Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @EllenRohr. Ellen Rohr is a serial entrepreneur. She has owned a Plumbing company and now heads a Business Consulting and Venture Capital firm. As President of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, a home service franchise company, she grew the company from zero to $40 million in sales and 47 locations in less than 2 years. Ellen is launching another franchise – Zoom Drain and Sewer – in 2014. She’s the author of four books, including The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan, and Where Did the Money Go? More info at http://www.barebonesbiz.com
SmallBizLady: Is a business of my own really a good idea? How do you test it?
Ellen Rohr: If you have the itch…scratch it. My vote is follow your heart. AND put a plan together. I don’t believe that “if you build it, they will come.” Or “if you do what you love, the money will follow.” Plan the business. Visualize it. Write down what you see. Commit to some action that will lead you in that direction. You don’t need to know every HOW before you start. Figure out the WHY and the WHAT. Then…get going. Don’t have a lot of money to burn? Plan your business over a weekend. Then, test your idea on Monday.
Sell something. If no one nibbles on your sales line, you might want to revisit the business plan. I’m a bootstrapper. Make a sale and use that cash to grow. Successful business owners embrace sales. Successful entrepreneurs move fast. Sometimes too fast, hence a pause to plan is a good idea. Once you have a plan, or an updated plan…I vote test it fast. Then, review the results. Tweak the plan…and get back into action. Repeat until the day you sell your company.
SmallBizLady: Wouldn’t it be a better idea to find a better job?
Ellen Rohr: The least secure position is a job. You have less control over the job than your business. I’m not dissing jobs…be grateful, show up and rock that job. Just sayin’… You could have a job AND a business. Good idea for easing into the biz waters. Note! The difference between unemployed and self-employed is…nothing. So, if you are unemployed, start considering yourself self-employed! You can find a job and start a business.
SmallBizLady: What if I want to tell my boss where he can put this job? Any tips?
Ellen Rohr: Don’t quit on a bad day. Plan your departure. Plan your business. Pause and consider…what do I want? How can everyone win here? Your boss could be your first customer. You as subcontractor could be a win win!
SmallBizLady: Most business suck! How do I make sure that mine is a success?
Ellen Rohr: Plan or be planned for. An unplanned business or life is at the effect of others’ plans. Jim Rohn, one of my favorite mentors, says, “What do others have planned for you? Probably not much!” Planning is simple. Intention! Aligned action. Leave room for inspiration, miracles and the support of others.
And, mind the money. Oh, I wish we were taught basic accounting and QuickBooks 101 in 6th grade. You may not know your assets from your elbow. You can, you should, learn how to create, read and use financial reports. Keeping score shows you if you are winning or losing. You can change your decisions and behaviors and improve the score. As long as you know.
SmallBizLady: My partner (spouse, dad, mom, kid) isn’t really on board with this business. How do I get their buy in?
Ellen Rohr: Talking won’t cut it. Write your business plan so you have something to share. Go through it together page by page. It can be ONE page. But it’s gotta be in writing. This works for sharing the concept with the bank, investors, and team members. Most importantly, a plan gets YOU focused. With a wife, partner, parent…agree to time and money investment. You go past that? You agree to pull the plug. That parameter may be the nudge you need to get going.
SmallBizLady: Shouldn’t I just expect to lose money in my own business at first?
Ellen Rohr: MYTH! Make money with the sales you have. My vote is always figure out a way to cash flow fast! Then, you have options, even if you need an investor. Watch Shark Tank or Restaurant Impossible. I love these shows. Note how the experts focus on sales and profits. That buys you another day in business. Make lots of money and create lots of options! If you lose money chronically…it will turn into debt. If you never create a big hole of debt, you won’t have to dig out of it. Investors can be great, especially for a manufacturing or product concept. Entice others to play by sharing your plan and demonstrating your sales chops. Do what you can to keep cash flowing with consulting sales or selling prototypes.
SmallBizLady: How much money can I make in my own business? How much will it take to get started?
Ellen Rohr: As much as you want. As little as you need. But it won’t just “happen.” It’s up to you! If you have no money, make sure your plan includes selling something…fast. Sell something for more than it costs and you manufacture money. I love home service businesses. If you are willing to do what others don’t want to, or can’t do, you can be paid well and at time of service. I love dirty jobs!
SmallBizLady: What do I do to go from big idea to profitable business…in a weekend?
Ellen Rohr: You could take longer. And a business plan is never “done.” But a weekend will get you go, go, going! Farm out the kids and old folks…whomever you are responsible for. Friday pm, stock up. Food. A 3 Ring Binder. Paper. Pen. IPad or computer if you would rather do it electronically. Prioritize thinking and writing. Intention and planned action. Spend an hour or two assembling the plan, building the components. Move fast. Here are the basic components…
The Mission – Why should this business exist? What’s the point or purpose?
The Elevator Speech – How can you communicate to your customers what problems you solve, differently and better than anyone else?
Your Goals – What do you want to achieve this coming year? The next?
The Organizational Chart – Who can help? What would they do for you?
The Financial Plan – How will this business make money and how much? How much will you need to charge to make it work? Put a budget together.
The Marketing Plan – How can you get enough of the right calls, at the right time, from the right customers?
The Top Projects – What projects could you energize that would help you get go, go, going in the direction of your Mission and Goals? Pick 3-5 and commit to them.
The Executive Summary – The “One Pager.” To show to investors, team members, your spouse or partner. And to help you gain clarity about what you want and how you are going to get it.
Take a break between exercises. Don’t spend more than an hour or two on each. Do some yoga. Walk the dog. Then, back at it. Keep it simple. If it’s complicated, you and your business will get stuck. Finish the weekend with a Calendar update. What are you going to do on Monday? The key is in the Top Projects. Make your first sale! Can you? Why not?
SmallBizLady: What about a vending machine business, multi-level sales business or a franchise? Do any of these pre-packaged businesses work?
Ellen Rohr: Sure! As long as you treat it like a business and not a magic trick. A business plan is a good idea for any, business concept. The weekend may keep you from signing up for a bad deal at a high-octane seminar.
A franchise offers a brand and ready-built systems. That may make things easier! There may be good coaching, too. Other franchisees are important! Call them, and ask them questions. See how they support one another. Your success is not tied to the franchise. A franchise could grease the success skids for you. It’s just another tool in the toolbox.
SmallBizLady: My kid has a great idea for a business. At least he thinks so…and he is hitting me up for money. Help!
Ellen Rohr: “Son, I love that you have a business idea!! I may even invest in it, or help you if you are asking. For me to greenlight it, or get involved, show me your business plan.” It can be short! One page. Five pages. Show your kid the components above. Or, you could ask him to write about his business, using these key journalistic questions: What, why, who, for whom, how, how much and when? That’s an easy format for a powerful business plan!
SmallBizLady: How do I know when to give up on a business?
Ellen Rohr: When it no longer serves you. However, don’t quit on a bad day! Plan a day…six months from now?…to ask, “Do I continue, or stop?” Then take that day to review your business and reflect on your life. A business is like a car! It should drive you where you want to go. You can fix it, buy one, sell one, abandon it, or have more than one. You are not your business. You are just fine, amazing, awesome…with or without a business. Quitting or selling is an option. Just realizing that may help you lighten up and embrace your business adventure.
SmallBizLady: What’s the best part about having your own business?
Ellen Rohr: The freedom! The lifestyle freedom, the financial freedom. The opportunity to leverage and elevate the ordinary into something meaningful. My Mission: I believe honorable, profitable business expands peace, prosperity and FREEDOM across the planet.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.