By Lorene Kennard, Guest Columnist
If I knew then what I know now, boy, would I have done things differently! This is a popular refrain uttered by everyone who has embarked on a new business venture. Most proprietors planning to start a business discover they have an infinite number of things to do before, during and after a new business launch. If only we knew then what we know now ¦..
For over a year, I thought about starting a monthly e-newsletter to stay in regular contact with current and prospective clients of Walnut Avenue Research, my freelance research business. I am a one-person business with a small marketing budget, so I put it off because I thought it would be a resource-consuming project. Finally, about a month ago, I took some time to review e-newsletter providers and chose one that met my needs. Once I started setting up a template, it only took 15 minutes to complete. I couldn t believe how easy it was. I spent a little more time writing the content and testing it, but I was amazed at how little time the whole process took me.
Just do it
The next day, I was contacted by a potential client who received my e-newsletter and wanted more information on the services that I provide. In the first few days, eight people I didn’t know subscribed to my e-newsletter. I was kicking myself for not launching an e-newsletter much sooner. From now on, I will take Nike advice and “just do it” when I have a business idea that I want to pursue.
Ask for advice
Don t reinvent the wheel, says Jess Alvarez, owner of A Plus Home and Building Inspections in Morris, Illinois. Alvarez learned the home inspection business from scratch when he could have contacted someone with an existing business for advice. Contact someone with a similar business outside of your competitive market for best practices and mentoring. They will know what does and does not work, so you can learn from their challenges.
What worked, what didn’t
While planning to start my business, I read a couple of books on information businesses and writing business plans. I wish I also would have contacted a couple of established information business owners to learn about their successful start-up strategies and, equally important, what strategies were not effective for them. That knowledge would have been really useful when I was putting my business plan together.
Prep work saves time
Patty Puchalski, owner of Patty Pampered Pets in Alsip, Illinois, agrees that doing some research in the planning process can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. I wish I would have been more prepared before I opened for business. My first few clients received a high level of service, but the process from start to finish took a lot longer than it should have because I was not really ready to be open for business. I am sure I lost a few clients because of I was not prepared.
Factor in work breaks
Finding a work/life balance is very difficult for a small business owner. We do not have many days off or a real quitting time at the end of the day. We always have emails to send, proposals to write, marketing to do, and these tasks sometimes have to be completed at night or on the weekend. While I was starting Walnut Avenue Research, I wish I would have set up a weekly schedule for myself that would allow for some down time. I plowed full speed ahead for months before and after I launched my business and, after awhile, experienced some burnout. I finally had to take some time to evaluate and prioritize what I was doing. I made appointments for myself to take a walk in the morning and meet a friend for lunch or dinner.
According to Michael W. Ziga, President of Current Electrical/Mechanical Contractors, Inc., in Shorewood, Illinois. I never understood the time you would have to sacrifice from yourself and your family. You will have to dedicate yourself 110%, but you have to ride that fine line to keep your sanity, keep your customers and employees happy and, most importantly, keep your family happy.
We all have stories about what we wish we would have done differently. I am interested to know what other small business owners wish they would have known before starting their businesses. Please use the comment feature and post your examples.
Lorene Kennard is the owner of Walnut Avenue Research, a freelance research business based in Morris, Illinois. She has 20 years of experience in insurance, financial services, research and information. Some of her clients include entrepreneurs in the beginning stages of business planning as well as established business owners looking for information on their competition. Ms. Kennard received her B.S. from Illinois State University and her M.L.I.S. from University of South Carolina. Her column was written largely at night and on the weekend. Read and sign up for her new e-newsletter, In a Nutshell.