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Startup Help Center

Content and links to help with the startup and company planning aspects of launching a business, from Small Business Town, home of The Entrepreneur's Guidebook Series.
Featured Content

  1. Links to startup resources from™.

  2. Guidebook #12
    Learning Why Companies SUCCEED and Why They FAIL
    Outlines 34 characteristics successful companies have in common, 12 reasons why companies fail due to management blunders and 33 specific characteristics of unsuccessful companies. Also, contains numerous graphs and charts. No business should start without reading this guidebook first.
    510K 45p.

  3. More Guides to Help You With Your Company Planning

Startup Strategies

Learning Why Companies Succeed and Why They Fail - GB12

Companies succeed because they are . . . value driven. Excellent companies believe that the basic philosophy of an organization has far more to do with its achievements than do technological or economic resources as well as organizational structures and innovation. In other words, companies succeed if its members share a common vision of their future, feel they are important part of the whole, and look out for each other.

Exploring Top Businesses of the Future - GB13

Technology has spearheaded the home-based and home-office business back into the entrepreneurial consciousness. In fact, with advances in portable computers, cellular phones, modems, and Fax machines, this type of business is fast becoming the ONLY solution to escalating retail and office location costs.

Selecting Profitable Small Business Products & Services - GB14

Almost everyone at one time or another has dreamed of sailing around the world, flying a Cessna, cruising on a Harley, or adding a gadget or two to their sparkling new baby blue BMW. If you happen to possess a fine mechanical aptitude, as well as a deep abiding love for outdoor recreational activities and the toys that go along with them, then this area of merchandising - whether, retail, wholesale, or mail order - could prove profitable. It also could be a great way to explore your hobby (Autos, Boats & Recreational Vehicles).

Researching Hot New Ideas for Products & Services - GB15

Need to know who makes rubber bands, liquid dispensers or flexible graphite gaskets? The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers lists more than 149,000 manufacturing firms in a 29-volume set. Volumes 1-19 lists American manufacturers under 50,000 product headings with detailed descriptions of the product, plus address and capital assets of each manufacturer.

Evaluating Business Opportunities - GB16

Is the target market responsive? If you can't answer this question 'yes' without reasonable confidence, then the answer is 'no.' A market can only be considered responsive if the majority of people who make up that market, have in the recent past purchased a product or service similar to the one you are considering.

Finding the Best Business Location - GB17

Before making the commitment to buy or lease a site in a particular area, determine whether the area is progressive or stagnant. Find answers to questions such as: Are there any changes planned for the area by city planners? Are any schools, roads, highways, stadiums or shopping centers planned for the near future? Will changes in other areas of the city affect this area? Will these changes cause people to move in or out of the area? What is the overall potential for economic growth in the area?

Choosing the Right Legal Formations - GB18

A general partnership is created when two or more individuals, other partnerships or corporations, decide to combine their financial and intellectual resources to create and run a new company. There is no limit to the type of partners or number of partners. The primary advantage of this type of business formation is the pooling of talent, experience and capital. However, dual and multiple ownership, can lead to serious complications if the relationships between individuals begin to break down. Quite often, the pool becomes a drain.

Naming Your Company & Products - GB19

Most people have been taught, never trust a stranger until he proves himself a friend. Originally, the handshake was thought up to make sure new acquaintances weren't holding weapons in their right hands. The bottom line is don't give a prospective customer an excuse to doubt you from the start. Overcome their natural distrust of you by using words that imply honesty. This rule of thumb is particular pertinent to mail order and home-based companies which more of the public have a tendency to be suspicious of. When choosing a company name choose one that inspires confidence and trust.

Designing Logos, Business Cards & Stationary - GB20

A logo is visible evidence that you've made an investment in your organization. A well designed logo shows that management has a strong self-image, a definite direction for the future, and a commitment to the highest standards of quality and professionalism. A carelessly designed logo or no logo at all, is often associated with organizations that are under-capitalized, poorly organized, and of uncertain longevity.

Writing a Company Slogan & Mission Statement - GB21

A mission statement is an attempt to give your goals and dreams tunnel vision. It is aimed at getting all members of your organization to pull in the same direction, sharing the same view of your company's goals and philosophy, as well as the same vision that you have for the future of your business. If given the serious consideration it deserves, it will reward you time and time again by enhancing your company identity and position within the marketplace.

