What are your goals in life? What do you most enjoy doing? Have you ever performed a service free of charge? These are three important questions that you should ask yourself before considering going into business. “The joy in being self employed involves one being dedicated, determined and dependable.” Statistics show that the average small business fails within the first 3 years. I can confirm that the statistics are correct, because I work within an industry that involves setting up new business owners for their merchant services. Some of the various reasons that businesses fail are as follows; lack of advertising, lack of marketing, lack of management, lack of bookkeeping skills, lack of motivation etc.
Who Am I?
I am a Self Employed Financial Consultant with 15 years of experience working with business owners throughout the United States. I also run a second business online involved with Scholarship and Career Planning for High School Juniors, Seniors and College Students. I have 20+ years of experience working with mentoring youth. Now some may ask how the two businesses relate? Well thank you for asking and please allow me to share my personal story of where I started 5 years ago. Years ago, I wrote out a list of goals that I planned to accomplish in life and owning my own business was one of them. The things that I most enjoy doing are helping others. The word that best describes my years of experience is: service. Since my pre-teen years; I started out with volunteer work and I’ve continued this to the present. What I’ve learned over the years is that in order to be an “effective leader” in any area of business; you must first know how to “serve”.
Other things I’ve learned…
Most successful business owner’s will advise you to plan accordingly and never quit your job until you’re financially prepared to do so. They will also advise you to save enough income for 6 months to a year, because the first year in business may not produce enough income for you to comfortably live from. Never feel as if you know it all, because you really don’t. Life is a school of learning and it’s very important to strive to learn something new on a daily basis. I’ve learned to enjoy going to business seminars that teach growth in all areas. “I especially love the free seminars.” Earlier this year; one of my relatives invited me to a 1 Day Seminar that dealt with Public Speaking and Overcoming Performance Anxiety to Improve Presentation Skills. Initially, the invitation didn’t fully engage my interest; because my customers that I work with are over the phone and online. I felt that since I have a Degree in Writing for Radio, TV and Film which involves public speaking; that I didn’t really need this. However, something came to me a few days before the seminar that told me to attend this seminar. It turns out that I would need the information for my 2nd business that recently was formed. I can not tell you how intrigued I was by the speaker who led the seminar with so much grace, elegance and passion. Once the seminar was over; I felt so much empowerment about public speaking. I was actually looking to see if an offering basket was going to be passed around, because she was just that good. (smiles) I felt like I owed this woman something for the wealth of information that she voluntarily shared with us in one day. Although no funds were requested; I gladly purchased one of her motivational cd’s at the end of the session, because this woman knew her trade of Public Speaking and was excellent with her presentation. Once again I realized that just because you have a college degree in a specific area; does not mean you are fully equipped to know “everything” about the business that you are in. This is the reason why vehicles have to be regularly serviced with oil changes and tune-ups. In order to keep things properly moving; you have to be open to change, new technology and educating yourself more. I’d like to recommend that you purchase a book on being in business for yourself and read it from front to back; then use it as a tool to refer to from time to time. One of the best books that has helped me in starting my business is called “The Girl’s Guide To Starting Your Own Business” by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio. The writer’s of this book were so thorough and covered every question that you could imagine.
Timing is very important when starting a new business. Why? First you want to make sure you’ve researched the business industry that you’re interested in and researched your competition along with the target audience that you’re trying to reach. I talk to people all of the time who speak about starting a business that they’ve never worked in; simply because they hear that the money is good. Never base your decision to open a business based upon the money, because you’ll run into alot of problems this way. I would recommend that before you open a new business; that you either take a part-time job or volunteer for a period of time to get a feel of the industry that you’re interested in. I’ll share a scenario with you. Many women know not to buy a nice pair of shoes unless they’ve tried them on and walked around the store for a good amount of time to see their level of comfort. So, why would someone invest their hard earned money and time to form a new business that they know nothing about? I would think that your livelihood is much more important than the effort that is put into buying a new pair of shoes. (smiles) Never base your decision to start a new business on someone else’s success. The shoe must be able to fit the “visionary” to establish long lasting success. Many people can attest that if they had given more thought and application to their decision making for opening up a new business that was new to them; that they would have saved their homes, investments and businesses. “I’ve always stated that anything I love working in; then I’ve already worked in some area of that business for free.” Years ago, I worked for a very large financial institution within Merchant Services as an Account Executive within the Sales Dept of Banking Relationships. My job was to work over the phone with banking customer’s and set them up for their merchant services; however I was often asked by manager’s to allow new employee’s to sit with me to hear my sales calls and to assist in training them on how I closed my sales so effectively over the phone. Training was not in my job description; however I always agreed to assist, because I was helping someone to establish themselves within the company. So, for 15 years I’ve worked within the Merchant Service Industry doing Financial Consulting with business owners with revenues up to six figures and higher per month in processing. In many cases; I’ve had to teach business owners, their bookkeepers and their CPA’s on how to read their statements, understand the difference in merchant service rate quote pricing, how to make decisions on leasing versus purchasing equipment, how to read a monthly and annual rate analysis etc.
