By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Ever thought about starting your own business? If so, then you’re not alone There are roughly about 30.7 million small businesses in the United States.
Starting a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences you may ever embark on. But there are a lot of factors that come into play if one is to be successful in business. One determining factor on whether a business will have success and longevity is the planning process. According to Tristan Lockhart, a Business Relationship Manager with Chase, business planning should start well before you open your first store or place your first ad.
“I think when it comes to small business owners, in general, I think they get really happy about the opportunities and their goals,” says Lockhart. “Sometimes though that doesn’t allow us to really slow down and take a look at the steps needed to reach those goals.”
“What is important is planning,” Lockhart continued. “Writing it down is the next step after the thought process. Making it visible and tangible and it will change because it is a living and evolving document.”
Business owners Kevin and Bridgette Johnson, owners of Central Café and Juice Bar in Seattle, started their businesses just prior to the pandemic and believe that the planning process before they opened helped them get to where they are today.
“In our experience the pre-planning was learning the business [understanding the business of coffee and running a café], making sure that we know and understand the business,” says Kevin Johnson. “Now the planning part it was definitely a learning curve, learning things, getting over obstacles, but we just pushed through it.”
“Besides finding a location which was extremely hard especially in Seattle with rising rents and leases, the cost of finding a location was not easy,” added Johnson. “The other difficulty was financing, so we financed a lot of it ourselves. We also went through business training and things like that, so that was one of the biggest hurdles trying to get financing beyond turning to ourselves,” Johnson said.
For aspiring business owners, as well as existing ones, it is important to sit down with a financial advisor and plan out the goals you set for your business, especially as it relates to cash flow and credit readiness for your business. Lockhart says cash management is an important step when it comes to planning for your business.
“If I were advising any business startup or existing business the conversation really comes from an account perspective understanding how cash moves,” says Lockhart. “Cash management is huge; I believe every business owner should have a credit card that is the first step to managing your cash flow.”
“I think the pandemic really shifted our mindset as to how we leverage these tools for cash management,” Lockhart continues. “First it was ‘we don’t want to owe the bank’, now it is ‘how do I leverage my partnership with financial institutions to insure investing my cash flow in more asset driven opportunities.’”
As a business owner, it’s important to provide a sense of direction to your company’s daily operations. A well-written business plan can help you measure and guide your company goals. But Johnson also points out that being organized is important to the long-term growth and success of a business.
“Making sure you have your books and paperwork together is vital,” says Johnson. “Your licensing, your financials have all that stuff together, because if you don’t have all that together it is going to make it more difficult to get financing so that you can grow.”
What to become a business owner and become a viable contributor to the overall economic growth of your community? It is possible! Organization, planning, building a team, taking advantage of the resources available can provide a business owner the necessary support needed for success.
Regardless of where you are in in the process of launching a business, Lockhart and Johnson agree that in addition to organizing and planning that building a strong support team is very important when it comes to the long-range goals and success of your business.
“What I would start with is build your team,” says Lockhart. “Whether I am speaking to a business that has aspirations to have substantial annual revenue and any business for that matter, build your team and your team doesn’t just consist of your bank, it consists of your business banker, your tax person, your business’s management, you need to understand your team. So, whatever industry you are in, build and create the relationships with the team members that are going to be with you throughout these transactions.”