Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

What makes or breaks a successful small business?

business colleagues high fiving

What makes or breaks a successful small business? There are several key commonalities among businesses that succeed, according to several studies polling entrepreneurs.

Here’s a closer look at four things successful business owners do right—and one thing they need to do better.

What successful entrepreneurs do right

  1. They start strong. In a poll of 500 successful entrepreneurs, a whopping 84% of respondents say their companies achieved profitability within their first four years in business. In fact, 68% became profitable within the first year. Only 8% became profitable after their fifth year in business, suggesting that the first years in business are make-or-break ones for most entrepreneurs.
  2. They focus on finding new customers. Small business owners in the survey say finding new customers is their top business challenge—far ahead of cash flow issues or dealing with the competition. Smart entrepreneurs stay focused on continually generating new leads and closing new business.
  3. They put cash back into the business. Forty percent of business owners say whenever they have surplus cash, they put it back into the business rather than paying themselves, a separate study found. What’s more, 47% tap into personal savings to finance their businesses at one point or another.
  4. They work hard. Never let it be said small business owners are slackers. Some 86% work on the weekends; 23% take fewer than two vacation days total all year long; and of those who do take vacations, 75% work during their time “off.” Continue reading

How much cash should a small business keep in reserve?

piggy bank cashCash is the fuel that makes a business run. It is needed to pay salaries including your own, fund marketing programs to acquire and retain new customers, invest in equipment and facilities, pay rent, supplies and many more day-to-day activities. Most financial experts recommend three to six months of operating expenses, but using this for every business in every situation is misleading.

To determine how much cash you need, you must look at the following key areas.

How Much Cash Have You Been Using?

If you’re an established business owner, look at your monthly cash flow report (or go to the next paragraph if you’re a start-up). This report will provide an historical and seasonal perspective. Note the cash received from sales and the cash spent. The net of these two is often referred to as the “net burn rate.” For example, if you have $50,000 in sales and $30,000 in expenses, then your net burn is +$20,000

Your “gross burn rate” only takes cash expenditures into account; in our example, that’s $30,000 and is the more conservative amount, since it does not assume any sales are made. Historical spending patterns are a good starting point in considering future spending plans.  Continue reading

Ready to start an online store?

With all the news about people making a ton of money online, many aspiring entrepreneurs are excited at the prospect of starting an ecommerce store. However, many people don’t think through all the things that they need to consider before they even start the process of building an ecommerce site.

Here are eight things to consider before starting an online store.

1. What Products Are You Going to Sell?

One of the most important decisions is determining which products you will sell on your online store. Your best bet is to start small – with a few select products that are based around a specific niche, i.e. breastfeeding products, scuba diving gear, hiking products, travel gadgets, hemp products, etc. Start with a handful of products in that niche – you can always add more products to your store as you grow. Check out your competition and see who you’re up against.

Be sure to pick a niche that you’re personally interested in. If you’re not interested in what you’re selling, you will quickly lose your passion.

Also, look for unique products that can’t be bought at Target, Walmart or other big brand stores — you will never be able to compete with them on price or promotion.

For instance, when I had an ecommerce site, I searched for mom- or parent-invented products that weren’t available through mass market stores. Plus, these types of product manufacturers are typically more willing to work with you on terms and drop shipping (which we will talk about in a little bit.) You can also look for innovative products to sell on crowdfunding sources like Indiegogo or Kickstarter.

When you determine which niche products you’re going to sell, see if there are industry associations, trade websites or magazines. If so, join, follow and subscribe. Also, if there are product tradeshows around your product niche, attend these trade shows to discover new products, speak with the manufacturer reps directly and learn more about the industry in general. Often at the tradeshows you will be able to negotiate better pricing or drop shipping arrangements – especially if the manufacturer is launching a new product and they’re looking for new distributors.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I win in the gig economy?

The “gig economy” — the market for individuals providing services or working on projects on a freelance on-demand or short-term contract basis — has been a growing trend. While there are no official gig economy statistics available to measure its prominence, we can make some assumptions about its increasing popularity based on other available data. 

According to information reported by the United States Census Bureau, the number of non-employer businesses, the group of individuals most likely to work on gig basis,  was 24,331,403 in 2015. That’s 10% more than the 22,110,628 non-employer businesses in 2010.

And opportunity abounds for independent professionals who take on gig assignments. Many businesses outsource work to independent contractors and freelancers when their staffs are overwhelmed and to avoid the costs of benefits and ongoing payroll that come with hiring new employees.   Continue reading

10 Best Podcasts for Solopreneurs

podcast on mobile phoneOne of the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a solopreneur is the need to be constantly learning. Of course, every day has its own lessons to teach—trial and error is the heartbeat of solopreneurship, after all. Sometimes, though, we need to turn to proven mentors and leaders who can offer wisdom from experiences that reach beyond our own.

When we run into these situations, books seem like the obvious first choice. Indeed, there’s a book out there for any problem you may encounter, whether procrastination, apathy, branding, or crippling self-doubt. Besides, shouldn’t we be reading like fiends anyway? It’s common knowledge that the most successful business leaders all share a ravenous appetite for good books.

But what solopreneur has time to read a book every week? Between brainstorming and producing and networking and marketing, it can be hard enough to make time to eat breakfast. Granted, reading is still a great habit to develop, but it may not be your primary mode of on-the-go education.

Thankfully, the world invented podcasts.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can veterans excel as entrepreneurs?

In the course of serving our nation, veterans learn valuable skills and self-discipline that they can carry through to their post-military careers. One professional path that many veterans take is entrepreneurship. 

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, in 2012, the number of veteran-owned businesses was 2,521,682 (9 percent of all companies in the U.S.). Those businesses employed over 5 million people.  Continue reading

Entrepreneurship is not a solo adventure.

by Mary Marshall, CEO Coach

entrepreneursThe most successful entrepreneurs figure out early on that they are not alone, that they are not infallible and that they need people better than themselves to do certain things.

However, we often have this vision of the entrepreneur as a superman or woman, slaying all the obstacles on the path to greatness all on their own. I’m here to tell you that image is simply not true. If it were, we would only be building companies of one and the term solopreneur would be all the rage.

Entrepreneurs do have good ideas and often strategies for putting their plans into motion. They often have a unique or different vision that others have not imagined yet but what they cannot do is single-handedly make it happen.

I’m reminded of this as I start the new class of Seattle Emerging Leaders at the SBA. These are businesses who have been operating for at least 3 years but at some point, became stuck and could not get past a certain stage of development. As this year’s class introduced themselves to one another, two very similar narratives emerged.

First, they were greatly relieved to be with other entrepreneurs like themselves who felt more or less alone. Realizing that everyone in the class was having the same experience was an eye opener for all of them. Secondly, they realized that part of their struggle was that while working in the business they rarely, if ever, had time to work on it so accountability for that went out the window with the pressing challenges of each day.

Read more on Mary Marshall’s website