Business success begins before the business plan

By Jean Kruse / Guest Editorial

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. 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 startup 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,” writes Carol Roth, a Chicago-based business advisor and author of “The Entrepreneur Equation.”

Can you handle the economic rollercoaster? 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 the Redwood City, Calif.-based The Planning Shop.

Have I taken a hard look at my industry, market and competition, and revised my idea accordingly? Abrams says 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,” she adds.

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,” warns 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.”

There’s no better place to find help with small business skill-building and decided whether or not you should start your own business than SCORE’s “How To Really Start Your Own Business” three-evening seminar, provided in coordination with the Small Business Development Center at the Kirkwood Training & Outreach Service Center at 3375 Armar Drive in Marion. This class will guide you through what you need to know about becoming an entrepreneur and help you to begin to plan.

Visit our website ( and click on “View Event Calendar” to select a date that is convenient for you – this class is provided several times a year. Free and confidential mentoring to help you get your business started is also available by clicking on “Request a Meeting” on our website.




Jean Kruse is a SCORE counselor and SCORE Iowa district president. She operated her own CPA firm for 13 years and in 1988, joined RSM McGladrey, a national firm, where she provided accounting and tax services to small businesses.