Opening Communication Channels - GB22

One of the most useful functions of an answering machine it to provide clients with additional information about company hours, beeper numbers, fax numbers, or perhaps where key personnel can be reached during non-business hours.

Selecting Computer Software - GB23

Buy software designed to help you think like you do on paper. Initially, most people find it easier to think on a computer like they think on paper. They prefer WYSIWYG environments (what you see is what you get). Order-entry software, for example, should have a colorful order-entry interface that is easy on the eyes, has a comfortable feel and makes entry points easy to find - like a well designed order-entry form.

Buying Computer Hardware - GB24

Despite the complexity of computer theory and design, building one from its components is not much more complex than building a Lego castle or a Tinker Toy bridge. Nowadays, a computer is essentially a collection of standardized parts housed in a box with a power supply. Almost everything snaps in, pulls out, screws in, screws out, or unplugs and reassembles, so that all you really need to build one is a few screwdrivers, perhaps an integrated circuit installer (which can be inexpensively purchased at Radio Shack), and a lot of patience.

Getting Connected - GB25

When choosing an ISP, consider the following: How fast is their server? Access speed will also depend upon the speed of their servers (processor speed and hard drive speed). An old 486 will not perform as fast as a Pentium system. Likewise, a Pentium system will not perform as fast as some of the more expensive UNIX servers.

Getting Printed - GB26

The variety and quality of paper products that exist in the printing industry is mind-boggling.

Avoiding the Computer Blues - GB27

If you plan to spend long hours in front of a computer each day, or if a computer is essential to your business, than the fundamental rule for avoiding the computer blues is to prepare yourself for the worst and plan for the best. In other words, avoiding the computer blues involves more than just selecting the right equipment and various applications to begin with. It also involves training personnel properly, keeping up security, maintaining equipment and learning to protect your computer from the multitude of computer gremlins (a.k.a. computer viruses) just waiting for you to let your guard down so they can eat your hard drive.

Adopting an Easy-to-Use Accounting System - GB28

Mention the word accounting, and otherwise competent business men and women suddenly grit their teeth, furrow their foreheads, and start uncontrollably pulling out chunks of their own hair. Why is this? How can a craft, which is nothing more than a tool to keep track of the inflow and outflow of cash, be thought of with such contempt and fear? The mystery becomes even more puzzling once you realize that ACCOUNTING is essentially the discipline of counting money. And since most people start a business to make money, it seems rather silly they shouldn't enjoy counting it.

Managing Inventory - GB29

Consider your inventory carefully. Buying too much or too little, the wrong type or size can quickly lead to financial problems. In fact, it doesn't take long for excess inventory to quickly become dated and hard to clear, nor does it take long for customers to become dissatisfied with your selection, or rather lack of selection and take their business elsewhere.

Setting-up an Efficient Order Entry System - GB30

A sales receipt based order entry system is usually seen in a very small service firm in which services rendered and occasional purchases are always written on a receipt. The receipt becomes the order entry form and the record for accounting and tax purposes. The receipts are usually stored in a cash box along with the change fund and sales revenues. This type of system is very cheap to set-up and simple to operate, but very limited as a management tool.

Getting Insurance - GB31

Insurance companies feed on fear. More policies are purchased based on gut feelings of catastrophic loss than any other planning decision. Insurance companies are also schizophrenic. Nice big friendly representatives greet you, but behind them, are ruthless number crunchers who won't give you a dime unless they have to. Remember, insurance companies are in the business to make money first, and second, to help rescue you from harm.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property - GB32

Trademarks are one of the most important ways a company creates brand recognition and can easily be your company's most valuable commodity. Over a period of time, trademarks on products become closely identified with the product, impart prestige and value to it, and become of considerable marketing value.

Understanding Business Laws & Regulations - GB33

Be careful when using words like banish, rid, stop, correct and end. Also, watch the literal meanings of the words cure, remedy, therapeutic, and curative especially when used in advertising copy to promote drug-related products. Other troublesome words include: science, scientific, test, evidence, proof, research, doctor and laboratory.

