How To Choose The Perfect Business For You
by Joan Sotkin, Prosperity Place
- Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, either together or comfortably apart. Fold your hands and rest them gently in your lap.
- Close your eyes and take three or four deep breaths. As you exhale, say to yourself, "I release all tension," and imagine the tension in your neck and shoulders is passing out of your body. Let your shoulders drop as you do this. Then let your breathing return to normal.
- Now imagine yourself in a place you love to visit or dream of visiting. In your mind's eye, let yourself be there. Imagine that it's a beautiful day (or whatever kind of day you prefer). See yourself at the location engaged in an enjoyable activity. Create the picture clearly in your mind. Imagine the sounds and smells that you identify with your chosen location. And, most importantly, create the feelings you have in that place. Let yourself feel really good.
- Do this for at least 5 to 10 minutes. If you feel comfortable going for a longer period of time, fine. The goal is to do it every day. However, don't criticize yourself if you unable to it each day. Every other day or every few days is fine. Try to do it at a time of day when you feel awake enough not to fall asleep.
A Special Report
Do you have a dream of business ownership? If you do, you are one of millions of people who want to develop an enterprise that will offer them freedom, satisfaction and limitless financial potential. It's not unusual to have a strong desire for business ownership without knowing exactly what the business will be. People often ask me how they can choose a business that will work for them. The purpose of this Special Report is to help answer that question. Step 1. Define Your Dream
The goal in choosing a business is to find an endeavor that satisfies your individual needs on both a financial and internal level. In other words, your success will be measured by the profitability of the business plus the sense of inner pride and satisfaction you receive from the work you do. If your business satisfies you internally, you will work harder to achieve your financial goals. So the first step in choosing a business has a lot to do with you and what you want from life. The exercises that follow will help you begin the process of discovering what you want, on a deep inner level. Exercise 1. Examine Your Personal Values
Defining what is important to you is essential. Those things that matter to you are your values and they will affect the focus and direction of your business. In my book Starting Your Own Business: An Easy-To-Follow Guide For The New Entrepreneur I have an entire chapter on using your your values as a foundation for your business. I'm not going to repeat that information here, but I will explain how to define your values. On the top of a sheet of paper, write the words, "My Values." Make a list of fifteen qualities of life that mean the most to you. Do you value Truth, integrity, health, wealth, fame? Do you value personal freedom, internal peace, time with your family? Write down each value that you identify. When you have completed your list of fifteen, mark off the five values that mean the most to you. I suggest that you take a moment or two each day to write a paragraph about what that value means to you and how you might integrate it into your business. If you're not crazy about writing, think about one value each day for five days. Write the "value of the day" on a piece of paper and hang it where it can jog your thinking onto the "value track." As you go through the process of choosing a business, you can ask yourself, from time to time, "Does this fit in with my values?" Exercise 2. Let Your Mind Roam Free The purpose of this exercise is to help you break away from standard thinking patterns -- the shoulds, musts, and oughts of life. Listen to your thoughts and observe how many times you say to yourself, "I really ought to do ______ ," when, in fact, you really want to be doing something else. Most people are programmed from early life to except the values of their parents and the adults around them. This often has a stifling effect on children who are different from their caretakers. For example, an artistic child whose parents are engineers or attorneys will have a difficult time developing the values of logic and security that their analytical parents probably have. Artistic people have different thought and behavior patterns from linear thinkers. The artistic child will grow up believing that the way he thinks is wrong and he will try hard to fit into the way of life defined by his parents. He will think he "should" do something other than that which he wants to do on a deep inner level. This exercise will help you transcend the logical part of your brain and move into the creative portion. Even if you are normally an analytical thinker, this exercise will help you reach beyond that which you can see with your logic. It will help to open the door to new possibilities. In order to do this, it's best to shut out the visual world by closing your eyes. Here's what I suggest:
