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Finding the right idea for a new business is no easy task. Turning that idea into a reality can be even harder. So how do you go about getting your business off the ground once you've settled on an idea?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer, but there are guide rails. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
"Many people jump into business before they're prepared and then wonder what went wrong," says Andrew Barrera, a community development and business consultant based in Los Angeles.
The consultant believes that you need to have goals and that you need to turn them into a plan by writing them all down. The plan should include the expenses required to keep the business going, as well as your break-even point, which is the moment when you start making a profit after expenses. "And be realistic about it. You'll be lucky to break even initially," says Barrera.
Sure, there are stories out there of entrepreneurs making a boatload of money right away, but it usually doesn't happen that way, he adds. "Traditionally, the five-year mark is when a business is considered established. It takes time, so you have to be patient."
Some entrepreneurs could see a profit within the first couple of years, but the bottom line is that it doesn't happen overnight. And you can try to make sure that whatever you make initially is enough to sustain your lifestyle minimally without having to resort to outside income, he adds.
Barrera also advises new business owners to buy insurance to protect against fires, theft, and liability, and to open a business banking account, separate from any of your personal assets.
Use the Buddy System
Find partners that share your goals but who have complementary skills to help your business get off the ground. "Especially when you're starting out, it's always better to work as a team than alone," says Luis Vásquez-Ajmac, a marketing entrepreneur in California.
Complementary skills could include someone who can help set up a website, someone who can help with marketing and someone who can help with bookkeeping. Don't do it all yourself, says Vásquez-Ajmac, because you'll never have enough time, and you can burn yourself out. "You want to have time to do networking and get yourself and your business known," he adds.
Find Out What's Out There
Too many Hispanic would-be entrepreneurs have no idea how many services are out there for them, starting with the U.S. Small Business Administration, which offers a wide array of programs, including resources to find funding, and even how to put together a business plan. The best part of it is most of it is completely free. The SBA even helps match you up with resources and other assistance in your area.
Another place to look for guidance and aid is the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its local chambers throughout the country, and don't forget to check with your state and/or city's small business development and resource office.
"Those offices can help you with information on whether you need to get a license for your business, how to register the business locally, information on taxes, and they have workshops on a number of topics that can help you," says Melisa Díaz, a business consultant in Washington, D.C. "When I first started my firm ten years ago, these services were very helpful to get going and keep the business successful."
You need to start thinking like an entrepreneur, says Barrera, and that includes no longer thinking like a consumer. "A consumer thinks month to month, but an entrepreneur has to think quarterly, look at seasonality and business cycles, follow market trends, and have more of a long-term view."
By focusing on the big picture, "you can adapt more easily to any changes along the way and adjust to what the customers want," she adds.
Adapt Without Really Changing
Adapting to changes that come up can also help generate different revenue streams to keep you going, particularly during periods of downturns and uncertainty, says Barrera. And that doesn't mean that you need to switch gears and learn new skills. "You may be providing the same type of service, but each client has their own needs," he adds.
As an example, Díaz provides translations for some clients, and strategic communications for others, among a wide range of skills offered by her firm. "Look at your own personal expertise," adds Barrera, to decide what you can offer.