Licensing Your Operations - GB34

The prime objective of business registration and licensing is to protect the names of established businesses from infringement by new enterprises, and to make its ownership known to the public. Among other things, it also allows you to set-up a business bank account, apply for loans, and take advantage of government counseling programs.

Opening a Business Bank Account - GB35

Banks get rich by manipulating a few percentage points here and there. They charge high interest rates for credit card loans, personal loans and mortgages and pay out low interest rates for savings accounts, investment certificates and the like. Banks also get rich by squeezing every single penny they can out of every single monetary transaction. More and more they are nickel & diming the masses by charging for basic withdrawal and deposit services that not too long ago were free. Banks are the epitome of the perfect miser.

Finding and Hiring Qualified Personnel - GB36

Over time, your company will tend to become more and more homogenous as people who don't fit in leave, and those who do fit in, stay and gain influence. This "homogeneity" results in some positive and negative effects that should be kept in mind every time you hire someone new.

Using Temp Services & Contract Labor - GB37

Every business can use some extra help sooner or later - when, too many of its staff are sick, a special project needs attention right away, a rush order comes in, or when seasonal demands increase workloads. These temporary shortages of personnel are especially hard to handle for the owner-manager of a smaller business who normally has a small staff to begin with and little leeway for shifting schedules. Not only does the strain show up quickly in all the faces of its employees, but the company budget begins to feel the crunch with all the overtime required. To overcome some of these problems consider using a TEMP service.

Weighing the Pros & Cons of Expansion - GB38

Being BIG is no good if your foundation is weak. A giant with skinny legs is an invitation to be tripped.

Establishing a Long-term Strategic Plan - GB39

A Strategic Planning session starts with everyone in the planning group taking a good look at all the internal and external factors impacting on your company, both past, present and future. More specifically, this means that you must recognize the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that will contribute either to the success or demise of your business.

Starting & Operating a Manufacturing Business - GB40

A quality control system asks the following fundamental question: "What needs to be done to see that the product is done right the first time?" Poorly made products will cause you to lose customers in a hurry. In addition, when a product fails to perform adequately, orders are placed on hold, inventory starts piling up and returns start pouring. All this results in serious cash flow problems.

Starting & Operating a Wholesaling Business - GB41

A common problem among wholesaling firms is to occasionally lose track of orders as they are processed through their internal system. When customers phone in to inquire about the status of their orders or to add or subtract merchandise, the result is confusing and upsetting. Often this results in delays for both customer and supplier.

Starting & Operating a Retailing Business - GB42

Customers can be a great and inexpensive source of information. They can tell you facts, not only about your business, but about your competitors as well. They can also tell you much about their buying habits and help you detect trends. Make it a habit of asking them what they like, need, and read. Jot down their requests and suggestions for new products and services. Keep a notebook near the cash register.

Starting & Operating a Service Business - GB43

Make the results of your service as tangible as possible. Marketing services is more difficult than marketing products because the benefits of a service are often elusive and hard to pin down. Thus, your marketing challenge is to make the benefits of your service as touchable and seeable as possible. Show your clients before and after pictures, prototypes, diagrams and videos. Leave it up to their imagination and you will soon find out that client imagination is a rare quantity indeed.

Starting & Operating a Mail Order Business - GB44

In mail order, it is relatively easy to monitor the results of a promotion, to discover which ones are winners and which ones are losers. It is also easy to analyze your sales records to discover who are your slow customers, as well as, gain insights into how you might be able to stimulate sales with more persuasive incentives such as discounts, bargains, free gifts, credit or by sending out more sales letters.

Starting & Operating an Import/Export Business - GB45

When importing a product, a variety of expenses are incurred that make the product more expensive than the initial price paid to the exporter. These costs plus the original cost are often referred to as the "landed cost." The extent of these extra costs depend on the product, the country it is imported from and the arrangements made with the exporter. These costs can include shipping, insurance, Canadian or U.S. customs duty, federal sales tax, excise tax, bank charges, brokerage fees, currency exchange costs, storage fees, bonds to customs (with merchandise above a certain value), and other commissions or miscellaneous charges.

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