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Every entrepreneur needs advice when they launch their business. From starting small to having a plan and knowledgeable advisors you can trust, these are the best practices aspiring entrepreneurs should follow, according to Hispanic business owners already out in the trenches.
Pare it down to the essentials
The one thing you want to do is make sure that you don't go overboard on spending when you're setting up your business, says Washington-based Melisa Díaz, who's had her own consulting firm for more than ten years.
"Do you really need a fancy office with all the nice furniture? Do you really need all that nice stationery with your name on it? In this Internet age, maybe all you need are business cards and a nice website, and not all the other stuff that'll suck your money away," Díaz says.
According to Díaz, you need to "Sit down and make a list of all the things you think you need and then pare it down to what you absolutely can't live without, and chances are you'll be saving some money by not getting some of the things you thought you needed. Setting up a business already takes a lot of time and funds, and wherever you can do without, especially in the beginning, will help your bottom line in the long run."
Díaz also suggests looking at the possibility of working from home—with a good internet connection, of course—or at a co-working space to save all those much-needed funds when you're starting a business.
Take advantage of what's free
Yes, it does cost money to start a business, but there are many low-cost and even free services available to would-be entrepreneurs. "The local chambers of commerce in your area and your city's small business agency often have free classes, from how to apply for loans, how to set up a business plan, to how to get the licenses you may need, just to name a few," says Díaz. She adds that "This will help you get as prepared as possible without burning a hole in your wallet."
The U.S. Small Business Administration also has a vast array of services available for Latino entrepreneurs ranging from "10 Steps to Start Your Business" to resources for low-cost loans. "Also check with your local university and community college. Many have free classes to help you. You don't have to go into business unprepared even if you don't have a lot of money lying around," adds Díaz.
Have a plan
Starting a business is an exciting venture, but financial advisor and Los Angeles entrepreneur Louis Barajas says to put that excitement to the side and make sure you do your research and have everything mapped out beforehand. Plans have a tendency to change, but if you have a business plan, you can try as much as possible to watch for changes and other contingencies.
"At the very least, the plan should have the number of employees you're going to have if any, whether you're going to need to rent a space, how many computers you'll need, and that sort of thing. And then put numbers next to it, and add at least 25% more because operating costs are always going to be more than you think."
The plan doesn't have to be some complicated dissertation of many pages, says Barajas, but it gives you a good idea going in of what you need to do to get your business off the ground and running successfully. "Too many Latino entrepreneurs get really busy with the day-to-day and forget that a plan, in the beginning, helps keep you on track," adds Barajas.
Have knowledgeable advisors you trust
Don't surround yourself with people who are only going to tell you what you want to hear, says Barajas. "Find people who know [the kind of] business you want to get into and who will talk straight with you. There are a lot of nuances in particular businesses. It really makes a difference what kind of experience the tax preparer, the bookkeeper, [or] the accountant has," he adds.
Those already out in the trenches have a wealth of experience to share with you that could save you a lot of trouble as you set out as a new entrepreneur.
Register your business
Online marketing expert and entrepreneur Luis R. Silva says that you should make sure that your business name isn't already taken. "There's nothing more disappointing than coming up with a catchy name and then finding out someone else already has it. And in that same vein, register your business name so that no one else takes it. Don't wait to do that."
Silva adds that the same thing goes for creating a website. You should not only make sure that the name you pick is available, but you should also be careful who has access to it. "Make sure that when you give [someone] access to your website, you give [them] access as 'collaborators' and not 'administrators,' as it gives you more control as a precautionary measure."
Silva suggests that when your business is in the process of developing a website, you should draw up a contract with the developer that spells out who has legal ownership. "I've seen cases where a website is all done, and the developer has control of it and then tries to get the business to pay for the domain name and for access. Do your research and homework to make sure that doesn't happen. Register your domain name as a first step and put everything in writing from the very beginning."
Deliver on your promise
You don't want to be the type of business that doesn't come through for the client, especially when you're starting, says Díaz. "Work out any deadlines beforehand and work day and night if you have to. Your reputation as an entrepreneur is what is of utmost importance. If there's something that is making it impossible to meet that requirement, say something as soon as possible. Many clients are flexible and will work with you, but not if you don't say anything. Be that entrepreneur that they want to work with over and over again."
Your reputation and word-of-mouth are what is going to get you the repeat business you need to make a success of your business, she says.
Save some time for networking
One key aspect of the small business community that too many Latino entrepreneurs neglect is networking. "Networking is probably one of the most important ways to [become] known, especially when you are first starting out," says Díaz.
And on that note, she offers the following advice: "No matter how tired you may be or how busy, go to that business happy hour, go to that chamber of commerce meeting; go to as many activities as possible. You'd be surprised how much business you can pick up from going to all [of] these informal gatherings, and it'll give you a chance to talk to other entrepreneurs to get some good and free advice."