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        Planning Through the Life Cycle of Your Small Business

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        Planning Through the Life Cycle of Your Business - Part 1

        © 2014 Elena Fawkner

        "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  How often have you heard
        that little homily?  Never has this particular saying been so true
        as when applied to a home-based business owner.  After all,
        if you don't plan for the future success of your business, who

        In this article, we look at planning through the life cycle of
        your business.  As you will see, the growth pattern of a home
        business is remarkably similar to the growth pattern of a
        human being - from the time that it's nothing more than a gleam
        in its owner's eye, to conception and birth, toddlerhood, the
        terrible two's, the troubled teens, young adulthood, bona fide
        grown-up; mid-life crisis until, finally, hopefully, majestic
        maturity.  During each life stage you need to be planning for
        the next.


        To begin with, the idea of a home business of your own starts
        as just a thought in the back of your mind.  You're probably
        working full-time, perhaps a parent wanting to work from home
        to be with your children rather than putting them in daycare.
        Or maybe you're a stay at home mom wanting to earn an
        income while you're at it.

        Start considering options.  Look for business ideas and
        opportunities that will work from home.  There is no shortage
        of ideas out there but start with your natural passions.  Do you
        love to garden?  Consider a dried herb business.  Do you love
        leadlighting or sewing?  Look to these talents first and find
        a way to make them pay.  For more on exploiting your
        natural talents, read "What's Your Niche?"

        Think about your motivations.  Why do you want to work
        from home?  Be clear in your own mind about this.  Don't
        make the decision for the wrong reason.  It won't be a cake-
        walk.  If you're already in the workforce, think about how it
        will feel for you to give up that regular, secure bi-weekly
        paycheck.  Do you have what it takes to stick it out and see
        it through?

        Do NOT start a business from home thinking you will be able
        to spend all the time you want with your kids AND run a
        successful business on the side.  Both are full-time endeavors.
        You may still need to put your kids in daycare, at least some
        of the time.  If not, your business will have to be a part-time
        venture.  You won't generate the sort of income you're used to
        on a part-time basis so consider your financial position

        In other words, plan what it will take for you to be able to make
        the break from workforce to home business.  Include in your
        plan not only financial issues but a consideration of your
        personality and lifestyle.  The obvious financial issues include
        how much do you need to be able to generate from your business
        to be able to give up your full-time job? How will you fund your
        retirement? How will you fund your business expenses?  How
        will you afford health insurance?  Your mortgage?   Consider
        your personality, also.  Working from home can be isolating.
        Will you be able to cope with that?  (See "Overcoming Isolation
        in Your Home Business"

        Are you self-disciplined?  Will you work when you have to even if
        there's no boss looking over your shoulder?  Can you live with
        uncertainty?  There will be times when you will worry about money
        and the future of your business.  We ALL have lean times, believe
        me!  How will you cope?

        Don't forget to consider your lifestyle.  It can be the difference
        between happiness and misery.  Are you ready and willing to
        make sacrifices to secure your business in the early stages
        ranging from the mediocre such as foregoing your daily diet of
        medical dramas on TV to devote your time to more important
        business issues, to the more challenging such as giving up
        vacations and weekends away for a while?  For a more detailed
        treatment of this subject, see "Look Before You Leap ... Is a
        Home Business REALLY For You?"

        This is perhaps the most crucial stage of your business.  Get
        this bit right and the rest will follow.  Get it wrong, and you'll
        have a constant, unwinnable struggle.  In other words, get your
        head straight FIRST.


        OK.  So you've searched your soul and thought hard about ALL
        the pros and cons and decided that, yes, you know it will be
        hard but you're going to go for it anyway.  Good for you!  You're
        on the brink of an exciting new adventure.

        It's time to conceive your business.  If you're in the paid workforce,
        stay there are long as you can during this stage of your business's
        lifecycle.  A lot of what you do in this stage is putting the pieces
        in place and getting organized.  This can be done on a part-time
        basis while you're still working.  You may as well get paid as
        long as possible, right?  What you're going to be doing here is
        working on your business plan.  In the first stage, you were
        thinking in broadbrush, big picture terms.  You were looking at
        your business as an existing entity and envisioning how that would
        work with your life.