At some point, you may find yourself repeatedly thinking about one particular business. The more you think about it, the more you like it. When you come to one of these ideas, write it down. The idea may not form until you've done a considerable amount of exploration, as outlined in the steps below. Be on the lookout for one idea that pleases you more than others For now, don't concern yourself with how you are going to do it or where you are going to get the money. Don't worry about how you are going to do your marketing or where you are going to find customers. Just write down the idea that pleases you the most. This will be a business idea that excites you and stirs your passions. You may also find that the thought of not being able to do it frightens you. That's normal. Step 2. Define your parameters
On a piece of paper write, "My ideal business." It's time to find out exactly what you would like your business to look like and how you would like it to satisfy some of your needs. Ask yourself these questions: What do I want my life to look like? Where do I want to work? What hours do I want to work? What days of the week do I want to work? What kind of people do I want to work with? For example, if you choose a business that requires that you deal with families with small children and you're not crazy about children, you're not going to be happy with your work. Or perhaps you hate driving in rush hour traffic. If you choose a business that requires that you be out on the road all day, within a short period of time, you're going to feel frazzled and frustrated and you'll wish you were doing something else. As you go through this step, you may discover that your ideal business is something different from anything you'd imagined. If this happens, you can adjust the parameters. Recently I was speaking to a woman who had dreamed for years about owning a bookstore. She loved to read and she valued the knowledge that books provided. Sharing that knowledge with others was one of her heart's desires. But when she began to define her ideal business, she realized that if she owned a regular bookstore in a retail location, she would have to have it open six or, ideally, seven days a week. If she didn't want to work all the time, she would have to hire others to take care of the store for her. After thinking about it, she realized that a bookstore wasn't what she wanted. She examined other ways of selling books -- through the mail, from her home, at presentations she might give to groups of people, etc. Step 3. Define Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Everything you have done in your life has brought you to this particular moment. You have a special combination of experiences that makes you who you are and different from everyone else. The pace at which you live will determine how many experiences you've had and how long each has lasted. Some people cram many different experiences into a short period of time and others savor each experience and allow them to last as long as possible. Your present age will determine how long you've had to live and relive some experiences. As people mature they have more time to integrate the lessons of their experiences into their daily lives. Therefore, people over 40 have an advantage in that they have had the opportunity to develop a sense of discrimination through long-term trial and error. But people under 40 have the advantage of generally being more resilient and open to change. It's easier for them to take the risk involved with business ownership. When you are looking into your strengths and weaknesses, take your experiences into account. Don't just count your definable skills. For example, if you're a single mother who has adapted well to supporting and raising your children by yourself, then you have something to share with other women who are trying to cope with single-parent life. Or perhaps you have had a hobby that you have developed over the years such as woodworking or building electronic gadgets. The knowledge you have gained from your hobby is a strength. Think about all the jobs you've had and all the projects, work-related or otherwise, in which you've been involved. Which ones did you like the most and which ones provided you the opportunity to excel. There are probably some things you don't feel comfortable doing and would prefer to leave to someone else. Fine. No one needs to do everything. These would be considered your weaknesses. List your weaknesses but focus on what do you do well? Or, perhaps, what can you do well that other people can't? In a business situation, how might you utilize your talents? Which skills would you have to improve? With what tasks would you need help? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that your business will work best if it is built around your strengths. However, this doesn't mean that you can ignore your weaknesses. For example, if you aren't good with money and you want to have your own business, you will have to develop some money skills because dealing with money is an essential part of being in business. Handing your money over to a bookkeeper or other financial person doesn't work either -- you need to have a basic understanding of business principles. You can't ignore that reality. Unfortunately many people do. One of the reasons that businesses fail is that people don't take care of their money. They don't know how much money they have available from day to day, how to plan their cash flow or how to get the most out of the money they have. Very often, new