My ongoing research through the years includes why some of my entrepreneur graduates succeed in business and why others are less fortunate. Business success is defined in many ways, but the bottom line is profitability.
Profit is considered the money remaining after a product or service is sold, earned revenue and paid out its cost of operating the business. Costs are everything from buying supplies, paying employees, liability insurance and all of the overhead expenses incurred in the operation.
If a business isn’t producing profits, then it means that more money is being spent than earned. Businesses can’t go on very long when operating at a deficit.
There are many opinions by experts about why a business succeeds or fails. I have tracked my entrepreneur graduates for years and the ones who have succeeded in business demonstrate certain skills such as the following:
Where do you begin?
I’m Dr. Pat and I have written hundreds of proposals and been awarded over fifty million dollars in grant funds. There are certain secrets that I will share with you if you want to succeed as a successful proposal writer.
The first thing that you must locate is the Request For Proposal (RFP) because without this, there is no reason to write a proposal. This is a request for a proposal and states that the grant maker is seeking an organization that they will give grant money to in exchange for implementing a specific service or project. Without the RFP there is no reason to write your proposal.
I have always predicted that a grant is awarded to those writers who exhibit energetic and leadership skills that include being an expert in the field of interest that you want funding for, can accept challenges or problems as opportunities and be the “take charge" grant producer. Problem solvers and effective communicators tend to bring a proposal to successful fruition.
One of the major dilemmas that I have found over the years is that there are great proposals written that “never get off the ground". Many times an organization seeking a grant award will gather together several talented individuals who comprise the proposal-writing team. I usually find that they have omitted one winning factor; they lack the leader whose job is to pull all of the proposal sections together and to get the proposal submitted by the deadline.
I strongly recommend that to produce an award-winning proposal, one person must be clearly designated as the team leader whose sole responsibility is to get the proposal written, assembled and submitted on time. It’s as simple as that, yet many times, organizations do no have that specific person and the grant-writing process fails. More of my winning secrets can be found in my book called “How To Win At Grant Writing" found on Amazon or Barnes & Noble sites.
Frequently, I meet aspiring entrepreneurs who are in the midst of developing their Business Plan to start a business and become their own boss. They have identified a great product or service and know that their customers can’t live without it, so they are now ready to launch their operations.
Right upfront is the time for every budding entrepreneur to establish their winning image of success in the eyes of the public and especially their customers. Your image must radiate success from day one and give the impression that your operation is indeed successful! This is accomplished through different strategies, depending on whether you are home-based or located in a busy mall. If you are going to start your business by being based at home, then your public image must be reflected in fine business cards, letterhead stationary, a sharp logo and unique signage on your business vehicle. You will need to identify an outside site to meet with customers that is classy, elegant and reflects that you are a successful business owner.
I often say that the first impression is the only impression a customer will make about your business image and it will be either poor or great. You have no second chance on a first impression. Your business image is wrapped up in your packaging. This means that the major visible sign that you first portray must be one of wealth, prosperity and unquestionable success. You have to appear that you are “flying with the winners".
I remained home-based for three years in order to save money so that one day I could open the finest office. Until that time, my business cards were elegant, I walked and talked the part of success and no one knew the difference. In my customers’ eyes they firmly believed that I was successful! I met with my customer’s downtown in an elegant hotel and conference center. In order to pull this off, I talked the hotel manager into giving me the use of an elegant small conference room whenever I needed it, in return for two free stress workshops a year for her employees. This arrangement continued until I had sufficient money from my profits to lease one of their beautiful offices.
Yes, I opened with the indisputable image of a highly successful business right in the heart of the city where I remain to this day! One of my original entrepreneur students, who went on to become a successful interior designer, decorated our site that brought fabulous reviews at our Grand Opening. My entire operation continues to reflect success and this has made us truly a successful business.
In addition to securing your site, you must consider all of your initial start-up costs. These expenses are what it takes to start-up a first-class business operation. I shopped around and my initial office furnishings were acquired from a business that closed. I purchased these at seventy per cent of the original costs and they all looked like new. Initially, I leased my office equipment because money was tight and these expenses were spread out over time. The maintenance fees were also included in my equipment lease and it also covered any unexpected repair costs. I have found that leasing major equipment has been cost effective throughout the years by doing comparison cost studies.
Start-up expenses include lease costs, computer hardware and software, office supplies, your telephone and computer system, liability insurance costs, signage, legal fees, costs of any licenses, loan repayments and initial advertisement costs are only a few of your financial outlays. Identify these costs before you even open your doors to ensure that you have the funds to effectively start-up your operations because when you start-up there is no time for additional concerns.
If you want more of my start-up secrets you can find these in Unlock the American Dream found on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.
Starting your own business will change your thinking and your life forever! Whether you plan on opening a gift shop, pizzeria, cleaning service or a high tech shop, you should take specific actions before you start selling your products or promoting your services.
I have discovered in my entrepreneur training sessions that successful entrepreneurs are not ordinary people, but extraordinary individuals who use unique qualities and skills to create a profitable business venture. Winning entrepreneurs follow the basics rules for developing their Business Plan that becomes their “road map” to success.
You may be thinking, why should I take the time to create my Business Plan? When others read your plan it gives them a profile of your anticipated business and lends credibility on whether or not your venture will be successful. The Business Plan you create becomes your business profile and gives you an official document to give to anyone who may need to know more about your operation.
The Business Plan is your communication tool when you go to the financial institution for start-up or expansion funds because the loan officer expects to see a fully developed plan. It must show that you are a strong and focused business leader and manager. While developing your plan, it gives you practice in thinking about competitive conditions, opportunities, threats, your ongoing cash flow status and situations that can make you a “Giant” in the business world of tomorrow.
There are resources online, in libraries, business workshops and seminars that can get you started with your business planning, but you can also follow my article posts and read my books to discover ideas and hints for starting your own business.
Dr. Patricia Laino
Dr. Patricia Laino earned a Baccalaureate in Science and a Master of Science from SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica, New York. She was awarded a Certificate of Advanced Study from SUNY Cortland, New York and earned a Doctorate in Business Organization, Administration, Research and Policy from Buffalo State University of New York. She has been a presenter of “How To Win At Writing Grants” at numerous colleges.