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Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Key Question: How do you leverage your first sale?

Eight steps open many paths in business

  Four Steps to start and run All of us
Step 1. Initial Idea $
Step 2. Start-up $$
Step 3. Incubate $$$
Step 4. Sole proprietor $$$
  Four to run and grow a business orngeldy.gif
Step 5. Employer $$
Step 6. Growth $$$
Step 7. Sustainability $$$$
Step 8. Exit at the top $$$$

The Online Workshop -  Case Studies

Review some of the episodes that talk about support groups, home offices, and the how they incubated their start-up:

1.  Opportunity Knocks. Go inside a group that incubates businesses by having  owners  help each other to grow.  More...

2.  Flap Happy. Laurie Snyder takes you from her original idea -- to create a product to protect her newborn son from the sun-- to her current effort to fulfill orders for LL Bean.   More...

3.   On Target Supplies & Logistics. Albert Black shows you the depth of a compelling idea and how it carried him through his second job for ten years before he could go full-time.  More...

4.   The Enterprise Network (TEN). The Enterprise Network is an incubator! Take your idea here; once accepted you will be on track for professional advisers and deep pockets of venture capital. More...

5.  Time Technology.  Nigel Skeffington says, "Stay True to Yourself."  He left a great job when his boss wouldn't agree to act on new ideas.

6.   St. Claire Mints.  The fact that  Altoids with beef gelatin were being sold in health food stores was important to Debra's success.  She didn't have to convince the stores to sell a breath mint.  She only had to show how she was different.

7.   Altoon + Porter.  Ron Altoon says, "Prepare Yourself."  Starting and growing a business is not for the weak or the uninformed.  To prepare, Ron Altoon and Jim Porter did their homework before they opened their architectural firm.

8.  The Tile Connection.  Jimmy Fand says, "Educate yourself."  When did Jimmy he arrived in New York City he knew he was lacking education so he went to college and eventually became a teacher.  A basic education plus experience in the field in which you want to operate seems to be the best formula for success.

Key Questions at Step 3

1. Understanding Oneself - the Basics:   What are your strengths?  Meet  Thomas Keller, he started a new version of The French Laundry, a high-end restaurant.  He just knew he could be the best chef in the world.  He had been the top chef for a five-star hotel.  He had been a partner in two unsuccessful restaurant ventures.  He knew himself, his strengths and weaknesses.


2. Understanding One's History - the Past.  Are you building on your strengths?  Meet Monica Morgan; she became one of the nation's leading photographers.  First, she was a journalist and did the photography as an aside.

3. Understanding One's Values - the Present. What is your special insight and what new values do you bring into the equation?  Meet Sohrab Vossoughi; he started Ziba Design with $400.  Yet, he had already done major design work for Hewlett Packard and they wanted him to continue on.  He did as an independent contractor so he could pursue his vision of excellence.

4. Understanding One's Direction - the Future. The most successful business  starts are with people who have deep knowledge of their subject and a clear vision of their future.  Meet  Ashley Postlewaite; she's the renegade who with a partner started  Renegade Animation to compete with her former employees, Warner Brothers!

All of these people were talented and on mission.  They were destined to succeed.  Some of us are not quite so clear.  We will get there, but the vision  is not as sharp as someone who has been in an industry for ten or more year.

If you are among this group and you are feeling remarkably independent, be sure to spend some time with folks who are home alone:  SoHo, the Small Office / Home Office.

For more, go to section about Money at Step 3.

Step 3 - Incubating your business               Overview Orientation

»  You made your first sale!
»  You have a name for your business.
»  You have projections and goals and a timeline.
»  You have a few advisers.
»  You are aggressively doing product development.

You enter this phase saying, "I am ready, willing, and able to sell!" You have successfully sold your first product or service to some other company or a person outside your family and circle of friends.

When you quit your full-time job and you are working "more than  full-time" within your own business, you will have jumped up to Step 4.

Four Paths Within Step 3

1. The Basics - Integrating Self, Family, Business, and Community.

Look at where you are. Notice the constant self-assessment. You now have the makings of a business. You have a mission statement, a URL, a working draft of a business plan, advisers, a product (or service), and a customer.  Did it all?

You're laying the foundations for a sustainable business. 

