Are you unsure what a successful business plan looks like? Do you have a real sense of how much money you are going to need? Are you wondering how long it will take until you are profitable? We are here with experts who have navigated every aspect of a business startup to help you chart a path to realize your dream.
- Money. Let’s get right into it: yes, you need money. …
- Neglecting to focus on marketing and sales. …
- Lack of planning. …
- Finding the right people. …
- Time management. …
- Scaling up [and or] Fierce Competition.
- Your comfort zone.
- Financial Management. …
- Limited Resources
- Technology Challenges (Cyber Security, ECommerce, etc.)
- Unrealistic Expectations. Success does not come alone
Business 101: Planning
BUSINESS CONCEPT AND VALIDATION
Getting started is often the hardest part. Having a sense that your idea has real potential for success can go a long way, giving you the confidence to take that first hard step. We will work with you to perform a feasibility analysis of your potential startup business, including market identification, market-entry, breakeven budget, and market pricing data. We will then guide you through the steps necessary to validate the business idea through potential customer feedback or test sales.
PERMITS AND LICENSES
As you work to define your business concept clearly, we can also help you understand the necessary permits and licenses you may require and then connect you to the right agency to secure any necessary paperwork.
Naming a business may not be as emotional as naming a child, but it’s a close second. When you are ready to put a name on your business, we’ll help you define the regulations regarding the business name and help with the filing process.
Understanding your customer is a critical component of validating your business concept. We will work with you to outlines the demographic data needed to validate your startup business and recommend both free and fee-based resources to define the suggested demographic information. Upon completing the research, we will help analyze the data to determine and define any demographic information that will benefit your business’s start.
If your startup is a franchise, we can also work with you on a feasibility analysis to determine its viability where you plan to operate.
Financing & Accounting
Financing & Accounting
We may not have a crystal ball, but we can help you forecast future revenue and expenses to help you pitch to potential investors and lenders for inclusion in your business plan or other funding opportunities.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
Any business needs money to start. We will work with you to determine the feasibility of accessing various private or public financing arrangements for your business by analyzing your financial statements and credit history against lender requirements. We can also work with you in determining an action plan and timeline for obtaining capital.
When you are ready to pursue a business loan, we will help you package your loan to maximize your success. One of the most valuable aspects of this service is our ability to shop your loan to our network partners to help you obtain the best terms and rates.
Getting your finances and accounting set up right the first time will save you countless headaches in the future. We will work with you to set up proper structures in Quickbooks to manage your business’s specific financial activities.
With a proper system in place, we can help you establish business accounting procedures and standards that ensure proper financial management and legal compliance.
Taxes may be inevitable, but they don’t have to be daunting or scary. Having a strong tax strategy in place will save you money and give you the peace of mind that you are following all the rules. We will work with you to maximize your tax savings while also ensuring you meet your tax obligations.
If you are selling goods purchased with electronic transactions, we will help you set up an appropriate system such as credit or ATM card acceptance. We can also help you weigh the cost-benefit between different merchant service providers and provide information on EMV chip requirements and risk management.
Legal & HR
Legal & HR
There are many ways to structure a business. We will work with you to discuss the legal and tax benefits and drawbacks of different legal structures to find the one that will work best for your business.
If you are starting a business with someone else, we can help you navigate your partnership options. Guiding you through a draft outline of mutually desired outcomes and expectations, we will provide you with legal assistance resources required to finalize a mutually beneficial and fair partnership agreement.
BECOMING AN EMPLOYER
When you start signing the front of checks, your responsibilities to your employees and government and state agencies increase. We can introduce you to all government and state agencies involved in payroll employee reporting. We’ll also help with necessary insurance and tax requirements related to hiring employees and can provide you with contacts to remain updated with all employee compliance issues.
Once you are set up to pay your employees responsibly, we’ll help you set up a new hire checklist for all new employees, including all required documentation, as well as advice on job descriptions, employee manuals, and a compensation outline.