business owners think they don't have time to write down all of their expenses and their income. It's not unusual for new business owners to have an unrealistic idea about what they are spending and what they are earning. It's important to be aware of your money on a day to day basis, especially when a business is new. This awareness can be the difference between success or failure for a new business. That's why it's important to define your weaknesses. If you can say, in all honesty, "I'm not good at handling money," then you can learn how to do it. By acknowledging the weakness, you can turn it into a strength. Another area where most new business owners are weak is sales and marketing. This is not due to any inherent weakness. It's just that most business owners don't have any previous experience with sales and marketing. Just like money skills, sales and marketing skills can be developed. But first, the weakness has to be defined. At this point, you might say to yourself, "Gosh, there is so much to learn! How am I ever going to make a success of myself in business?" The answer is one step at a time. I believe that we can do anything we want as long as we are willing to do whatever it takes to reach our goal. If success in business were easy, more people would be breaking away from the "security" of their jobs and trying it on their own. But, one of the reasons going into business is risky is because most people don't have the knowledge required to make a business successful. By increasing your knowledge you decrease your risk. My father used to say, "Don't bet, invest." Which means only put your money on something where you have a good chance of winning. And you can increase your odds of making it in business if you define your strengths and weaknesses, then turn your weaknesses into strengths. Blake G. had a problem with money. When he had it, he spent it without thought to future needs. "The money will be there when I need it," he'd say. But it didn't always come when the bills were due and he often panicked because he couldn't pay the rent on time. He borrowed or earned what he needed, but only after long periods of stress. Finally, fed up with himself and ready to change his ways, Blake began to examine why he handled money the way he did and why he created so much stress for himself. He learned abut money management and began using his money wisely. Because of his struggle with money, Blake understands the problems of many business owners and he now advises them about money management. Blake turned his weakness into a strength. Step 4. Inform Yourself
Harvey McKay, the author of Swim With The Sharks, said recently in an interview in Home Office Computing, "I am a firm believer in superior information. Try to get your hands on people who have done exactly what you want to do. Ask them what they would do differently if that had to start over again. Listen, take copious notes, and thank them with a beautiful follow up note. Get a mentor if you can. Read everything there is to read. If you only get one good idea from every book or article, it's time well spent." Choosing a business requires that you inform yourself, as well as possible, about your business options, based on what you have defined as the type of business you would like. Steps 1, 2 and 3 are what we could call internal steps -- you are looking around inside of you to see who you are, identifying your talents and defining what you want to do. Taking these steps will only require a few minutes each day and you're going to think about them over the course of a few weeks. There's lots of time left over for you to use looking around for ideas that will stimulate your consciousness and help you choose a business. I strongly suggest that you read publications that can kindle ideas. At the end of this report is a Resources section that lists books and magazines that can help you in your quest for a business. Send away for information, catalogs, sample newsletters, etc. You'll find good sources in the display ads, the classifieds and in articles in the magazines and newsletters listed in the Resources section. If you have a leaning towards a particular business, find a book that explains how to do that business. For example, there are quite a few books available that describe computer related businesses, consulting, and writing. I recently received a marvelous book entitled, "You Can Make Money With Crafts" that is filled with practical how-to information. If you don't usually read the business section of your local paper, at least glance through it daily. At first, reading business publications can feel like a chore because many of the words, names and concepts are going to be unfamiliar to you. Learning about the business part of doing business can be like moving to a new country or city. If you've ever done that you know how strange everything can feel for about a year. It takes time to get your bearings and learn the local customs. The same holds true the business world which has its own culture -- and you have to learn it. The people who take the time to learn are the entrepreneurs who succeed. By reading business publications, you will not only learn about the world of business, you will also develop a feeling for trends, the mood of the country and the economy. Step 5. Talk to People
