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Small business advice for your start-up
January 2011 
Rhonda Abrams
Starting Up in the New Year
Rhonda Abrams, Founder and CEO
The Planning Shop

Entrepreneur and author Rhonda Abrams has provided business planning expertise to thousands of entrepreneurs with her USAToday column, "Successful Strategies". Her latest start-up, The Planning Shop, offers books and tools for business planning and development. This month, Rhonda shares some thoughts on getting a small business idea off to a good start.

Expert Tips from Rhonda: Plannng for Success in the New Year
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Q: What are some hard questions that every aspiring entrepreneur needs to ask himself/herself before starting a new business?

A: Can you handle the economic roller coaster? Every business experiences both good and bad financial times, a cycle that is sometimes hard to predict. You need to get used to variable income versus having a regular paycheck.

What are you willing to risk to keep your business afloat? Do you have savings or other resources that will help bridge revenue shortfalls?

Have you properly communicated your plans with family and friends, and enlisted their support? People closest to us sometimes try to be discouraging because they'd prefer we stick to something "safer" like a job rather than taking a risk with something new.

Have you taken a hard look at your industry, market, and competition, and revised your idea accordingly? The worst entrepreneurs are those who are set in their ways. You need to be willing to challenge your own ideas, and have the flexibility to change.

Q: What lessons learned from your first start-up experience still holds true today?

A: You can't do everything yourself. You always need help, whether it's a source of expertise or someone to help with running the business.

Network, network, network! This is a wonderful skill to develop, one you should always be working to improve.

Always be marketing - carry business cards with you wherever you go.

Watch your cash flow - you'll survive a lot longer if you manage it wisely.

Competitors need not be looked on as adversaries. You can learn a lot from what they do well. And, they can also be collaborators through referrals and joint ventures.

Q: How does your book Hire Your First Employee aid small business owners with making good job planning and hiring decisions?

A: Hire Your First Employee contains worksheets for identifying and grouping tasks, information about hiring laws, and tips for engaging and motivating employees after they're hired.

Best of all, it's free to SCORE mentors and clients simply by visiting www.intuitinc.com/hire.

Q: What is the most valuable insight a SCORE small business mentor can offer to an entrepreneur as he/she develops a business plan?

A: A SCORE mentor fills an important role as supporter and encourager. People often doubt what they can learn and do.  You need someone who can provide expert guidance, and show that success is possible if you choose the right business, critically evaluate the competition, plan carefully, and follow good business management practices.

Plan for success with a SCORE mentor.
Ask a SCORE mentor your questions online or meet in-person at your local SCORE office.

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