Start Your Own Business – 5 Positive Signs That Will Determine If a Business is Right For You

Starting any type of business is a serious undertaking. You want to make sure that any business that you start is the right one for you. However, the question is, ‘How do you know that a certain business is right for you?’ The best way to find out is to determine how it makes you feel. If a certain business makes you feel like you’re back in high school and you can’t get a date for the senior prom, then that business is not for you. On the other hand, if it makes you feel like dancing the night away (and the morning and afternoon, too), then not only is it a good fit, but may also be a lifesaver. However, there are also other factors to consider when deciding whether or not a business is the right one for you, and you must examine them very closely before choosing either way.

You’re an Expert
You know the business inside and out. In fact, you know it so well that if you were to appear on “Jeopardy” (the TV game show) as a contestant with your business expertise as the only category, you would not only be the big winner, but would also amaze the millions of TV viewers watching the program. As an expert, you are highly confident in your knowledge of the business, and therefore would be a big handful for your competitors.

It’s a Labor of Love
It’s something that you absolutely love, and could do all day long. You would love the business so much that you’d almost end up having a strange extra-marital affair with it. You would do the business every single minute of the day, if sleep wasn’t such an important health issue. Also, you would almost forget that it’s lunchtime, and persist in your work as the clock ticks pass the noon lunch hour. You would be love sick if you were away on vacation, and the business couldn’t go with you. You would talk about it, and drive others crazy as a result. It would be the love of your life; next to your spouse and children, of course.

You are the Best Salesperson for Your Products and Services
You could sell the products and services with ease. Your unique selling proposition would make you highly competitive in the marketplace, and potential customers would see you as the authority. In turn, they would know that they could trust you., and would therefore do business with you. You would neither need nor want to be pushy. However, you would be affectionately persuasive when it came to helping your customers, because you know the benefits of your products and services.

You Can Afford It
Whether you personally had the cash to purchase the business or not, you would get the startup funds through creative financing and clever negotiation. You would then tap into your labor of love for the business, and make it very profitable. This would ultimately ensure that you could afford it in the near future. The business would remain in the “black” throughout your period of ownership, because of your wise economic strategies in connection with expenditures, profits, losses, and investments. You would take care of it well enough for it to regularly increase its annual profit margin.

It Needs You
The business couldn’t do without you. It’s very survival would depend on your leadership and decision-making. In your presence, the business would operate smoothly. However, out of your presence, it would not do as well, because you know it better than those left to manage it. It could only exist, because you make smart decisions to ensure both its survival and growth. No one could run the business the way you could, and it wouldn’t want anyone at the helm but you anyway. It would allow you to spend how you saw fit, because you would do so sensibly. It needs you as its leader, ruler, and chief.

Tax Strategies for Home-Based Businesses

Why start a home-based business

Although the primary reason for starting a home-based business is to make money, there are a number of other reasons for starting your own business including:

Freedom

You have the ability to make your own schedule and not live by a time clock or be subjected to working hours that are not conducive to your family life.

No bosses

You never have to answer to anyone but yourself so no bosses will be hounding you or threatening you with your job if you don’t perform to their expectations.

Mobility

You’re never chained to a desk or stuck in some cramped cubicle.

Earnings potential

You get out of your business what you put into it, so your earnings potential is only limited by you – not the whim of the company or employer that you are working for.

Just be aware of the fact that owning your own business involves a great deal of discipline, maturity, and responsibility. The freedom involved with creating your own work schedule could also be a double-edged sword if you aren’t careful.

IRS and tax considerations

Despite the above advantages of having your own home-based business, there are other important aspects that need to be taken into consideration, namely tax planning. Taxation is a completely different animal when you own your own business because unlike having an employer that makes the deductions for you, you are accountable and responsible for handling this issue on your own. If you want to minimize your annual tax bill, tax planning is critical and needs to be an ongoing event.

Understanding the tax write-offs involved with home-based businesses The biggest mistake that many new home-based business owners make is that they focus on whether to start up that business inside or outside of the home. What they should be focusing on is the tax advantages involved. Surprisingly there are tax advantages when owning a home-based business that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy in a different endeavor. Learning more about your allowable deductions and the numerous write-offs you can take advantage of is the key. Here are a few aspects to consider:

To take or not to take the home office deduction – of all the allowable deductions and other numerous write-offs, this is probably the biggest decision that you will need to make. Even tax accountants debate over whether or not this is a smart idea. This deduction covers both the depreciation and the operating costs associated with maintaining your home office. The percentage of your home’s square footage that is dedicated to your office is normally deductible.

Maximizing the deductibility of your expenses – there are numerous legitimate expenses that may be considered for deduction over and above the ones mentioned in the prior paragraph. Home-based business overhead typically includes a variety of expenses such as advertising expenses, travel expenses, office supplies, equipment depreciation, etc. Chances are, you’re going to be surprised when you realized how many of your daily expenses are actually tax deductible.

Plan your errands with your taxes in mind – the first mile that you travel away from home is deductible so you want to incorporate a component of your home-based business into every trip you make away from home, even if you are running personal errands. For instance, if you have a PO Box set up for your business mailings, make sure that you fit in as many business cold calls as possible when travelling from your home to the post office and back.

