Start your business the right way with planning, coaching and a little confidence

    By Levi Lapp, founder and CEO of Atlantic Outdoors, an outdoor living company that builds patios, pergolas, pavilions and gazebos.

    Starting a new business can be a leap of faith. If you’re considering this trail, you’ve probably encountered roadblocks along the way. Statistics show that many new businesses fail within two years of launch. But take courage. It is possible to start a business and cultivate a thriving empire. Becoming an entrepreneur requires planning and patience, and then some.

    If you’ve dreamed of turning your passion into your career but aren’t sure where to start, here are five things to keep in mind as you get ready to move forward with your business.

    Prepare to launch.

    You have a strong idea for a business and think you’re ready to take the plunge. Do as much legwork as possible before quitting your job. Entrepreneurs have fresh ideas – which is great – but getting those ideas into motion can sometimes be tricky. Do your homework before making a life/financial change:

    • Make a business plan. This fundamental step is crucial and forms the blueprint for how you can move your business forward. If you’re not sure where to start, has resources to make one.

    • Study market trends and recognize your competition. This can help you make your pricing competitive and help you respond to competitive marketing campaigns with your own promotions and initiatives.

    • Prepare your credit/assets for loans and lines of credit. It’s smart to open lines of credit or apply for loans before building up a lot of debt and while your credit score is good.

    • Join business professionals and coaches. They take care of the details (such as accounting, payroll, policies, etc.), leaving you free to look at the big picture for growing your business.

    • Have cash on hand to cover costs. According to banking experts, it’s smart to have about three to six months worth of expenses as a rule of thumb. And don’t forget to check inventory, staff, supplies, etc.

    Create a daily routine.

    See it this way. Farmers wake up early every day and tend to their crops and animals. It doesn’t matter if it rains or if the farmer slept badly the night before. They have no choice. They have to perform daily tasks to achieve future goals.

    The same is true with starting and maintaining a business. Your time is money, especially in the beginning. By creating a morning routine, you can feel comfortable knowing that specific tasks will be done before the day gets busy. This routine may change as your business grows, but the core tasks should always be tackled first. From checking inventory to answering emails, make sure these tasks are done on a daily basis.

    Similarly, schedule all mission-critical items early in the day. Even if your day gets out of hand, the lesser items can be pushed back.

    Get help.

    You have made a business plan. It reflects how you want your business to operate and how you plan for future growth. While your intentions may be solid, unexpected things happen. That is why it is essential to line up professionals to help you with an objective point of view. From an accountant to an insurance agent, it’s wise to look for professionals who do what they do best while you focus on your business.

    And here’s the big one: Hire a business coach. Most coaches have been in your role before and have successfully navigated those challenging early stages. Take advantage of the professional experience offered and apply what you can to your fledgling company.

    Having someone “by your side” with a hands-on business focus can help you weather unexpected twists and turns. Your coach wants you to succeed and sometimes they give you advice that may be hard to hear. Their insight is meritorious and should be taken seriously.

    Zig if you really want to saw.

    Things may go exactly as you planned, but then the world changes overnight. Circumstances have arisen over the past 25 years to prove that theory, including a global pandemic. Many successful companies thought their plans were solid, but ended up on uncertain grounds.

    You’ve heard the old adage “trust your gut,” but sometimes in business that’s not always enough. That’s why having a coach, and other professionals in your network, can work to your advantage. They can help you see things you may not be able to see or even things you don’t want to see.

    Suppose you have a business plan with three different product offerings. Product 1 and Product 2 are booming, so you pay a little more attention to Product 3. Eventually you see more activity there and everything seems fine. Then something unexpected shifts in the market. Suddenly Product 2 dives in the nose.

    What now? Your coach may tell you to drop product 2 and turn your attention to a new product. This can be scary and you can hold back. Since this new opportunity was not part of your original plan, you may feel that you have somehow failed.

    However, that is not the case. It’s the hard times that can make you go in a new direction. It’s not a failure, it’s an opportunity. These moments can feel like make-it-or-break-it situations, but that’s OK. They can keep you on your toes and with the help of your coach, you can blaze new trails with the same momentum you had before.

    Keep the faith.

    The first few years you have highs and lows. Maybe you plan to expand one day and worry about payroll the next. It’s all part of ownership. The most important thing is to keep looking at the big picture, but with realistic eyes.

    Over time, revisit your original business plan. Evaluate the areas that went according to plan. Know that the parts that didn’t go as planned have been learning experiences and made you wiser.

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