SHOULD I BUY OR LEASE EQUIPMENT?
There are many benefits as well as drawbacks to different operations strategies related to equipment. We consult with you to determine the best option for your business.
When it’s time to find space for your business, we will partner with you to help you prepare and analyze potential lease agreements to determine each option’s advantages and disadvantages.
HOW MANY EMPLOYEES DO I NEED?
Striking the right balance for staffing your business with the people you need to serve your customers without overstaffing with employees you don’t need is tricky at any stage of business. It’s sometimes the hardest at the start. We will work with you to help you find the right balance to meet your goals.
WHAT KIND OF INSURANCE SHOULD I CONSIDER?
There are several legal risks and ramifications for being under-insured. We will work with you to determine all necessary insurance and tax requirements related to hiring employees.
PRODUCTION PROCESS OPTIMIZATION
Whether your business provides goods or services or both, you must fully understand all necessary to produce the end product. Our experts can help you understand your production process and make changes and adjustments necessary to improve efficiency and profit margins and avoid a potential cash flow drought.
Within each production process, many factors affect efficiency, such as flow, flexibility, number of products/types of services to be supplied, capital (money and equipment) investment, labor skills of all involved, and production volume. We will help guide your small business towards a production standard of greater efficiency.
There must be an established process in place to get your quality products and services to your customers in a timely fashion and leave them feeling satisfied. We can help you ensure you’ve got a great delivery experience in place and help you with ideas for achieving positive client feedback on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other review sites.
EQUIPMENT AND TOOLS
The right amount of the right tools and equipment will provide you with what you need, when you need it, without enormous stress on your operating capital. Finding a balance between too much and not enough can be tricky. We can help you with projections to steer clear disappointed customers or too much product sitting on the shelves.
Your product inventory represents an investment that must be managed efficiently. Striking a balance between carrying too much and too little inventory is key. We can show you how to determine the optimal inventory levels to enhance your profits.
BILLING & COLLECTION PROCESS
You didn’t get into business to chase invoices. Collecting overdue payments may be unpleasant and difficult at times, but it is part of the process, and your business operates on the fair exchange of products and services for the exchange of cash. We can help you refine your billing and collection process to make it more effective and efficient.
Marketing & ROI
Marketing, Growth & ROI
Being the best at what you do doesn’t matter if no one knows you are doing it. Your customers are your lifeblood, and you need a strong marketing strategy to attract, retain, and grow your customer base – connecting them to the unique service or product you provide. We will work with you to help you understand what differentiates your business from the competition, what your customers really need from you, and the problem your business solves for them, as well as how to reach them with the story of your business to build a lasting relationship and a reliable customer base. Some of the marketing tools we help you develop include:
Our business experts can provide real-world advice on developing an effective marketing plan that you can execute either on your own or with a marketing firm. We will help you communicate your value proposition in various ways and define your ideal customer to help you connect with the people most likely to want to spend money on what you offer.
3.6 billion people use social media worldwide. You need a strong social media strategy if you are to reach your customers where they are.
WEB DEVELOPMENT/CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
Your website is your welcome mat – often the very first impression you make on customers. We will help you navigate the process of building and designing a website, arming you with the tools you need to build your best website either on your own or with the help of professional designers.
Looking for more information? We have many downloadable tools to help you get started. If you still have questions or still aren’t sure if starting a business is right for you, contact us for a free consultation with our business experts.
Lean Planning Canvas
A one-page tool that will allow you to quickly identify potential customers, identify opportunities and needs…
Checklist for Starting a Business in Santa Cruz County
Planning Writing a Business Plan SBDC Strategy Advisors: Keith Holtaway and Marco Vides A Business Plan…
Tools to Get You Through COVID-19
Business Resource Guide (Tool) COVID-19 Return to Work Playbook (Tool) The Simple Cash Flow Tool For…