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Your Own Business - setting up and keeping going

Selling - this means services as well as goods - is an aspect you will probably have thought about and may even believe you have covered. I sincerely hope so, because if no-one knows what you have to offer and how to access it, who will come and buy? Taking over an existing business might seem to guarantee a continuation of the former owner's level of trade. Depending on the type and the reason for sale, this could be the case. It does happen, however, that some customers aren't comfortable with a change of ownership and decide to shop elsewhere. You will need to find ways to bring them back, keep the ones you've got, and preferably win others over from your rivals. For an entirely new endeavour, you will be starting from scratch and will have to come up with a plan to attract people to your product and, hopefully, spread the good word about it. In the meantime, you have to survive - that's where the spare cash comes in.

You may even have to invest some of it in hype. There are numerous ways to advertise, and many agencies are hovering around, claiming to have the right answers. Before engaging their services, check credentials and track-records. Be especially suspicious of endorsements, whether by known personalities or unknown "satisfied customers". How hard is it to type up a list of praises from Joe and Jane Blows who loved the product but don't actually exist? Whichever method you decide may be suitable, trial it in a small way first to ascertain if it is likely to have the impact you desire. And remember one thing - people like pictures. A simple image can say as much as a paragraph of words that most don't have time to read. If your main message takes longer than a deep breath to hit home, you need a better one.

Buying into a franchise would seem to be an ideal way to cover the advertising aspect because the controllers of the group take care of it. That's only a bonus as long as the company name has a good reputation overall. What should be considered is that you would be one of many under the same banner. Your business acumen and people-skills will, no doubt, help foster localised public goodwill which is good for you and will flow on to the other franchise owners. Conversely, if they are providing a less-than adequate service in their areas, your business is likely to suffer through no fault of your own. Maybe it won't matter, not if the business is the mobile type like an ice-cream van or garden maintenance. As long as you take care of existing customers well, your personal reputation should instil confidence; but you may lose a few at the start and getting them back could be hard if the previous operator did the wrong thing by them. I repeat: do your homework before you take the plunge, and be prepared to give something extra, particularly with your work ethic.

This brings me to a point which will offend some readers. A fair day's work for a fair day's pay just applies to employees. The Boss has to do what needs to be done, when it has to be done, and fair doesn't come into it. So, don't even imagine you can set it all up, then sit back and reap the rewards. Even a business which was chosen because it was thought to be only part-time will require more than a little over the top to make it viable. The odd game of golf might have to go by the board, and an hour or two in the evenings may have to be spent on accounts, invoicing, etc. A business owner must be dedicated, adaptable and prepared to go those extra yards when necessary. Anything less is a recipe for failure!

This is when, as an individual, you provide a small part of the whole to someone who controls or assembles the finished product. Maybe you are a plumber, the manufacturer of a specialised component, even a designer. You provide the goods or service, submit your account and wait to be paid. Sounds simple, but many are out there who are still waiting for payment years after the project was finished. Perhaps it never was, the controlling company having gone bust. And if you yourself have employed workers to fulfil your contribution, they will have to be paid out of your pocket. There's no profit in that and sometimes it's better to continue as an employee and let your current boss worry about the final reckoning.

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