Congratulations! You have come a long way. If haven't done all of these things and you still made that first sale, don't get cocky. Soon there will be no more corporate safety net. You're learning how to sell to survive. And, hopefully you are discovering how quickly you can replace your old income while you "enjoy" the process of building your business.

If you have not worked through Step 1 or Step2, please check out those pages. Even though you have come this far, the activities will still give you some insight into your inner self and your motivations.

If you think you might work from your home, review this episode of the show.

If you already have that home office set up, you will need support groups. Join, join, join. Introduce yourself to the local Chamber of Commerce. Look up your regional small business association.  Many businesses on the show have been helped by the SBA. If you are near any university, there is a strong possibility that there is also an SBA Small Business Development Center at the school.  They offer plenty of free resources.

Please do not be afraid to share your ideas or ask for help. Nobody has as much passion for your ideas as you do.

2. Your community, Your Past & Your knowledge

Support the first sale; learn more about your target market, and begin looking for a home for your business.

The most important decision that you make is your choice of the people with whom you spend time and even just hang out.

Keys to go on to Step 4. You need a place from which to work and you have four basic choices: (1) a home office, (2) an office within another business,  (3) a  small office, or  (4) incubator space.

Make a list of ten business owners who are similar to the people within the business that bought your product/service. Prioritize that list based on who you believe would buy your products/services most readily and try to get an appointment to see each of them.

Ask them to help you position your new company to become one of their suppliers. You are doing market research.

In the process, you can also find a home for your business. When you find a company where the environment and chemistry is speaking to you, ask that person if they might want to do a trade for space and initial infrastructure for the cost of goods plus a little margin to keep yourself alive.

You have to risk hearing a "NO," before you will hear, "Yes."

If you have decided that you cannot work from your home: You can find an incubator or create your own. To find an incubator, enter the word in your favorite search engine "Business incubator + (your state)", and follow through on the leads that most interest you, or go to the National Business Incubation Association. They are chartered by the SBA to help incubate newly started businesses. Again, please do not hesitate to ask any of these people for help.

3. Structure your time, implement your values, be in the moment

Time management is an art. Continue learning all you can about managing it, your money, and resources. If you want to work through a systematic program for business development, get a business mentor or coach. There are many, many resources.

The next key step, a major hurdle for most of us, is to begin to sell consistently. A business is not a business until something is sold.

Ethics. Especially during this incubation period, we recommend that you do not give up your full-time job. However, be sure when you sell something, there is no possible conflict of interest with your current employer. Unless you have signed a non-compete employment clause, it does not mean that you cannot be in a similar business. But you must be sure that you do not use any proprietary information and you do not abuse the responsibilities you have to your current employer. If there is a shade of doubt, resign and find another job to sustain yourself while you build your business.

Be ethical. Integrity will always reward you. Someday you will have employees and you will want them to be ethical and responsible.

Work on your new business after you finish your regular work hours. Work on weekends. Work on holidays. Be honest. Be fair.

If you know you are on the right path, you will need no other motivation to build an infrastructure to do your special work full time.

4. Project the day of the Flying Leap.

This is a magical projection. You are looking out on the horizon to the day you give that notice to your current employer and you start the next day on your own. You are talking about the day you become a Sole Proprietor. Every one of the 25 million small business owners has been here. You can do it.

If there is an intuition that is holding you back, check it out with your advisers. Begin to set up a general ledger so you can actually generate financials. You are making sales. You have a working business model. Articulate that model within your business plan. Build confidence.

Also, be careful checking out resources for investors. That can destroy your confidence. Great small businesses hear, "No" every day, even with great financials and a track record!

Work through our page about money. You'll see a lot about equity, liquidity, and sustainability. We have not met one small business owner who does not need more working capital than they have, and we are out to change that!

Put up that web site. Yes, even now. You have a product and a customer. Now you have a reference. These pages become part of your sales cycle. Even if your business is just in your local community, that website will serve you in the following ways:

1. Knowledge Management. Starting with your mission and vision statements, the web becomes your dynamic area to define and develop your uniqueness. You will be stimulated to differentiate yourself.

2. Infrastructure. It is your cost-effective way for customers to pay you and for you to pay suppliers, order materials and services, and even do inventory!

3. Marketing. Let all your people know of any price change instantly from anywhere where you have a web connection.

Every story in the show listings is a valuable source for you, but we especially recommend reviewing those stories in your industry type. Please be sure to review each of the Case Study Guides as you watch the shows.