Owning Your Own Business - The 10 Things You Must Know
Whether you are starting your own business from scratch, going into a business opportunity, or buying a business, you need to have certain characteristics, traits, skills, and goals in order to succeed. So how do you know if you are ready to own a business? Basically, you need to ask yourself some hard questions and give yourself honest answers. If you don’t have the time and commitment to start a business, you need to look elsewhere for your income. You may be better served accepting a job with a company. There are those that need structure and a job is the place for them. But, if you are inclined to owning your own business, then lets discuss some necessary items. First, you need to have a plan. The plan can come from your own imagination, the franchisor, or the company offering the business opportunity. It doesn’t have to be something set in stone, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to be a basic outline of what your business will be, what you will sell, how you will sell it, and what your operating costs will be. It is recommended that you include at least three months of operating expenses into your start up costs budget, which also needs to be determined in your plan. The next item is paramount to your success. It is the infamous 4 letter word and that is work.
My occupation centers around helping business owners analyze their assets and coaching them on decisions as to whether or not they should sell all or part of their businesses. As such, I am privy to a wide variety of business information and I can tell you first hand, I tend to see a lot of bad operations. Additionally, based on my experience of having owned and operated several businesses myself, I also coach buyers on what to look for in a business and how the process of buying a business works. So it is not uncommon for me to skew to the negative side of things and to look for warning signs that could potentially hurt either party in a business resale transaction. I don't enjoy searching for the negative aspects of business, but I know them and I work hard to seek out, identify, and mitigate the impact that these risk factors may have on either party.However, I don't always find things that are bad. And during this time, with all the doom and gloom of our present economy, I thought I would share a story with you about an operator that stood above the crowd and ran an excellent business.Several years ago, before I began to specialize in the sales and acquisition of convenience stores, I worked as a transactional broker in multiple industries. One of which was the hotel and motel industry. At the time a friend of mine happened to own a boutique hotel in the Caribbean on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. One day he mentioned to me that he was tired and since he had owned the hotel for several years he had decided to sell it so he could spend more time with his family. I agreed to help him and began to review his books and records. Upon initiating my review, one of the first things I noticed was that he was doing a good business...a very good business. By that I mean he was running a 90% occupancy rate and had been for several years. It wasn't like he'd just had a good year or two; he had been having very profitable years for quite some time. When I asked him how he had managed to get the occupancy rate to 90% and keep it there, he said that over the years, during the slow seasons, he would make several small changes to the property to maintain a fresh business. Every six months or so, he made sure to do something different to his hotel. It could be a new painting on the wall in the lobby or new trash containers or new towels, etc. But he would always make some change or add something new for his customers to see.When I asked him why he did that, his reply was, "My customers expect to see something new all of the time." He explained, "You see, even though a lot of my customers may be transient, many of them are not, because I work to keep them coming back to me every year. They enjoy their experience at the hotel and they want to see something different, even if it is a little thing." He also mentioned to me that when occupancy would begin to drop-off he would personally go into the town and offer air conditioned rooms to the locals for a reduced price to help fill his rooms and continue to generate cash flow.Wow, I thought. What a novel idea. He went and asked for someone's business.So I began to work at selling his hotel. I can't tell you how many interested people I had look at his hotel. Finally I found a businessman and his son from Ohio who had seen the property, met with the owner and had even gotten the accountant involved in the sale of the business. But just when I was about to write the purchase agreement the deal came to a screeching halt. The buyer said that he could not buy the business.I asked him why? Was it because of the asking price? Was there something wrong with the cash flow or the numbers of the business that did not look in order? No, it was none of those items at all. The numbers were great and the assets of the hotel were in excellent condition. The answer to why he could not buy the business still rings through my ears today as clear as if it was yesterday. He said, "I cannot buy this gentleman's hotel, because he is doing such a good job of operating it that there is no more upside left for me." He said, "I cannot begin to operate it any better than the present owner, because he has done everything right in operating the business and continues to do so even during the hard times."Astounding as it may sound, this hotel was the proverbial case of a car with eight cylinders running on all eight cylinders and doing so well that there was no more upside left in the business. The business was doing too good to be considered salable.It wasn't until some years later that I encountered this same issue again. I was contacted by a gentleman who owned about 12 convenience stores and had decided that he wanted to sell about half of them to reduce his work load. Here again when I inspected the quality of the physical assets of the stores and reviewed his books and records I discovered that I had encountered another "eight cylinder car running on all eight cylinders".The man and his team were great operators. Whenever something broke in the store or something needed replaced or maintenance on the outside, they fixed it. I could not find a blemish anywhere and most of the stores were over 5 years old. His merchandising and floor plan was laid out well and the store traffic flowed. Every time I visited a store they had merchandising specials throughout the store from different vendors. All of his stores were very profitable and operating well. I remembered the hotel in St. Croix and prepared myself for some tough sales. But I was wrong. I ended up selling all the stores he asked me to sell. I know that the people who bought those stores were happy knowing they were buying excellent running assets. And they were especially happy with the fact that all they had to do to maintain the stores success was to continue with the process of running the stores the same way that the previous owner had.So what is the moral of this story?When buying a business you always have a choice. You can buy a business that is an excellent running business and all you have to do is show up and do the same things that the last owner was doing. This would be like buying an eight cylinder car that is running on all eight cylinders.Or you can buy a business that needs some attention and some tender loving care and has more upside, but will also take more work to get the business tuned up and running well. This would be the eight cylinder car that is only running of six cylinders and needs work. In other words it is a fixer upper.Either way you go you will always generally be farther ahead than trying to start a business from scratch and doing it the hard way. So go for it. Find the business that suits your taste and then decide if you are buying a fixer upper or one you can walk in and is ready to go and begin to enjoy the journey.
