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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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