Remember, the key to allowable home-based business deductions as well as any brick & mortar business deductions is thorough record keeping. I recommend consulting with your accountant.

How to Become a Successful Business Networker

As a business professional, you bring different talents and personalities to the table when you meet people. However, not everyone has an outgoing personality and sometimes feel lost when faced with networking (especially amongst large groups of people). However, these easy steps will help you successfully network at social functions and business events.

o Keep it real – The main ingredient to successful networking is to be genuine and authentic. People can spot a fake immediately. The only way to build trust and rapport is to keep it real and be honest.

o Prioritize your networking goals – Ask yourself what you want to accomplish when you network in particular groups. Some networking groups lean towards education/learning purposes. Define what meetings/groups will help you achieve your particular business and/or networking goals.

o Know your business inside and out – Have a clear understanding of your business and how your services and products help others. You need to articulate clearly what sets your business/company apart from your competitors. This is very important in referral-based businesses such as real estate. This is essential when you belong to a new group and have to give your “30 second” introduction about your business.

o Volunteer for organizations – Volunteering for a position in a networking group is a great way to become involved. It’s also a great way to give back to a group/organization that has helped you, or has helped the community.

o Visit networking groups that catch your interest – You don’t have to join every group, but it helps to visit groups to see if they are a good match. If you have friends or colleagues who belong to certain groups you like, ask them if you can be their guest at the next meeting. When you visit groups, ask yourself the following questions: Is the group supportive? Does it fit your industry/business scope?

o Ask open-ended questions during meetings – A key trick during group meetings is to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions address the following: “who, what, when, why and how.” These questions also engage other group members in a lively discussion (as opposed to just asking yes or no questions). It also makes group members feel important, and shows you are really interested in their opinions and feedback.

o Become a viable resource for others in your group – Offer suggestions, advice and be looked upon as a viable, informative resource in your networking group. When people look to you as an expert in your field, you become more visible and they will turn to you for help (which equates to more referrals and business in the future).

o Always follow through on referrals – No matter how busy you are, it’s important to follow through quickly and efficiently when you receive referrals from other group members. Remember that your actions are a direct reflection of the person who gave you the referral – don’t let that person down. It’s also seen as professional courtesy and respect, and further builds your credibility as a member of your business networking group.

The 3 Essential Documents Needed to Start Any Business

Starting a business can be a risky undertaking. They can be full of missteps, starts and stops and disappointments. To ensure that you start off on the right footing, there are three documents that will create your ventures foundation. Without them, it will be hard to be successful. These three pieces will take some time to get right. Iterating on them will codify your idea. This creation and iteration process will make your venture much more likely to succeed.

Step 1: The Pitch

The first document is your pitch. This is usually done in some presentation tool like NeoOffice or Keynote or Powerpoint. It should be the first document you create since it outlines your venture.

The importance of the pitch is that it allows you craft a story for your business. It’s what Angels and Venture Capitalists will want to see when they meet you. A good pitch is not a wordy, 12 point font business plan in Power Point but a high level vision of what you want to do. Refining your pitch will strengthen your story. Refining your pitch delivery will make your idea come alive.

Step 2: The Financial Model

Once you have outlined your idea, you need to figure out if it will actually make money. I know, sounds shallow and all corporate but it’s the truth. There is no point in spending a ton of time on your business idea unless it feeds you.

The financial model is meant to cull through your assumptions about income and expenses. Getting these all down will help you refine your pitch and executive summary. Since this is an iterative process, don’t worry about getting everything perfect right away. Just get something down you can play with. If you are unsure about an expense, put it in anyway. It’s much better to over estimate a little than to undershoot. The same applies for income (or sales).

Step 3: The Executive Summary

The executive summary is critical to getting that first meeting with investors. It’s the first thing they will ask for (the pitch might be second). It needs to stand-a-lone as the best possible high level overview of what you do. Each word, each phrase and each number has to do useful work. It has to be clear, concise and easy to read. Think of it as your ventures infomercial.

Step 4: Iterate

Getting all three pieces right will take some iteration. These iterations will anneal all three into a cohesive set. The best way to iterate is to practice your pitch in front of your team and others you trust. Have them act as investors and critique your delivery and message. These sessions will show you where your idea needs more work. Any area where you have to give long explanations or stumble over words, needs to be refined. Stumbles during the warm-up will tend to get worst when nerves get the best of you when in front of investors. Practicing will make that a whole lot better.

What About A Business Plan?

Business plans are an important component of your venture but not the end all, be all. Solid business plans start with the three documents above. They lay the foundation for how your plan will be structured. It’s important to flush out the high level idea before you dive into the business plan details. In most cases, your original idea will morph into something different. Waiting for the morphing to stop will save you time and effort.

Some funding sources don’t even want to see a business plan (Ventures and Angels). What they will want is a verbal description of your venture along with specific plans (like technology road maps or market roll out). Just because you don’t do a formal plan does not mean you don’t have to do the work. Knowing your business inside and out will instill in the investor that you are the right person to make it successful. Skimping on that will never get you funded.