So, a year ago; I started thinking about what I could do to help impact the lives of young people living within the United States who were coming out of high school and going into college. I didn’t just want to write a book listing scholarship information but to teach students on how to financially prepare for their college education and careers. There is truly a difference between the two types of resources. I speak from experience when I say that the responsiblity is not solely left to the parents; because I had to do everything myself in funding my education when I went away to college. I grew up in a single parent home with a mother who has a disability and it was a blessing for her to send me to the best private schools for the foundation of my youth. So technically; I couldn’t have asked her for more. Often times I would read various articles in the newspaper about the rates increasing for high school drop-outs and students going into debt with student loans and credit card bills. I’ve also read articles about States cutting funding for scholarships and colleges giving feedback on 1st & 2nd year students often not returning back to school due to lack of funds. I’ve personally spoken to many parents who complain that schools aren’t providing enough scholarship information to students that aren’t on honor roll. In addition to that; I’ve read articles about parents not having funds to send their children to college etc. So, I started looking at high school websites to see what statistics were listed about their students receiving scholarships as they graduate. There was a very small number of schools nationwide showing this information on their website. It’s more than graduating the students, but also helping them to better prepare for their future. I went to my high school website and saw that they keep updated numbers to show that more than a million scholarships have been awarded to our graduating seniors over the years. I will also include that I attended a smaller school which is a private catholic school for young ladies. So, our student body is much smaller than many of the schools that I had viewed nationwide that are not highlighting this information on their websites. This is “good news” that needs to be shared and broadened amongst the student body nationwide in our schools. Although we appreciate hearing the exciting news about how well our schools are doing within the Athletic Department and which students are playing college sports and or drafted to the NBA, NFL and MLB; our schools need to also highlight what percentage of graduating seniors are receiving scholarships to further their education. If you ever want a student to pick up on a good habit; then try highlighting information about their peers winning scholarships to pay for their college education. I attended a banquet last year for my Godson who is apart of his school band. During the banquet, there was a special presentation showing graduating seniors and their scholarships that they had received to further their education. I was amazed to see the excitement amongst the students “celebrating their peers”. So, I encourage more schools nationwide to track information on their website about the percentage of students graduating with scholarships, because this is an excellent tool to motivate students to create a better pathway for their future. The persistence the student will need in applying for scholarships, is the same persistence needed once the college diploma is received. The students will begin to understand that the drive used in applying for and winning scholarships will be the same drive needed to apply for jobs in their career or better yet; for opening their own business one day. “America truly needs more business owners.” So, in 2011, I attended a business seminar that reinforced my vision to create a business nationwide to help our young people to tap into the resources available to pay for their college education in a “unique kind of way”.
While growing up I regularly visited the library, because I love to read. So, the ideal job for me while in high school was not to work at a restaurant and enjoy free food, but to work at a downtown public library in Toledo, OH. I worked within the Social Science Department as an Assistant to the Librarian helping patrons to locate books. Our department had numerous books on Scholarships, Grants and Fellowships to pay for your college education. I learned so much information from reading through the books that helped me to receive funds when it was time for me to attend college. So, over the years; I’ve voluntarily shared information with students and parents about where to locate funds to pay for college. Many people have been surprised to know that you don’t have to be a 4.0 or better student to receive scholarships. There are so many scholarships based upon just about every aspect of life the student is involved in. So, I decided to contact a close friend of mine from high school and we formed a new business called: Inspiring Students To Excel In Higher Education -www.inspiringstudentstoexcel.com. We couldn’t have chosen a better name for our business, because this has been our mission for many years with our various mentorship programs that we’ve been involved with.
As I close out my article on the Joy of Owning My Own Business; I’d like to share with you 5 key things that have helped me in my 5 years in business. I hope my recommendations will help you to excel as well.
1. Financial Overview – Review your current financial obligations to determine how much you’ll need to save over a period of 6 months to a year for living expenses. This will be a good time to put yourself on a serious budget; if you’re not already on one. Here’s a website on how to put together a Financial Overview: www.bankrate.com
2. Business Plan – This is the blue print for your business; better known as the foundation. It’s kind of like when you’re building a house, you want to make sure that the foundation of the house is built to withstand storms, weather conditions and any other harmful things that will come your way. Your business plan is also your forecast for your future. If you need assistance in writing a business plan refer to the following sites: www.sba.gov or www.ehow.com
3. Hire A Tax Advisor & Seek Legal Advice – This is very important when starting a new business, because they can save you alot of money in the early stages and help you to prevent costly mistakes. Tax Advisors can also provide you with organizational charts to track your monthly expenses. I recently learned some new information after attending a free seminar given by a Tax Advisor. He explained the importance of knowing when to incorporate your business and understanding the better advantages of having an S Corporation to help business owner’s with better tax breaks.
4. Networking and Joining Professional Organizations – Try to frequently attend seminars for motivational and business empowerment skills. You will need these type of seminars to help keep you encouraged and motivated. It’s very important to network and meet other business owners to get the word out about what you do. It’s also great motivation for you to be in the company of other business owners and hear the stories of where they began and where they are now.
5. Set Up a Business Email Address, P.O. Box and Contact Your Local Business License Bureau – It is very important to have a professional email address separate from your personal one. You never want to make a mistake and forward out a personal email to a business customer. Also, you want people to identify you in your email address either by your name or your business name. Contact your local Business License Department to see what requirements are needed for your type of business that you’re opening. Setting up a p.o. box is also important for those who will work from home and even a store front location.
“Much success to you and remember that dreams aren’t accomplished until you get up and put them into action!”