Sept. 25, 2013
By Michael Kline
Whether you already own a business, or are thinking about starting one, the short answer is yes, until it changes to no. You are not the same person today that you were ten years ago, and you won’t be the same person ten years from now that you are today. It does not matter if you are looking backward to when you started a business, or forward to why you want to start something, everything about you changes over time - your family, your financial needs, your personal goals, your attitude, your interests, etc. It’s no different than a job that no longer suits you – you need to be responsible for your life’s outcomes and make the best of what you’ve got and know when to move on to better things that serve what you need at this time of your life.
A business plan is not enough. Convincing a bank to lend you money seems like confirmation enough that you have a good idea, but the bank, as careful and as smart as they are, does not ask enough questions or talk about the most important issues. Getting a bank to say yes, is not confirmation that your business will succeed. In fact, 100% of bank loans that have failed, originally proved itself worthy of a loan.
Next month, I will be teaching a business start-up seminar for our local SCORE chapter. In one full day workshop, we will cover absolutely everything you will need to know to decide if you should start a business, how to go about it, how to become an employer, choose a location, forecast revenue and profits, how to create a quality business plan and a marketing plan. One of my goals is to get most of my students to chicken out before they bet the farm on a bad idea.
Because I know something the bank doesn’t talk about, I want to take you a step further. You must know your industry, your competition, your market, your pricing strategy, your costs and your sales forecasts. You also need to know about leading difficult employees, negotiating with impossible suppliers and landlords, getting along with the IRS, and working 100 hours per week with no benefits, no sick days, no pay and no boss to give you the answers. That’s the easy stuff!
Three questions the bank won’t ask you: 1. What is your exit strategy - How will you retire or sell your business – to whom and for how much, and why would someone want it? 2. Are you physically up to the challenge – how well do you take care of yourself to have the energy to do what it takes and keep doing what it takes when it gets more demanding – and it will. 3. Tell me about your relationship with your mother/or father – yes, this may take more than an hour or two on the couch with a good therapist! Why do you want to do this – beyond making money and being the boss – why this particular business? Whom are you trying to impress? What romantic notions do you have about this industry and the glamor it pretends to hold? Are you limiting your potential not having enough faith in your own skills – or are you getting in over your head, beyond your skills? Are you psychologically fit for what awaits? Are you prepared for the tears (there will be many) and the joy (it may be great) and the successes (that may ruin you) and the rollercoaster ride that is the true nature of all businesses?
In the upcoming SCORE workshop, I will give you three things. All the technical/official information you need, plus I will share true war stories from the road I have been on for the last thirty years and how we avoided disaster, survived in crisis and thrived in opportunity. Finally, I will also ask hard personal questions for you to take home and consider.
If you are already in business and want to talk exit strategy, email me or find another counselor, (SCORE has some good ones for mature businesses as well). If you are just starting out on your own, come to my class, prepare for an amazing adventure, and get ready to grow in ways you never imagined.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.