve got to do right now” and completely bypassed any discussion about strategy. They missed key concepts, wasted time and money on dead ends or lost interest, and abandoned their business idea altogether. How do you know what tasks are “inside” or “outside” of your vision unless you write down your specific strategies to implementing this vision?

Taking a strategic approach forces you to question everything. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? How is your solution different from businesses already in existence? Who are your target customers? What are the best ways to reach these customers? What revenues can you reasonably expect, and what costs will you incur? Do your reasonable expectations of revenues and costs yield a positive net profit so that your business is sustainable?

You’ll gain a ton of insight while answering these questions. If you find businesses already providing similar products or services, what can you do to modify or bundle your ideas with other unique offerings? If your target audience is seniors, you probably won’t reach them with Snapchat even if your marketing campaign is amazing. And if your profitability depends on prices that are triple your competitors’, you might want to review your Profit & Loss Projections again.

Steps needed

Assuming you’ve completed your Vision Statement and defined the strategies you’ll employ to be successful, now what? How does one start a business anyway? There are literally hundreds of steps needed to open your doors. Do you need to incorporate or protect yourself from liability? Do you need to file a fictitious business statement? What about insurance? Do you have to have an EIN and a business license? Do you need a storefront, are you selling online, do you need a website or a Facebook business page? Can you fund your business yourself, or do you need help obtaining a loan? How are you going to market to potential customers? Future SCORE articles will address some of these questions.

SCORE counselors can help you with the wording of your vision, the strategy for creating your business, and the steps needed to officially launch it. That’s what we do, and have done for dozens of local businesses and tens of thousands of businesses across the U.S. And amazingly, it’s free!

For a quick overview, go online to www.score.org/getstarted. This is SCORE’s Online Course: “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business.” We offer many more online courses to help potential and current small business owners.

If you’re ready to take the next step, go to www.tuolumnecounty.score.org and click on the blue rectangle “Get Started, Request a Meeting.” Fill out your contact information, and a local SCORE counselor will contact you. We look forward to working with you!

Howard White can be contacted at howard.white@scorevolunteer.org

19224727