        Now it's time to go from macro to micro.  In this stage you
        need to take your business idea and set out, in detailed steps,
        exactly what you need to do to get there.  Here are some of the
        issues you need to think about:

        => Finance

        This requires a consideration of both sourcing working capital if
        necessary as well as meeting your day to day personal and
        business expenses.  Do you need to invest capital in your
        business to get started such as purchasing equipment?  If so,
        where is the money going to come from?  Will you use your
        401K?  Will you try and get a bank loan (which probably won't
        be easy since you'll be giving up work), borrow from family or
        friends?  Perhaps an angel investor?  Talk to your accountant
        about this if you do need to invest capital in your business to
        get it started.

        And what about your personal expenses?  How will you pay
        your rent or mortgage once you've given up your paycheck?
        Do you have enough savings to see you through?  Are you
        sure?  What will you save in daycare expenses?  What will you
        save in motor vehicle expenses, office lunches, corporate
        wardrobe?  Be sure to think about the savings you will make,
        not just the expenses.  You may find pockets of spare change!

        => Time Management

        What hours do you have available to devote to your business?
        If you have school-age children, the obvious answer is the time
        your kids are in school.  If they're too young for school, what
        time are you going to have available for your business REALLY?
        Is your three year old really going to leave you undisturbed for
        two hours so you can work on that project you promised your
        client would be ready by the end of the day?  You may have no
        choice but to work at night after they're in bed or early in the
        morning before they're awake.

        Think about using daycare one or two days a week as well.  If
        you make this time really productive, it will probably pay for
        itself and your kids get the best of both worlds.  Time with you
        at home and the social interaction they get from the daycare
        environment which helps prepare them for school.

        => Resources

        Apart from financial, what other resources do you need?  Do
        you need a new computer?  Scanner?  Fax machine?  Printer?
        This need not be prohibitively expensive but turn your mind to
        these things.  I just bought a combination color printer, fax
        machine, copier and scanner for a couple of hundred dollars.
        It's a Compaq A1000 and is excellent!

        Think also about your communications systems here.  You'll
        need a separate business telephone, fax and data line.

        => Distribution

        How will you distribute your products or services?  If your
        business is webpage design, it's easy, obviously.  But if your
        business is stained glass lampshades, how will you ship your
        products?  Will insurance be required?  Special handling?

        => Pricing

        How will you price your products and services?  This is a whole
        article unto itself, fortunately, one that I have already written!
        Grab a copy of "Pricing Yourself to Get and Stay In Business"

        => Marketing and Promotion

        How will you market and promote your business?  Think laterally
        here.  There are both online and offline opportunities.  Online, the
        obvious thing to do is create your own website and promote it
        actively.  Offline, consider things such as press releases,
        newspaper advertising and, if your budget runs that far, radio and
        TV advertising.  Your imagination is your only limitation.  Don't
        discount off the wall ideas.  Even car bumper stickers and flyers
        on community bulletin boards count as marketing and promotion!

        => Timing

        Finally, think about when to make the break from paid workforce
        to full-time home business.  It may be that you can run your
        business part-time for a while before giving up your day job.  This
        depends on a thorough consideration of your financial position,
        of course, but more importantly, running your business part-time
        while continuing to work gives you a chance to test the waters, to
        get some idea of whether your business idea will work in the real
        world.  If, in the event your business model simply doesn't
        work, you won't have sacrificed everything in the process.  For
        a more detailed treatment of this subject, read "One Foot In Each
        Camp ... Making the Break from Paid Workforce to Full-Time
        Home Business
        You may also care to read
        a time management article I wrote on moonlighting with a
        business on the side while you work fulltime, "Moonlighting's
        Greatest Challenge

        This concludes Part I of this article.  Hopefully you have plenty
        to be getting on with.  Stay tuned for Part II next week when we'll
        be looking at Toddlerhood, the Terrible Two's and the Troubled

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