People in established businesses can provide you with valuable information. Entrepreneurs usually love to share the story of how they got started and the challenges they faced. By speaking to them, you can gain a realistic understanding of what it takes to be in business for yourself. Find someone who has a business that appeals to you. Speak to the owner about how long it took for the business to become profitable, how much money was needed to start the business, what the most difficult problems were, how or where the owner learned the business. If you have a Chamber of Commerce in your area, they usually have mixers or other gatherings where you can meet the members. By going to these events, you can speak to a variety of people in the business community. Because I collect stories of small businesses, I go to Chamber of Commerce meetings and ask people what they do. If I find an interesting business I'll ask "How did you get started?" and other areas I'm curious about. People love to talk about themselves. It's a good way to get to know people because if you talk about them, they will like you. There's a pleasant payoff in that you will increase the number of people in your life while you are exploring business ideas. When you finally open your business, the people you meet at business gatherings can become your prospective clients. I also find that when I talk to other people words come out of my mouth unexpectedly that help me get a better understanding about what I'm doing. For example, up until last month (March, 1993), I'd been developing Build Your Business for almost two years, and it was starting to generate significant income. I had my book, my mail order business and my speaking career. Everything was working out the way I wanted it to, but I still hadn't really defined what I do on a one-to-one basis. I'd been using the word "consulting" even though that didn't feel quite right. One night I went to a new networking group. Members and guests were asked to introduce themselves and describe their businesses. While I was introducing myself what came out of my mouth was, "I solve problems for people." I didn't use the word "consulting" -- "problem solver" was a better definition of my skill. With all of the thinking that I had been doing, I never touched what I was looking for. I had to speak out loud to other people to find it. A wonderful part of our human system is that we need other people. And when we interact with them, we can use them as mirrors to help us find out who we are. If you are going to buy a business opportunity or a franchise, it's especially important that you talk to people who have had a similar experience. Don't just speak to the business owners recommended by the company that is going to sell you the business -- they're only going to let you talk to the successes. Seek out others. Especially important is finding out how the company supported their marketing efforts. Not long ago I met a woman who was working at a clothing store that I frequent. She told me the sad tale of the automotive services franchise she and her husband had purchased for $200,000. They closed it after only nine months and lost all of their money because they weren't prepared for the marketing that they had to do. The company provided marketing materials, but not the training in practical marketing and selling that they needed. Step 6. Let Life Lead You
If you're doing Step 1, Exercise 2 (Let Your Mind Roam Free) at least a few times a week, you'll probably find that information and ideas that you need will just show up. When people hear me say this, they often shrug it off as a silly idea. It does sound somewhat like magical thinking. But, I'm sure you've had times in your life when everything seems to fall into place. It's during those times that what you needed "just showed up." I believe that we create our reality with our consciousness. When your consciousness is focusing on finding a business for you, then it's going to create situations that allow you to examine different businesses. I can't explain exactly how it works, but I can tell you that if you're doing Step 1, Exercise 2 on a regular basis, information that you need is going to show up. There is a saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." I find this to be true. People are often skeptical when I present this idea. But as time passes, they often say to me, “You're right, Joan. It just showed up!” This is something you can't push, it just happens. The trick is to follow up on something when it shows up. When new people come into my life, I say to myself, "Of all the billions of people on the planet, why is this person standing in front of me." I ask a lot of questions and often find that the person can lead me to information I need. I consider everything that shows up in my life a potential opportunity. By asking a lot of questions, by being curious and examining everything that comes along, I often find what I need. Step 7. Carefully assess your Financial Situation