Buying a Business - The Traps and How to Avoid Them - Part 1
Lots of people have the dream of owning their own business, but they get bogged down in the details of how to go about it. While this article isn't meant to serve as a complete business start-up guide, it will give you an idea of some steps to take.1.EntitiesThe two most important professionals you will need to begin are a lawyer and an accountant. The lawyer can help you decide if you want to be a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or some other type of company. A good accountant can help you make the decision based on what will be most advantageous for you from a tax angle. Your lawyer can also help you register your business and get the licenses and permits you need.2.Make a Business PlanYou need to get a business professional to help you writ a business plan. You will need one to help you get organized and to help keep your goal in mind. This could be anything from serving hot dogs to people outside your home to providing technical support. Either way, you need a plan that sketches out how to proceed and an estimate of how much money you will need. 3.Get FinancingHow much start-up money will you need? Do you have the savings? Do you have friends who would want to invest? Do you need a Loan? Whatever your plan is, you will need to present a copy of your business plan to bankers or investors if you need to loan money to get the company rolling.4.A Record-keeping SystemA good accountant can advise you on the best record keeping software for your business, and help you set up a system for keeping track of payables, receivables, sales tax, payroll, employee benefits, and so forth. You will rely on the accountant for at least your yearly return, and possibly for quarterly payroll and sales tax returns. Your accountant can also get you an EIN number (Employer Identification Number).5.LocationDepending on your business, location may be important. If you are not going to run it from your own home, location can make or break you - and the rent is due no matter which way the tables turn. You will also need to get a phone, get the utilities turned on, install your furniture and equipment, and get a sign or two.6.Accounts with Credit Card CompaniesYou will need to invest in a method for checking the validity of debit and credit cards.7.EmployeesYou may not need to do this step if you are a one-person operation. Maybe you can get by with just one part-time person to answer phones and do some paperwork. It just depends on your business. You will need to have them complete various forms for the IRS, and you may want to run a background check. 8.Promote your BusinessDecide how you will let people know you exist, what you can do for them, and why they should come to you. You may want to advertise on TV, have a radio commercial, newspaper ads, flyers, and coupons.The list might make you think twice about starting a business of your own. But, you can do it without all the headaches of traditional business. There is a very simple way of attaining the goal that has worked for millions of people. The best part of exploring home-based business opportunities is that there is little risk and the upside is tremendous. Many of the pressures of the traditional business are wiped away with the home business.
The Advantages of Owning a Home-Based Business
I get asked this question all of the time. Mainly, this question comes from people I run into that own and operate a small business and have always done things for themselves. The business may have a few employees, own some assets and is quite profitable. When speaking with them, I always hear "I don't really have any legal problems so why do I need a lawyer? Business is good and my employees love me." Well, when I hear this, I know what I am getting into.The first thing I ask these people is: how is your business structured? LLC? Corporation? Once we determine that answer, the next questions become: Do you have an operating agreement if you are an LLC or by-laws if you are a corporation? Do you have annual meeting minutes? Seven out of ten times people respond "no" to these questions. This is why they need a business lawyer. If they are not following corporate formalities and organizational protocols and someone would sue the company, the chance of that plaintiff piercing the corporate veil and attacking the owner's personal assets increases exponentially. Another question I ask is: do you have written contracts for the work you perform and the business dealing you are involved in? About 4 out of 10 say no. Again, this is why they need a business lawyer. The handshake agreement doesn't work in today's society. Everything should be in writing, not because you can trust no one, it is because you need to protect your rights. If they don't have contracts they use or have written them themselves, you can bet that they will spend insane amounts of money to settle disputes that could have been prevented by working with a business lawyer from the start.Lastly, I usually ask them if they understand the various federal and state employment laws that govern the employer-employee relationship. Most respond with "Pennsylvania is an employee at will state and I can fire anyone at anytime." This is what I call a ticking time bomb. Yes, it is true that Pennsylvania recognizes employment at will; however, there are various laws that give employees protection from discrimination, unfair treatment, unfair wages, etc. Most of the time these business owners have no idea what they don't know and end up doing something that costs them ten of thousands of dollars to settle. This is why they need a business lawyer. So as you can see, there are many reasons to work with a business lawyer when you own a business from the start. People improperly assume that the only time they will need a lawyer is in the event that they get sued. However, a good business lawyer will help you run your business in a way that limits the reasons for which you could be sued at a fraction of the cost it will take to litigate and resolve a dispute down the road.
Owning Your Own Business - The 10 Things You Must Know