Dr. Deborah Osgood has been referred to by IBM as "the Oprah of small business development" and a "powerhouse in self-employment success strategies." The recipient of numerous awards in small business development and leadership and a renowned author, motivational speaker, business mentor, and accomplished entrepreneur, Dr. Osgood is one of America's most prolific contributors to driving small business startup, growth, and success. She is the cofounder and CEO of the Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development (KISBD).
Ask a banker, a business counselor, or just about anyone how to start a business, and most all will reply, “Write a business plan.” While this is an important step, it is not the first step. Nor is it even the second. Instead, the best way to start, grow, and succeed in business is to begin by aligning who you are with what you want to do.
The methods for succeeding in business are actually based in business science. For example, either you're delivering a product or service at a profit or you are not. This depends on two types of expenses:
- Fixed costs. These don't change whether you sell something or not. Fixed costs may include things like your monthly cell phone and Internet fees.
- Variable costs. These are directly associated with what and how much you sell, which could include your time and gasoline to drive from one job to another.
The objective is to make sure that your costs are lower than your selling price over the long term. Much of this comes down to good recordkeeping and basic math.
Beyond the Basic Science
On the other hand, we are humans and all humans are unique. From the moment we are born, as soon as we interact with our environment, we begin to evolve. Even identical twins evolve differently over time. Because we are unique, it makes more sense to start a business by first understanding your inherent strengths, interests, and quality-of-life objectives. This process is an art – it accounts for all the nuances and complexities of individual humans and can’t be boiled down to a few accounting principles.
While the science of business can be learned, it is difficult to succeed in business if you’re not doing what you’re naturally good at, what you enjoy, and what ultimately feels rewarding, no matter how much time and effort you invest. This is why the first step to succeeding in business is to understand who you are.
The next step is to test out your ideas. If you provide a service or plan to sell a product that you can produce a prototype of, go out and test the market. Learn more about…
- Who wants what you have to offer (the target market).
- What they are willing to pay for it (pricing strategy).
Once you’ve conducted these experiments, survey your buyers to ask what they liked and what could be improved (customer satisfaction). From these experiences, you now have a more realistic “context” to develop the business plan “content.”
Without the data provided by these two exercises, a business plan is just an academic exercise based mainly in speculation and little in actual reality.
The 21st century holds much promise for entrepreneurs. In essence, business success is based in providing a product or service that solves a need in such a way that everyone benefits. With the continued growth of the Internet and advances in technology, there are self-employed individuals making millions of dollars a year selling their particular area of expertise in industries such as finance, healthcare, and information technology. There are also individuals working out of their homes doing graphic design, programming, and selling hundreds of thousands of dollars on eBay to people all over the world.
The fact is that if you can think it and you truly want it, you can learn it and truly live it by being your own boss and succeeding in your own business.
10 Tips for Pursuing Your Ideal Business
With a little bit of business science and ingenuity, you can be well on your way to building your own business. Here are some great places to start. Be sure to write down your ideas.
- Know thyself. What are your inherent strengths, current skills, and interests?
- To thine own self be true. What do you want out of life?
- Define the value equation. What value do you have to offer others that, in return, offers you what you need to achieve your objectives?
- Leverage the leaders. Who is doing something similar now? How can you learn from and leverage their success to build your own?
- Monetize it. How will you do what, when, and where to generate $A, $B, & $C over six to 12 months, two years, and three years respectively?
- Test it. Go out and get someone to buy what you have to offer.
- Refine it. What did you learn? What worked well? What didn't?
- Repeat it. Go out and sell it again based on what you learned.
- Build the business plan. Write your own business plan.
- Don't go it alone. Visit the Business Utility Zone Gateway to connect with a local or virtual no-cost business assistance agency that will help you every step of the way.
Today's world is ripe for entrepreneurial ventures. Small, medium, or large, there is every reason to expect your share of reward – financially and personally – by going for it!
For more information on Dr. Deborah Osgood and the Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development, visit the KISBD website.