If you are like many people going into business for the first time, you don't have much money to invest. Building a business does take money, but even with limited resources it can be done. If you honestly and realistically assess your current financial situation and make a conservative projection for the businesses' potential, you'll be able to plan a business that supports your values. Over and over again, I speak to people who go into serious debt to start a business. They have pie-in-the-sky dreams of instant financial returns but soon find themselves hopelessly behind. The pressure they feel has a devastating effect and they find it impossible to keep going. There's no need to put yourself in that kind of situation is you're realistic about your money. If you only have $100 dollars to invest, then that's what you have. You don't have $200 or $300. Many businesses have started with cash advances from credit cards, which is an expensive way to get money. But because it's the only source available, that's what people use. But unless you have done all of the preparatory work and all the necessary learning and researching, you could find yourself in serious debt if this is the path you choose. The stories I read about in the magazines that describe businesses that were started with credit-card financing are the success stories. There are plenty more that didn't get into the magazine about people who went bankrupt using this source of funds. If you've been out of work for any time, don't put yourself or your family in a precarious position. Start with what you have even if it's only $10. If that's it, that's it. My book Starting Your Own Business has many stories of people who started successful businesses with under $100. There's a tendency to spend more than is necessary on fancy marketing materials or excess inventory. For example, I know many people who went into multi-level opportunities. They bought thousands of dollars worth of stock because they believed in the product and thought everyone was a potential customer. But they had a difficult time developing customers. They also had undeveloped selling skills. Within two or three months they knew they had made a mistake and were left with a pile of unusable inventory. They had been unrealistic about their potential earnings and found themselves in the proverbial hole. Although life will lead you to opportunities, it doesn't show you how to take advantage of them. That's something that you have to learn for yourself. The customers could be put right in front of you, but if you have no selling skills, you won't know how to ask for the sale. Just because you are a deserving person doesn't mean people are going to walk up to you and hand you money. You have to use marketing and selling skills to help them understand why they need what you have to offer and why they should buy it from you. I know a lot of people in the "New Age" community who have spent years developing themselves spiritually. They do a lot of meditating and growing on a personal level. Unfortunately, when they decide to go into business, they don't understand that the business world functions with a different level of awareness and a different set of customs, especially when it comes to money. They say, "Spirit will provide," without realizing that Spirit doesn't write checks, people do. Therefore, it's important that you realistically assess your income potential based on your experience and knowledge. The only way to make a realistic assessment is to look at whatever business you decide to develop and write a basic business plan. I suggest you use the outline in my book. It will show you what you have to know in order to project the income of your chosen business. All you need to start a business is your mouth and a telephone. If that's all you have, use it. Don't plan on doing anything else until you generate your first monies. Certainly don't plan on doing anything else until you have a better idea about how to manage money. Step 8. Develop One Idea
Now it's time to choose a business. If you've already written down a business idea that appealed to you, look at it now and see if it still feels like the right one. If you haven't written down an idea to pursue, now is the time to do it. At this point, you're still not going to make a final commitment to this business, but you will examine it further. You're going to explore what this business would look like and what it would take to build it. Here are three questions to ask:
- Does this business meet a specific need for an identifiable group of people? People have to perceive that they need what you offer, or they won't buy it. And you have to be able to find the people who need it in order to tell them that it's available.
- How will I market this business? Answering this question is essential. If your funds are limited, you must use low-cost marketing techniques. Even if you have a considerable amount of money available to you, don't use it unless you have to. More expensive is not necessarily more effective. As a matter of fact, if you spend a lot of money and draw in more customers than you can handle with your present knowledge and experience base, you can get into plenty of trouble. Customers will be dissatisfied and you'll have to start again practically from scratch.
- How can I build this business with the financial resources that are available to me? You may not be able to do exactly what you want to do. You may have to go on a zigzag path to your goal. If it's worth having, it's worth working towards it, even if it takes time. Let the amount of money you have available be the guide as to which steps you should take and when.
