“Entrepreneurs planning on starting a business seem to be more likely to seek assistance than existing business owners,” according to Javier Marin, consultant at the Florida SBDC at USF in Lakeland.
Marin says that most existing business owners seem to be unaware of resources available to them. In many cases, these business owners seek assistance because they “feel” something is not working as expected. In fact, he adds, “Businesses seek assistance as an afterthought and are normally referred to professionals by local chambers of commerce, economic development councils, other businesses, attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents, bankers, friends, or relatives.”
The reasons why business owners seek assistance vary, but one thing is clear – few seek help before they need it. In most cases, the owner may have observed several symptoms, some of which are listed below:
- The company enjoys continued sales and customer growth but sees low profitability;
- the company enjoys continued sales and customer growth, but they have trouble meeting their financial obligations;
- the company may be experiencing low growth rates and seems to be unable to get new clients;
- the company experiences low growth rates and many new clients, but it is losing existing clients.
Most of these symptoms are caused by inefficiencies in one or more of the following areas: operations, marketing, or financial management. According to Marin, business owners who experience similar situations should consider doing an in-depth business assessment to identify the possible areas for improvement and create a plan of action to address them. This plan, also known as a business or strategic plan, should lay out measurable sales, operational, and financial goals along with specific strategies and tactics that will help achieve those goals.
Unfortunately, adds Marin, a business owner may see a business assessment and a business plan as “paperwork” or an “administrative chore,” but nothing is more removed from reality than the false notion that a business can grow successfully, and continue growing, without planning. Most successful companies have business plans, and these are not successful by chance. “Planning is not unique to large, successful companies,” he said. “Our children don’t come with a manual, but most of us set an educational path for them. Your business is no different. It didn’t’ come with a manual, but successful entrepreneurs formalize the path of their business by writing a business plan.”
To build a successful plan, Marin says there are many local resources available. He added that business owners who procrastinate in seeking assistance may be unknowingly causing their business irreparable damage. Marin encourages business owners to discuss any business decisions with a trusted advisor – the company’s attorney, CPA, banker, insurance agent, or local chamber of commerce.
Marin states that what works for one business may not work for another, and he adds that there are professionals with a wide range of expertise that can help businesses in varied industries grow. “Your business is your life investment, and your family’s future,” he said. “Don’t wait to seek assistance.”
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