With so many superstores and chain restaurants, people grow tired of big businesses that are all alike. Many crave something original and unique to their communities. When they find that cute little coffee shop across from the courthouse, that family-owned restaurant at the end of the block, or that sweet boutique on Main Street, they feel like they have found a hidden treasure. When asked what makes their hometown special, these are the places that people talk about with pride.
Small businesses are what distinguish one community from another. For dreamers who want to add to the charm of their town with a small business of their own but are unsure where to start, it can seem like a daunting task. Teachers Credit Union’s Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer Patrick McGinley has a few tips for those creative minds.
Know your value proposition
Value propositions involve identifying what sets your idea apart from the competition and capitalizing on those advantageous differences.
“If you’re going to excel, you have to have something, either the product or service, that makes it a higher priority than the neighbor’s product or service,” McGinley said. “Why is yours better? What do you do differently? Executives from Apple and Google could rattle off all the differences they see between their iPhone or Android that makes it better than the other.”
In order to sell a product or service, you have to know and promote its assets so you can persuade others to feel the same way. Knowing your value proposition prepares you for the next step: building a business proposition.
Build a business proposition
Before approaching a lender to take out a loan and start your business, it is crucial to establish a viable business proposition. There are a number of resources McGinley encourages would-be entrepreneurs to use for this purpose.
One resource McGinley often recommends is the U.S. Small Business Administration. The administration can prompt you with things to consider within a business plan, help you develop a company description, show you how to organize and manage, and more.
The Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center is a local group that offers free guidance to prospective small business owners. At this development center, mentors will sit down with you at no obligation to talk you through the process of developing your business proposition.
Another no-cost resource is the Northwest Indiana Score, which offers a variety of helpful options and tools, including mentorship and local workshops.
Regardless of whether you plan to secure a loan or self-finance your business, McGinley recommends sitting down with a professional to craft a solid business plan that will help you establish and sustain a successful small business.
Choose the best platform
Choosing the best platform for your business depends on the product or service, target audience, ease of access, and other factors. McGinley advises that people stop by the local Chamber of Commerce office because they have knowledge of the best available locations in the area.
“Choosing a location is essential and depends on what you’re doing,” McGinley said. “There are many businesses that can be done from your kitchen table with a laptop, whereas other businesses have a product or service that requires a physical presence. To have a physical presence, you have to do a lot of homework to understand where you need to locate.”
Be honest and fill in gaps
According to McGinley, one of the best things prospective small business owners can do is a critical self-analyze themselves and be honest about what they are lacking.
“Understand what you know but, more importantly, understand what you don’t know,” McGinley said. “Many business owners are really good at one thing. For example, if I can make the world’s best pencil, but I don’t know how to market it and manage the finances to keep making it, I’m not going to be successful.”
A business owner has to possess knowledge of all aspects of a business — and knowledge of what they don’t know — to manage a multifaceted operation and hire the best people to handle areas outside of their expertise.
“The most successful business people are the ones who are exceptionally brilliant folks that have two or all three of those qualities — the ability to make a great product, market it, and manage finances,” McGinley said. “The other ones that are equally successful are smart enough at the onset to hire individuals that fill those gaps.”
To learn more about TCU and ask for more information on how to start your own small business, visit www.tcunet.com.