If you are thinking of starting a small business, the timing may be right. America's June jobs report wasn't good, falling below consensus expectations of economists. But if you've been looking for work, or a new opportunity in this post-recession slow-growth economy, you probably already knew what the numbers just revealed.
The economy gained just 18,000 jobs in June, the U.S. government reported Friday, sharply below the expectation of 125,000 jobs predicted, meaning those who want work or new opportunity should start thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, joining America's one area of growth: small business.
Small businesses drive the U.S. economy and opportunity, meaning if you can't get a job or the one you want, you can create the opportunity. The time may be right, considering the American economy is expected to continue slumbering along the rest of 2011, yielding continued slow jobs growth.
If you are considering beating the dismal June jobs report by starting your own small business, here are five tips to consider based on years of personal experience in a variety of businesses:
1. Explore the franchise route to learn about what's working, or not, and why, but only go with a franchise in the end if you feel the advantage far outweighs what you can copy and create from scratch. Consider that franchises involve more than just the up-front fee. Most franchise companies collect weekly fees from gross sales ranging from six to 12 percent. In a slow economy, that percentage is often the difference between surviving and putting food on the table or not. Use your creativity -- investigate through franchises to see what they are doing then build your own business from scratch. Do it right and maybe you can launch the next franchise, collecting weekly percentage fees.
2. Be imaginative. Don't do what everybody else is doing. It's already being done. Think the cupcake craze is out of this world? Love how the lines string out the door at neighborhood cupcake shops each evening? Remember that all good things can only be so good. Whatever is already red-hot and fully developed is probably not your best move. All fads subside -- your job is to find the next cupcake fad, or develop a traditional business that wins through uniqueness, location, product and service.
3. Develop a niche. Sure, there's a dry cleaners on every corner, but there's room for more dry cleaners, particularly if you create one built upon the need of the day, where the work is done on-site and in a sustainable environment, with less chemicals. Green is big and it's going to get bigger, and you can and should apply that to any business you start. But most importantly, develop a niche in whatever endeavor you tackle. If you want a gourmet hamburger shop like those chains that are so hot now, maybe you should consider a gourmet veggie burger shop as well since the vegetarian movement is hot and the better burger chains are quickly covering all the low-hanging fruit territory in the other space.
4. Approach the business as a full-time employee from the start. Too many people try to keep their current job while investing in a small business on the side, thinking they'll work and earn their way into it, by hanging onto the safety of their paycheck while they get it going. Big mistake. You might as well take your money to be invested and throw it in the river, as you'll only win with hands-on, on-site hard work. Like the jobs market, small business is ultra-competitive, and if you are not there to make sure execution goes according to plan the odds of failure rise exponentially.
5. Whatever you do, plan to build the business plan from a customer service perspective. In a small business, you have to get a premium for your products and services to make a living. The quality of the products and services must be exceptional, of course, but that should be a given. The way to get the premium those quality products and services deserve, however, is through exceptional customer service. It's the dividing line between good small businesses and those that don't make it, and this should be factored in from the start.