Once you have chosen an idea to develop you can begin to test it on other people. When people ask what you do, say, "I'm opening a _________ business" and tell them a little about the concept. For example, "I'm opening a 24-hour technical support service for people with computers. They can call me up at any time and I'll get them out of difficult situations. Of course, I'll also be available for regular support, service and training." If you have a name for your business that appeals to you, try it out. (You may have to do some research to make sure no one else is using the same name.) See how people responds and, most importantly, who responds. If someone shows some interest, say, "Just out of curiosity, is this a service (or product) that would interest you?" If the answer is yes, ask another question, such as, "I was thinking of charging $50 per hour for my regular service and $1.50 a minute for the emergency service. Does that sound reasonable to you?" And, of course, if the answer is affirmative, don't miss the opportunity to say, "Can I have your card so I can send you some information once I have the business up and running?" The idea is to find out who's interested in your product or service and find out what it would take to get them to be a customers. This is invaluable research. If you find that no one responds favorably, this is the time to alter your plans. No matter how much you love your product or service, if no one wants it, you have no business. After you identify your potential prospects, find out where they gather and go there. Find clubs, associations or other organizations where you can find many of your potential customers and tell them what you're planning. See how many of them respond. Also, notice how you feel when you talk about your business. By acting as if it is real, you are giving it it's first breath of life. Do you like it? Is this the child, so to speak, that you want to nurture. Businesses are not like children -- you can send them back from where they came from. Even though it is your creation, you have the option of staying with a project or not. And if it's not going to work for you, it's better to get out before you get in too deep. Unfortunately, this is a trap that new business owners fall into. They fall in love with their business idea and even if their market research shows that there is a limited need or desire for what they are selling, they don't want to give up or alter the idea. Don't fall in love until your business starts giving you what you need. It has to be a functional, satisfying relationship, not one that drains you of your resources. Step 10. Make the Commitment!
At some point you have to move from going into business to being in business. You have to commit to a name, register the name with the municipal court clerk so that people can write checks to our business (fictitious name statement) order your business cards, and set up your bookkeeping system. But before you even register the name, write a business plan. Because this is a written report, I can't shout at you. So imagine if you will that I'm standing here with a megaphone, saying as loudly as I can so that you'll here me, "Write a business plan." It doesn't have to be a lengthy tome. The Business Planning/Marketing Guide in my book has less than 30 questions for you to answer that will help you get a focus and direction for your business. After you finish the plan, you'll know exactly what to do first. Your business plan is the strategy that you'll use to build your business. It's your road map. Isn't it easier to find and get to know a new city when you have a map to guide you? Your business plan will be your guide. At this point I have given you the information you need to go through the choosing-a-business process. I strongly suggest at this point that you read my book, Starting Your Own Business - An Easy-To-Follow Guide Guide For the New Entrepreneur. The book will help you realistically assess the potential of the business you have chosen and plan a strategy for building the business It will also show you many no-cost or low-cost ways to market your business. There is also information about what you have to do in terms of licenses, sales tax, etc.. I also want to remind you that I do like to help people solve problems. I work with many people over the phone who are starting businesses and I can help you find the right business for you. For example, a woman called me recently who had heard me on a radio show. We set up an appointment for a consultation to explore what kind of business she was qualified to start. I asked her about her previous experience and she said, "Last week someone has asked me to help them design a mail room for their business." Now that's a fairly unusual thing for someone to ask, so I asked if she had done that before. "Yes," she answered, "and I'm rather good at it." Surprisingly, she had never thought that this would be a good business. Designing mail rooms is a very unusual skill. The potential earnings would be high because as a freelancer she would be doing something that very few people can do. The business would fill a specific need for an identifiable group of people and she could command substantial fees for her services. I helped her see why this would be a good place to start, especially since the opportunity had "just shown up." I helped her figure out what to charge and how to write the presentation that the potential client has requested. The proposal was accepted and, to her surprise, the business is off to a good start. Once she's into it she can see how she wants to develop it. She's using the first project as a test to see if that's really what she wants to do. If it is, she'll develop her business plan. I believe that you can do anything that you want to do. You just have to figure out how to get from what you are to where you want to be. All it takes is a belief in yourself and the willingness to walk through the necessary steps. Help for First-Time Entrepreneurs The hardest part about going into business for yourself is the "yourself" part, especially if it is your first business. For many years, I have been helping new entrepreneurs realistically evaluate their business ideas. During the process of building their business, I also provide guidance and advice. For information about my consulting services, e-mail: [email protected] or call toll-free, during business hours Mountain Time: 1-888-779-JOAN. (888-779-5626) Joan Sotkin is the creator of Prosperity Place, which provides information and services to help you live a satisfying productive life.