Small Business Resource Center

The Challenges of Starting a Small Business

The Enterprise Small Business Resource Center, or ESBRC, was created expressly for the purpose of helping new and distressed small business owners find the resources to build and maintain a successful business.  We can:

  1. Help you evaluate if you are mentally, physically and financially prepared to run a small business.
  2. Provide information that will help you make intelligent and educated decisions in the selection of advisory team members.
  3. Provide a professional learning environment and a place where research and business development meetings can be conducted.


The ESBRC website was specifically created to address areas essentials to your new business.  The site’s Homepage features a personal evaluation section, to help you in the planning of your new business. The Gathering Strategic Partners' pages will help you take the next step in finding and selecting your business’ advisory team members.  The Enterprise Small Business Resource Center page gives you information on the “bricks and mortar” location of ESBRC and the many business resources available there.

EVALUATING IF SMALL BUSINESS OWNERSHIP IS RIGHT FOR YOU

So you are thinking about starting a small business?  Or perhaps thinking about purchasing an existing business?  Where do you start?  How do you obtain financing?  Do you need an attorney or an accountant?

Owning a small business raises a lot of questions, and this website, in conjunction with the Enterprise Small Business Resource Center, is designed to help you answer them.

There are many reasons for wanting to own a small business.  Some want to set their own schedules.  Others look to gain financial independence.  Some want the excitement of constantly learning new things and the challenges associated with the control of a small business.

As a small business owner, you will face many challenges.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 50% of businesses fail in the first year and 95% in the first five.  You wonder, “How do I gauge if this is the right career decision for me?”  It is important to evaluate yourself, your current needs, and your goals.  Honestly answer the following questions, and then have several people who know you best answer them about you.  These answers will help you to determine if you are ready to make the leap to personal and financial independence as a small business owner.

  • Are you self-motivated and hardworking?
    • As the owner of a small business, you will be personally responsible for creating short-term and long-term goals.  You will have to set office hours, and devote the necessary time to accomplishing your business goals.  Often, you will have to put in long hours.  And no one will be telling you to do these things!
    • You may have a home office.  Are you able to create a work environment where you can ignore household chores because your business has pressing needs?  Will you be able to concentrate on your work and not be distracted by children playing?
  • Are you determined, focused and confident?
    • In the first few years, you will have to face many financial difficulties and slow times.  Are you ready to be your own personal cheerleader to get through them?  Are you able to keep your eyes on the goal? Will you believe in yourself, even when your closest family members do not?
    • Are you physically capable of putting in the long hours and enduring the stress associated with owning a small business?
  • Are you organized?
    • Small business owners need to plan for the future, develop schedules, and juggle ever-changing meetings with vendors, clients, advisory team members, and employees.  Are you able to set a schedule and adapt it if necessary?
    • As a small business owner, you will need to keep records of your expenses, revenues and maintain your financial books, records and tax information.  Are you capable of creating a filing system that will allow you to keep accurate records of your financial information?
  • Are you comfortable with public speaking?
    • On a day-to-day basis, you will have to market your product, communicate with employees and work with vendors and customers.  Are you able to speak comfortably one-on-one and with groups of people?  If not, are you able and willing to find help to make you a better communicator?
  • Are you a decision maker?
    • Business owners need to make decisions every day.   Are you able to make prompt and reasoned decisions under pressure?
  • Are you diplomatic and fair?
    • When dealing with customers, vendors and employees, disputes and problems will arise.  You will have to handle these issues efficiently, and to the extent possible, without alienating the parties.  Are you able to negotiate fairly, evaluate situations completely and reach acceptable outcomes?
  • Are you financially capable of supporting yourself without an income from the business?
    • In your first few months, but probably in your first few years, you may have to forego a paycheck just to keep your company running.  Do you have the financial ability to support yourself and your family without a steady paycheck. With only the paycheck of your spouse or partner?  If you cannot, you may need to find ways to cut your family’s or your personal spending.  Are you willing to dig into your retirement funds to support yourself?  If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you may have to start saving a business "nest egg" now.
  • Are you ready to sacrifice the perks of working for another?
    • Are you ready to have responsibility for your employees’ family paychecks?  Are you willing to give up vacation and sick time?  Are you ready to go without health insurance or to pay for your own policy? Are you ready to be the person responsible for the decisions of your business?
  • Are you a leader?
    • If your business is successful, you will eventually have to hire staff.  Are you able to communicate your business vision to others?  Are you able to teach, guide, motivate and mentor others?  Are you able to set an example as a model employee yourself?
  • Are you able to ask for help or know where to look for it?
    • As a small business owner you will constantly be faced with adversity, challenges and problems that are new to you.  Are you able to humble yourself and ask for help and advice?  Are you able to trust others with your business?  Are you flexible in changing schedules, plans and goals when necessary?

If you answer those questions "Yes," then starting a small business may be right for you.  If you answered "No," you need to seriously reevaluate your goals.  People become enthused when they see entrepreneurs succeed, but few see or evaluate the effort or risk that preceded that success.

Now that you have evaluated your personal ability to become an entrepreneur, you will need to determine what kind of a business you will be starting and if there is a need for your product or service.  To do this, you will need to put together a detailed written business plan.  Your plan will provide the information needed to determine more specific answers to those questions and to assess the financial feasibility of your business.  An advisory team can assist you in this process.

 

man, center, standing in front of silhouettesGathering Strategic Partners

No small business owner can be expected to be knowledgeable in every aspect of business.  That is why it is important to be surrounded with a knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy team of professionals to act as your advisors as you create and run your business.  Almost every new business will need expertise in the following fields:

  • Business Development
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Information Technology
  • Insurance
  • Location
  • Human Resources
  • Bookkeeping

When choosing an advisory team, it is important for you to understand what expertise each advisor brings to the business.  You need to understand why you need each member.  In addition, you need to know what questions to ask before choosing your advisor.

ESBRC has gone a step further. It has selected several groups of professionals in each category from the local Pittsburgh market.  Our experience as an all-business bank has exposed us to many stellar professionals and some not so.  On this website, we only have information about the best groups we have worked with.  We believe each professional, firm or group listed understands and works well with small businesses.  Although you must select professionals that you feel comfortable with, we believe that the professionals listed are well respected and ethical in their services.

To help you to make an informed decision, each page will suggest general questions to ask.  You will probably want to include more questions relative to your own business before deciding on a team member.  Some important factors to consider when choosing all advisors are:

  • Do you trust this person?  You will need to rely on them for advice. Make sure you feel that they will act responsibly and ethically in this role, while remaining objective.
  • Are they interested in you and your business?  Do they take the time to understand your questions and answer them thoroughly?  Make sure that when you are with your advisor that he or she is focusing their attention on your needs.  After all, you are paying for their time.
  • Do they know your industry?  Do they have experience with similar businesses?  Are those businesses satisfied with their work?  Ask for references and call on a couple of their clients.  Ask if they have any clients that have left recently and why.  Also, ask friends and colleagues for information about them.
  • Do they try to help you understand what they are doing and why?  The more you understand, the better you can be at getting your advisors the information they need to do their jobs quickly and effectively.
  • Do you enjoy spending time with this person?  Are you comfortable with them?  In the beginning of your business, you can spend hours with the members of your advisory team.  It is best if you enjoy the experience.

A Rule of Caution: If for whatever reason you are not satisfied with an advisor, continue searching.  Follow your intuition, and never settle for someone that makes you uneasy.  Chemistry is important. Your advisory team will be guiding you through some of the greatest business risks that you will probably take in your life.  There is a right person for the job that will help you to be a success, and thorough research will greatly improve your chances of finding that person.