By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
• “The key to any business success is to be adequately capitalized. When you determine startup costs, consider everything including necessary security deposits, build-out costs, equipment costs and set-up if needed and working capital.
• “Continued success depends on continuous review of the original plan, good employees and understanding how to manage cash flow.
— John R. Halleron, senior business adviser with the Small Business Development Center in Oswego
• “Anything is possible if you put your mind to the grindstone. Starting a business is not for the faint of heart so make sure you know what you need to get started and succeed. Read what entrepreneurial life is really about by finding some entrepreneurs to follow either in your local area or nationally.
• “Do some market research. You might think you have the best idea for a new business — and you might — but you don’t know for sure until you conduct market research. Scour the internet, look at local business directories, Google the business industry you want to enter and find out how many people are doing what you want to do. There is nothing truly original in entrepreneurship; typically, just versions of existing ideas and concepts.
• “Create a business plan to see what is needed to be successful, including sales projections, business expenses, marketing activities, pricing and short- and long-range plans to succeed. Until you put your business concept on paper, you don’t really know what is needed to survive and thrive.
• “Remember, on average it takes three years in business to be financially successful. Make sure you understand that and have monetary resources to help you survive during this time period.
• “Be prepared to become a sales person. You will need to juggle your first few years selling what you offer and then servicing your customers. You cannot have a business without conducting a lot of sales calls and appointments. It isn’t possible. I think this is the main piece of advice that gets lost when people consider becoming their own boss. As the boss, you must sell and sell well.
• “Create and line up a strong network of advisers, vendors and other entrepreneurs to help you. Entrepreneurs need trustworthy, reliable, responsible people in their networks to handle the unexpected turns and challenges they face along with expertise to succeed.”
— Tracy Higginbotham, president of Women TIES and Women’s Athletic Network in Syracuse.
• “Have a thorough understanding of your industry nationally and locally.
• “Build a team of professionals to guide you during startup.
• “Understand your financial feasibility, both short-term and long-term to be able sustain adequate cash flow.
• “Have a clear understanding of your market share, competition and what makes your business unique to create a sales strategy that will produce enough revenue.”
— Keyona Kelly, certified business adviser with Onondaga Small Business Development Center in Syracuse
• “Get some laptops and set up email. If I were to meet with [potential business owners], I’d ask if they have any industry-specific software.
• “Get a domain name. I can’t tell how many new businesses have ‘email@example.com’ or something like that. It’s $25 or less a year to own your own domain. There’s no reason to use free email. They think they’re saving money but they’re making themselves look much less professional. It’s only $5 a month for a hosted email.
• “They’ll need productivity software, like MS Word, Excel, Power Point, etc.
• “We talk about their physical location. How are they going to access the internet: a hardwired line or not? We talk about their ISP provider. It’s a very important decision.
• “We also talk about files and how will we share information among people on staff and with customers, like invoices and estimates.
• “With mobile devices, you have to ensure that if you give employees access to email on the phone, do you have provisions to make sure you can protect your data should they leave or lose their phone. In the world of mobile devises, security is huge. A ‘use policy’ in place is not a bad idea. It lays out the company computers or data and says ‘Here’s what you can and cannot do with it,’ like, ‘You cannot go to Panera and connect to the Wi-Fi.’
• “There are so many free and discounted resources for nonprofits that we’ve almost specialized in helping them. Microsoft 365 is free for qualified nonprofits. that could be a huge budget savers.”
— Jeff Brinson, owner of Syracuse Technologies, Syracuse
• “They need to do some level of a business plan. Where I see people fail most often is they do the bare minimum of what’s required. They don’t do true budgets and projections. They consider a pie-in-the-sky, best, optimum picture of what they can attain rather than the reality of the situation.
• “Trying to put together a business and not putting aside enough money for marketing is a big mistake. When sales lag, the first thing they cut back is marketing. You have to put yourself out there.
• “Marketing is not one-size-fits-all. You need to estimate who your typical customer is going to be. I was just working with a bakery. He was talking about what he wants for his marketing plan, but it was targeting only millennials. Seniors will come in for a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Spend an appropriate amount of money on those different markets but don’t leave them out. Social marketing is cheap. If you’re starting a business, you can’t fully rely on it. People need to be seeing your logo in multiple places. Pay a professional who knows how to do it. They can give you the advice you need to make it work.
• “A lot of times, they think they can keep finances with a bundle of receipts in a shoebox or Excel spreadsheets but they miss all the data. When they want to take the business to a different level, banks want to see the history, the growth. That information is often completely missing. There’s so little to work with. They miss an opportunity to get off on the right foot.
• “New businesses tend to bankrupt their own businesses by taking more money than it generates in profit. You can only take what the business can afford to give you. I force them to do a personal at-home budget as well as a business plan so they can understand what the biz can afford to pay them. sometimes the sacrifice is at home.”
— Kimberly S. Manrow, licensed enrolled agent with Internal Revenue Service, QuickBooks certified pro-adviser, business consultant, tax specialist and president of Custom Accounting Services, Inc. in Auburn.