Expert Q&A: Small Business











Q: If a person is interested in starting a new business, where would be the best place to start?

A: Deciding on what need the business is going to fulfill would be a great start. Many new businesses are simply jumping on the bandwagon of an existing idea.

A potential business owner must differentiate their business from that of their competitors.

If selling a product or service, make sure that it is better, faster, cleaner, etc. Also, make it easy to find.

Q: When you say easy to find, do you mean location?

A: Location, location, location. Making sure customers can find and get to the business with as few obstacles as possible is a must.

If a business satisfies a need, but customers have a difficult time finding or getting to it, it is a huge problem.

I hear people say, “This place is the best-kept secret in town.” No one wants to be a secret in business.

Q: Once a location is picked out, then what?

A: Get organized. Getting ideas together in an organized format will help a person see where they are complete and highlight the areas that need to be worked on.

Q: What is the best way to get organized?

A: Writing a business plan is a great place to start. Susan Urbach at UCO Small Business Development Center can help. Their web address is ucosbdc.org.

This is an important step in getting one’s ideas down on paper so that they, and potential financial entities, can get a good idea of what their plan is.

Q: How should one secure financing for their business?

A: First of all, they must show that they are committed to the business they hope to start.

Investing as much as they can afford into the business will show potential financial entities that they believe in the endeavor.

Next, looking into a small business loan is an option that many banks can help organize. These loans are guaranteed by the government, thus taking some of the risk away from the lender.

Q: How does one get the word out that their business is open?

A: Traditional advertising mediums such as print, radio and television are worth examining, with the type of product or service dictating the choice.

What works for print doesn’t necessarily work for radio. This can vary, so practice makes perfect. Social media has become an important tool for the tech-savvy business owner, allowing them to communicate with customers in real time, essentially.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for example, allow customers to see what businesses are doing through texts and video posts and provide the opportunity for customers to give instant feedback about your products or services.

This can, however, act as a double-edged sword, so a careful strategy needs to be in place to make sure one is projecting the culture that the business is cultivating to the customer and potential customers.

Q: How does one start a business culture?

A: The culture of a business starts at the top. When the owner of a business dedicates themselves to the task at hand and puts their body and soul into it, it becomes contagious.

Not only will the customer feel the energy, the employees will feel part of something bigger themselves. Everybody wants to be part of something dynamic and exciting.

Absentee ownership or businesses that are run based on an established model are all right for some franchise-type businesses, but to create a unique, infectious culture, one must lead with charisma.

Q: How does one get the right people for the job?

A: Finding the right people to help grow a business can be a challenge. Getting them to buy into the culture is up to the business owner.

Leading by example will give employees motivation to succeed, given the proper tools. I believe in letting creative people make decisions, right or wrong, and then allow them to build upon or correct the outcomes.

If one shows their people that they are invested in them by giving some decision-making freedom, they most likely will be more committed than they would if they were operating under strict guidelines.

This way, the employee has a sense of ownership in the decisions they have made, and when those decisions affect the business in a positive way, they have contributed to the culture.

When they make poor decisions, it’s not because they were just following poor practices. Pretty soon, a business begins to build its own unique brand that can separate itself from competitors and protect itself from others entering the marketplace.

Q: How does one respond to competitors “knocking off” their business model?

A: Sure, others are going to recognize success. They may try to replicate what has been successful by opening a business within the same market.

It is important to realize that the heart and soul of the owner influenced the staff to build a business that, in turn, influenced others to replicate it. Without the owner creating and cultivating that culture, you simply have another business.

A business “brand” cannot be copied. It comes from within the company’s DNA.

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