Small business success begins before the business plan

November 19, 2013

“The Business Plan” is a partnership between the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce and Mason County Press.

By Matt Larson. Business Development Consultant. Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce.


What’s the first thing to do when considering starting a small business? Ask more questions.

That may seem like a rather flip response, but it’s true. Success in small business hinges on gathering as much information as possible in order to make sound, informed decisions. That includes understanding your target market, your resources, and—perhaps most importantly—yourself.

Entrepreneurship has many rewards, but also many responsibilities. And if you’re not prepared to handle them, those dreams of being your own boss will almost certainly become real-life nightmares.

So before drafting a business plan, brainstorming catchy company names, or pricing locations, pose a few hard questions to the person who will literally make or break your business—you.

Is it the right time for me to start a business? The personal factors that affect the timing of a start-up can change quite frequently.  Your finances need to be in order, your responsibilities should be consistent with the ability to invest time and capital, and you should have the appropriate experience under your belt or surround yourself with those who possess it.

Can you handle the economic roller coaster? Long before volatility defined the general economy, businesses of all sizes experienced both good and bad financial times, a cycle that is sometimes hard to predict.  You want to be prepared with the issues of variable income versus having a regular paycheck.

Have I taken a hard look at my industry, market, and competition, and revised my idea accordingly?  You need to be willing to challenge your own ideas, and have the flexibility to change.  That includes making a commitment to short- and long-term planning from the outset. Continually be aware of things that can affect your business, both threats and opportunities.

Is my personality well-suited for entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship requires taking risks, being proactive, and riding out the ups and downs.   If you are great at execution, but really prefer receiving direction on what to do next then you may be better suited to work for someone else than to have your own business.

If your responses have you second-guessing your small business plans, don’t automatically give up.  Personal traits may be difficult to alter; skills can be developed, changed, enhanced, and even supplemented with numerous workshops that the Chamber and West Shore Community College offer.

And there’s no better place to find help with small business skill-building than SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start, grow, and succeed nationwide. Our local network of 13 volunteers offers the knowledge and experience to assist any small business owner with any problem or question— confidentially and at no charge.  Be on the lookout over the next several months for a series of articles on the various pieces of creating a business plan.

For more information about taking advantage of SCORE services or to attend the monthly inventors network, call Matt Larson at the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber at 231-845-0324 or visit

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