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The Rebirth of an Entrepreneurial Nation: Team Building & Marketing

by Sherri Mahoney-Battles

Sherri Mahoney-Battles

Most small business owners have a skill-set that surpasses others in their field and dream of the day when they become their own boss.

In teaching small business development classes, we were often faced with entrepreneurs in the start-up phase who talked about wanting to put the money in their own pockets instead of the bosses' pockets. Many of them looked forward to a day when they could work whenever they wanted to work without the responsibility of having to "punch a clock."

Some of them felt limited as employees capped off by a glass ceiling that controlled their future earnings and creativity. A common mantra shared among all of these would-be entrepreneurs was that they could do it better than it was currently being done.

There was no doubt that many of these people had skills that qualified them in their fields, and most of them had the dream and the vision that an entrepreneur needs to possess. Unfortunately, the majority of these potential business owners also lacked the management and business skills necessary to operate a business.

Small business owners operate in a bubble of self-containment. They lack the advantage of large corporations that have multiple divisions to call upon for various tasks. A large corporation has multiple departments: personnel, marketing, advertising, accounts receivable, accounts payable, sales, production etc. A small business owner is often left to handle all of these tasks on her own.

As a small business owner, it's not enough to have the best product in town, you also need to know how to sell the product, get paid for the product, and pay for the product.

A new business owner often finds the amount of work involved with operating a business overwhelming. Over the years, I have met with many new business owners completely frustrated with the myriad tasks they are faced with on a day-to-day basis.

For example, many of my clients are excellent trades people. They are some of the best carpenters, plumbers, masons, framers or electricians in their field. Most of them, though, don't want to be bothered with paperwork. They hate bookkeeping, and the headaches that go along with it.

They find themselves besieged by marketing people telling them that their product is the best marketing media available. Advertise with us! Put your business name on our shopping carts, restaurant menus, this billboard, our bulletin, hear your name on our radio station, advertise in our magazine or our weekly. The list of salespeople banging on a small business owner's door is endless.

There are other pressures as well. How does a small business owner collect money from a client reluctant to pay a bill? You've performed a service, but the client spouts a litany of personal tragedies not previously mentioned that render them unable to pay your bill.

Additionally, hiring employees opens an entirely different set of circumstances. Are you capable of filing sensitive payroll reports with strict deadlines and steep penalties? Where does the entrepreneur find the time to make the product, sell the product, do all of the paperwork and still bask in the glow of owning her own business?

Unfortunately, what starts out as a dream often turns into a self-employment nightmare. There are piles of bills to pay, marketing decisions to make, product to be made and sold, and figuring how the self-employed individual takes the time to replenish with a vacation. There is no such thing as a "paid vacation" when you work for yourself.

Successful business owners identify their skill sets and surround themselves with people or services to fill in the pieces that they lack. A small business owner that spends hours reconciling and posting one month's bank statement should put her time to better use in the field where she's proficient and hire a bookkeeper who can do the bookkeeping in a fraction of the time.

If organization, scheduling, filing and returning phone calls are not where your aptitudes lie, and keep you from doing the work you need to be doing, hire a part-time clerical person. My opinion has always been that a professional payroll service makes sense for small businesses. The multiple payroll report filing deadlines and penalties levied for failing to make timely filings and payments more than justify the reasonable costs that most payroll companies charge.

I've been in business for over twenty-five years, and I still have a business development coach that I pull in when important decisions need to be made. Large corporations have multiple departments and a board of directors to guide them, and a small business owner needs to assemble their own team of professionals if they want to win the self-employment game.

The high failure rate of start-up businesses clearly illustrates that the dream of small business ownership alone is not enough to ensure success. Successful businesses share common denominators. They have owners willing to work long, hard hours, and who recognize the importance of assembling a team of professionals to help their business grow.

A key element to the success of any small business is a well-designed marketing strategy. While most small business owners do not have the benefit of a marketing degree, there are a few basic marketing strategies that almost anyone can adopt.

One key marketing strategy is to determine if the product or service you are offering meets an unmet need. In order to satisfy an unmet need your business either needs to offer something not currently available or something different than what is currently available. A business can also fill an unmet need if the other businesses providing a product or service cannot meet the demand.

When you write a business plan you analyze your competition in order to determine if there is a market segment available for a new business. Large corporations spend tremendous amounts of money conducting market analysis. Before a retail location opens, the corporation analyzes the market they are looking to launch in to see if the market is open or saturated.

They also want to know if the lifestyle and economy of the surrounding area supports the type of business they are looking to launch. These large corporations have learned through experience that the money invested in these studies outweighs the expense of starting a venture that is not sustainable.

Even large corporations can make mistakes. I remember, years ago, a Red Lobster opened in Hyannis right next to a long-established local seafood restaurant, Cooke's Seafood. The corporation did not take into account the resistance the Cape Cod economy would have to a seafood chain restaurant.

Even the tourists on Cape Cod know that you go there for fresh seafood, and The Red Lobster could not compete. It was promptly shut down and replaced by an Olive Garden, which continues to thrive.

In order for your business to meet an unmet need there has to be an opening or opportunity for the type of business you are proposing. If you are proposing to open a coffee shop in an area already saturated by successful coffee shops, your chances of success are greatly reduced. That being said, you can still meet an unmet need if the product you are proposing differs or is unique from your competitors.

"Bringing Balance to Numbers"

Helping Cape Business Women Find Solutions to their Tax Issues for over 25 years

52 Cranberry Highway
Orleans, MA 02653

508 240 6740

A coffee shop in Dartmouth, Mirasol's, opened about seven years ago almost directly across the street from a Dunkin Donuts. They both sell coffee, but they attract customers from two different markets.

Mirasol's is located conveniently down the road from UMass Dartmouth. They brew artisan custom brewed coffee and specialty coffee beverages along with freshly prepared breakfast and lunch items made to order. They offer comfortable seating, wifi connections, and it's a popular hangout for college students and working adults. They are proof positive that not everyone "runs on Dunkin".

Another key component to consider is your ability to make your product or service a habit. Where people chose to spend their money is often driven by habit. People are creatures of habit. An important thing to know about habits is that they are difficult to create and even harder to break.

The key then is to provide a product or service that has the potential to become habit forming. Most small businesses fail to do this because they lack consistency.

In order to create a habit you need to be able to consistently provide the same product that meets or exceeds a customer's expectations. You also need to make the product or service convenient and easy to access.

Once people form habits, they tend to keep them for quite a while, but if the product changes or is difficult to access they will move on. People take comfort in ease and consistency.

A small business owner needs to identify the skill sets that she possesses and build a network of professionals that fill in the missing pieces. Ultimately, the path to successful entrepreneurship is not an easy one, but it is a path that once mastered, can be both financially and emotionally gratifying.

Publisher's Note: This article was previously published and is reprinted here courtesy of The South Coast Insider (or Prime Times).

Sherri Mahoney-Battles, of Taxing Matters, specializes in income tax preparation for small businesses and individuals.

As an Enrolled Agent, licensed by the IRS, Sherri has been representing clients for over twenty-five years in cases of audit, collections, and appeals and does extensive work with non-filers.

Visit her website at, email or call her at 508-636-9829.