What's In Your Toolbox?

Startup success rides on more than just a great idea.

Building anything requires tools, and that’s as true for a business as for a house. I recently spoke with Dr. Mary Bartholomew, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Nunez Community College, to find out what tools an entrepreneur should have in his or her box.

Interestingly, one of the first things Dr. Bartholomew recommends is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

“This should give you an overview of the environment for your idea,” she says. “Is it feasible? You should ask that first, before you start getting into greater detail. After all, no one is going to buy a snowmobile in New Orleans.”

Assuming you pass this first test, it’s time to move into specifics. Some key items Dr. Bartholomew considers mandatory include:
• Marketing Plan: including a market and competition analysis, marketing strategy with budget and a target audience for your product or service
• Business Plan: including revenue projections (“Be conservative!” she cautions), expense projections, break-even point and the amount of start-up capital needed
• Funding Plan: including funds in hand, a credit history, potential sources for additional funding (this can be a variety of sources, even including entrepreneurial contests, but has to include a reasonable mix of likely/tangible along with the more speculative).
• Sustainability Plan: addressing how will you grow the business, how you will deal with outside forces and major events and what happens if you are incapacitated.

Dr. Bartholomew recommends thinking long-term right from the beginning.

“There are three ‘category’ questions you should ask yourself,” she says. “What do you need to start your business? What do you need to grow your business? What do you need to diversify your business?”

She also cautions against getting ahead of yourself, despite the omnipresent urge to move forward with your idea as quickly as possible.

“In business, a little extra time invested at the beginning of a project is almost always returned down the road,” she says. “Be patient. Get all of your ducks in a row.”

In other words, just like in the classroom, doing your homework is essential in the real world. As someone who has been involved with numerous business ventures herself, Dr. Bartholomew knows well: Any job is easier with the right tools in hand.

Okay, so you know you need tools, now where do you find them? Fortunately, New Orleans is currently the biggest entrepreneurial tool shop on the planet. For a list of great resources, you can always consult the October 2014 issue of this column! Remember, while many resources may be free, paying for some professional assistance at some point is probably a good idea.

Keith Twitchell  spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, non-profit, micro- and macro-business levels.




Categories: The Magazine