The idea of starting your own business can be frightening with the recession - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

6 Tips To Launching Your Own Business In A Down Economy

The idea of starting your own business can be frightening, particularly with the recession stubbornly choking the Arizona economy. However, by following a few tips for getting started, launching your own company doesn’t need to be scary.

In fact, there are a few advantages to launching a business during an economic downturn. Commercial space is available at extraordinarily good prices. Talented professionals are looking for work. Goods and services can be found at discounted prices. And, depending on your industry, competition may be scarce.

1. Practice Due Diligence
It’s critical to objectively evaluate your proposed venture. Asking yourself some hard questions may discourage you from pursuing your first venture, but that is not a negative or pessimistic approach. It’s a useful tool for evaluating your business. Start with these questions: Is there a genuine need for the product or service you are offering? Is that need already being met by established companies? If so, what improvement or unique feature are you bringing to the table? Do you have the necessary skills and resources to start your business? If not, are you prepared to bring in the people with the skills and capital that are needed, and possibly give up some ownership?

2. Prepare a Business Plan
Too often, entrepreneurs articulate a great idea and foresee success, but gloss over the hard work. That hard part is thinking through the idea for your business and writing it into a plan, including the steps you’ll need to take to implement your idea. Start with an outline and consult a book or online guide about writing business plans. It’s important that your end result is a completed plan that includes a budget for your business.

3. Determine Capital Requirements
Most small businesses are funded with the business owner’s own money and funds from family and friends. A venture capitalist or angel investor may provide the necessary capital in exchange for part ownership of your business. It’s critical to focus on the amount of money you will need to start and operate your business, including at each stage of the company’s development.

4. Create a Board of Advisers
Creating a network of advisers can be a tremendous asset to a start-up business. It’s helpful if that board consists of advisers with a diverse array of professional backgrounds. That diversity will ensure you receive insights from a wide range of perspectives. Good choices for advisers may include your attorney, accountant, suppliers, customers, bankers and realtors.

5. Tap Into Available Resources
There are myriad advisers, consultants and nonprofit agencies that will assist you in developing your business — marketing it, creating websites and raising capital — who work for free or a nominal fee. The Small Business Administration (SBA), for instance, is a valuable and cost-effective resource. Moreover, SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business, provides free advice and mentoring for small business owners. If you pay for a similar service, be sure to get recommendations from a trusted adviser. Then, check that company’s references.

6. Listen
The more you listen — the more you truly hear an adviser’s ideas — the more advice you will be able to translate into actionable plans for your company.

Still, while these recessionary times may present a good opportunity for entrepreneurs, there are several considerations to keep in mind.

Select an industry that is doing well, despite the recession. The health care industry, senior care and information technologies are financially better off than many other industries.

Choose a business sector with a bright future — Businesses that tap into growing consumer demand for green or sustainable products may be an avenue worth pursuing. There was a 41 percent increase in consumer purchases of green products and services from 2004 to 2009, according to the research firm Mintel. Moreover, there may be federal or state subsidies or tax credits available for green companies.

Select a company with low capital requirements. Home-based businesses with low start-up costs may be good choices, notably because the ongoing credit crunch will likely make it tough to get a loan to cover these expenses.

If you are considering starting your own business, you will be in good company. More than half the companies listed on the Fortune 500 in 2009 were launched during a recession, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Moreover, in 2009, an average of 558,000 new businesses were launched each month in the United States.

The trick to joining these ranks is to get started. There’s no better time than now, recession or not.

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something,” Nolan Bushnell, founder of both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, once said. “It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010