Barry Edwards didn’t know he was supposed to fail. In 1990, the 25-year-old launched Creative Presentations out of his 1,100 square foot home, not knowing that 85 percent of all ventures crash.
Good thing no one told him.
With little business experience, a year of college and no back-up plan in case he flopped, Edwards went at it alone. And made it.
A decade later, he was Louisiana’s Small Businessman of the Year. Today, Creative Presentations generates over $11 million in sales and has offices in Louisiana, Texas, Washington and Oregon.
Edwards, now 37, convinced family and friends to lend him a computer, desk and money for his start-up company selling audio and video projectors. And if you are a young entrepreneurial hopeful, there’s a good chance that’s where you will have to resort to find start-up funds.
Let’s not kid anyone. If you don’t have the money or assets to launch your new venture, it’s going to be hard to convince a bank to provide it. Not that it’s impossible, just unlikely.
Now, raise your hand and count these five crucial things the pros say you really need to know about starting and staying in business.
- Get good advice. In the days before the Internet, people had to actually go to a library and dig up information on market trends and industry expectations. Imagine that. The Internet has made that aspect easier, but the fact remains that ignorance is not bliss, and what you don’t know will hurt you.
“Before you actually go out [and start the business] get the most professional advice to see what you’re overlooking,” said Vinson Serio, a tax accountant in New Orleans, specializing in start-ups. What if you don’t get professional advice? The legal, accounting or marketing advice might cost more after the business is started than it would have in the planning stages. The reason: having to undo mistakes.
How are the “other guys” doing it? Edwards recommends finding other business owners. ‘It’s worth the money to visit a friendly competitor in another city,” he said.
- Beg, but try not to borrow. For every success story, like Edwards, there are countless cases of people living in apartments because they lost the homes they used to guarantee their loans. Instead, skip the high-interest lenders and go straight to your parents, uncles and grandparents.
“Your family is going to be more forgiving than banks and credit cards,” Edwards said.
Also, don’t forget about organizations you might be involved in that can put you in touch with a grant or special small business program.
- Get the word out. No, not computer networking — let people know about your new business. That’s what business professor Betty Baldwin tells her students at the University of Central Florida.
Edwards agrees: grassroots marketing is possible on a shoestring budget. Go to local chamber of commerce luncheons. Read the paper for business gathering listings. Let people know you exist. And don’t depend solely on email marketing campaigns.
“If it’s Spam, don’t bother,” Edwards said.
- Live it. Love it. Learn from it. Look for opportunities when others miss them. Every day will be a challenge. Welcome it. The country’s in the midst of a recession? So what. Edwards didn’t know that when he started. You shouldn’t care either.
- Be prepared to take a risk. In the end, you must have “thick skin” and be willing to put it all on the table. Remember, Edwards supposedly didn’t have a prayer either.
“It’s all very risky,” said Baldwin. “But the only job that pays you what you’re worth is working for yourself.”
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