8.16.2013

Start A New Rural Business




Undertaking to start a new business can be an exciting and all encompassing venture.  Perhaps you have been chosen to take over and run a family-owned business.  Or it may be the realization of a long-held dream.   Perhaps you are simply looking for an additional source of income.

Whatever the reason, with careful planning and implementation, your chances of success are much higher.

The Small Business Administration used to estimate that as many as 50% of new businesses would fail within the first year, and 95% within 5 years.

Statistics today are a little more optimistic.  Now a new business

stands a 50/50 chance of surviving 5 years or more.  As encouraging as that may be, that still means that 50% will not survive.

The Crash & Burn Club
We start our business to succeed.   Of course, no one wants to become a member of the Crash and Burn Club.  It doesn't matter if your reason for starting your rural business is self-fulfillment or monetary compensation, victory is still the goal.  To be among the 50% that do succeed, planning and strategy are key.  Here are just a few suggestions when starting out.

Strategy for New Business Success

#1.  Know the potential for your type of business

Whether you will be seeking clientele in your local area or the world, you need to know your business's potential.  A lot of people are venturing into self-employment these days.  Find out how much competition you will have to deal with.  Are there a lot out there, or just a few?  Who are they?  How successful have they been?  What have they done in order to succeed?  Or if they're not doing well, research and find out what they could have done differently.  Of course, if your product/service involves a niche that only you or a few others can provide, that's definitely good news. 

#2.  Where will you get your startup money? 

For start-up money, if you don't have your own savings to fall back on, you may need to borrow.  You could look to an investor, a family member or close friend.  If that, make sure to have clear-cut arrangements down on paper to avoid ruining a relationship.  And spend some time calculating possible contingencies or unexpected operating expenses that could thwart your plans.  

It helps to brainstorm a list and keep it handy where you can jot down more when you think of them.  Investors will be pleased and see that you are committed to success.

Or you can approach a financial institution, a bank or credit union.  Here, you will need a business plan and financial documents in hand.  The Small Business Association has lots of great articles and worksheets to help you prepare for approaching a financial institution.

#3.  Will you need a website? 

An internet presence can dramatically increase your chances of success in today's market.  It gives people a chance to check you out in the ease of their own home before they approach you.  Your prices, pictures of your business, testimonials, your mission statement, your professionalism.  If they like what they see, they are much more likely to do business with you.  

Purchasing a name and setting up a web presence is not expensive, however maintaining a site can be very time consuming.   Do you have time yourself to work on it, or will it in your business's best interests to hire someone with that experience? 

#4.  Marketing & Advertising - How will people know that you've opened your doors?

Businesses seldom succeed without some sort of marketing and advertising. Some folks don't realize there is a difference between the two.  But marketing involves a strategic plan of advertising in some form or another, generally over a period of time.
  •     Social media marketing has become a great way to market, especially when catering to more than just your local area.  Set up some social accounts like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.  Each account varies in the way they operate - some are more casual and informal, some cater more to the professional client.  So get to know each one and decide which one will work best for your business. 
I encourage you not to take on more than two social media accounts, especially in the beginning.  For social media to be an effective marketing tool, you must be willing to spend time working with each account and becoming proficient at it.  There is a wealth of information provided through the Internet in the form of tutorials, articles, YouTube videos, to help you. 

But ... again, this can be quite a time-sucker.  It is best to schedule time on your calendar rather than leaving it to chance.  For me, if I don't write it down on my calendar, I never get to it with any regularity.  And regularity is absolutely KEY if you want it to benefit your business.

  •     There are lots of FREE ways to advertise.  Printing up flyers and posting them throughout your local community is one way.  Passing out business cards, even giving a supply to friends, family, and business owners to distribute for you.  Be a part of local festivities and network with people and business owners.
  •     More effective is a postcard campaign, a series of cards mailed out over a few weeks or months.  Designed well with good Calls-To-Action, these can be a very successful way to get the word out that you have opened your doors.
  •     Way more expensive but hitting a larger audience is TV or radio advertising.
  •     Distributing a Direct Mail Ad like a Sales Letter or a Company Brochure to a list of potential customers.
  •     Advertising in the local newspaper, even doing a series of ads, long enough to get noticed, and later to sustain business coming in. 
Starting a small business can be like walking a gang plank.  It can be intimidating and worrisome, but exciting at the same time.   Before taking that walk, do your homework.  

And definitely check out the Small Business Administration (SBA) website for some fabulous resources.  The more informed you are ... the more time you spend researching the potential for success, the greater likelihood it will come to you.