Small Business Success Begins Before the Business Plan

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 office space, 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. According to Chicago-based business advisor Carol Roth, author of “The Entrepreneur Equation,” “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.”

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 need to get used to variable income versus having a regular paycheck,” said Rhonda Abrams, USA Today small business columnist and owner of California-based The Planning Shop.

Have you taken a hard look at your industry, market and competition, and revised your idea accordingly? Abrams added that the worst entrepreneurs are those who are set in their ways.


“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,” Abrams added.

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,” warned Roth, “you may be better suited to work for someone than to have your own business.”

If your responses have you second-guessing your small business plans, don’t automatically give up.  Roth says that while personal traits may be difficult to alter, “skills can be developed, changed, enhanced and even supplemented.”

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 network of more than 13,000 volunteers offers the knowledge and experience to assist any small business owner with any problem or question—all for no charge. For more information about taking advantage of these valuable services, visit


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