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By Debbie Gregory.

New business owners will discover themselves under a lot of pressure trying to avoid slipups. To help you avoid the common mistakes made by many entrepreneurs, here are a few easy tips to follow.

Make a business plan, and most importantly, stick to it. This will be your roadmap, and if you wing-it too much you will get lost. A lot of entrepreneurs wrongly think that they can deal with problems as they come up (being responsive instead of pre-emptive).

Unless you are selling retail products, don’t worry about ‘location, location, location’ just yet. Most customers and clients don’t care about where you work. All they care about is the quality of your product or work, so save your money and don’t open an old-school brick-and-mortar location in the very beginning if you have other options.

Do your market research. Create products and services that customers actually want to use, not just what you think they want. Be original, and make sure there is or will be demand for what you’re offering. With the internet, you have a world of resources at your fingertips, so take advantage of it. Check out your competition, average startup costs, and when you can expect to become profitable.

An internet sales and promotion plan is a must for every business. Your online existence can help you draw new clients, post advertising material, and get in touch with prospective associates. The best way to gain the most exposure for your small business is via social media marketing, which offers the additional benefit of being free.

Be willing to take risks, but avoid making rushed decisions. It is a good idea to sort out a list of pros and cons for every uncertain new idea you want to test and weigh your odds. Ask for advice from your partners and friends and acquire knowledge from their mistakes.

An online services company that connects businesses with local professionals surveyed 7,500 small business owners nationwide to determine where the best places to start, operate and grow a business for entrepreneurs are. The survey included all industries from A to Z. Ninety four percent of these small businesses had five employees or less.

The business owners’ major priorities to focus on in determining the best places for their businesses included:

•Greater support and focus on small business over large corporations. It is small businesses that are the engine that drive the nation’s economy. Seventy percent of small business entrepreneurs feel that local governments are more interested in attracting and supporting new, large corporations than making the support of small businesses a priority.
•Access to affordable healthcare. This is a policy issue that impacts their ability to be viable and stay in business.
•Rising housing and transportation costs. These costs make it more difficult than ever for small businesses to work where they live and travel to customers. This will impact training for new technologies.

In the survey, participants addressed eight key factors, including the level of support of local governments provide small businesses and the difficulties in beginning a new business for entrepreneurs in various locations. All fifty states were given a grade from A+ to a failing F.

The five states that scored an A+ were:

• South Dakota
• Tennessee
• Alaska
• Michigan
• Utah

California, which is the home of more Veteran Small Businesses than any other state earned a “D” rating, along with Wyoming, Kentucky and New Mexico. The only two states that failed and earned an “F” were Hawaii and Illinois.

Below are some of the ratings from this survey of 7,500 small business entrepreneurs:

State Rating:
South Dakota: A+
Tennessee: A+
Alaska: A+
Michigan: A+
Utah: A+
Georgia: A
Texas: A
South Carolina: A
North Dakota: A-
Maine: A-
Arizona: A-
Alabama: A-
North Carolina: A-
Minnesota: A-
Massachusetts: A-
Arkansas: A-
Idaho: A-
Montana: A-
Indiana: A-
Maryland: B+
Nebraska: B+
Ohio: B
New Hampshire: B
Mississippi: B
Virginia: B
Louisiana: B
Delaware: B-
Iowa: C+
Florida: C+
Colorado: C+
Washington: C+
Kansas: C
Oklahoma: C
Oregon: C
Wisconsin: C
Pennsylvania: C
Nevada: C
Connecticut: C-
Vermont: C-
Missouri: C-
West Virginia: C-
New York: D+
New Jersey: D+
California: D
Wyoming: D
Kentucky: D
New Mexico: D
Rhode Island: D
Hawaii: F
Illinois: F

The Cities that received an A ranking include the following:
Fort Worth, Texas: A+
San Antonio, Texas: A+
Columbus, Ohio: A+
Colorado Springs, Colorado: A+
Jacksonville, Florida: A+
Nashville, Tennessee: A+
Charleston, South Carolina: A
Manchester, New Hampshire: A
Raleigh, North Carolina: A
Charlotte, North Carolina: A-
Salt Lake City, Utah: A-
Minneapolis, Minnesota: A-
Boston, Massachusetts: A-
Atlanta, Georgia: A-
New Orleans, Louisiana: A-

By Debbie Gregory.

For many years, military veterans have become entrepreneurs at a much higher rate than non-veterans. There are a number of military strategies that serve entrepreneurs well, contributing to their successful transition.

First and foremost, military training has taught servicemembers to lead with a clear vision and plan. Strong leaders have the right assets and tools in place to build trust and confidence in any situation. A leader should be a visionary and have more foresight than an employee. A leader should have higher grit and tenacity, and be able to endure what the employees can’t.  And finally, a leader should have higher endurance and ability to accept and embrace failure.

Next comes your team. Your team is the lifeline of your business, so it would serve you well to make sure you have the right talent in the right place, and empower them to use their strengths to help your company succeed. The sense of camaraderie will help you through difficult times that are sure to pop up along the way.

Know your mission and break that mission down into smaller tactical goals. Keep mission focus at all times, but allow your people to innovate.

Chart your financial future. Have a detailed start-up business plan and overhead costs for two years to serve as a cushion.

Take advantage of resources available to you such as the SBA’s Boots to Business program for current military personnel, as well as their ReBoot program for veterans who later decide to pursue entrepreneurship.

It’s no easy feat navigating the road to entrepreneurship. But if you’re a veteran considering this path, you already embody the courage and commitment it takes to begin this journey. It may not happen overnight and certainly not without a little grit, but the end reward will be well worth it.

By Debbie Gregory.

Whether at the helm of a two-person company or a bigger player, strong leadership skills can mean the difference between a successful business and a failing one. Leadership is almost 100% about managing people.

Having great ideas and a strategic vision won’t get you far if your employees aren’t willing to follow you. And too many entrepreneurs take leadership skills for granted.

This is usually not a problem for veterans in an entrepreneurial role. But just what is it about the military that has created individuals with such a strong sense of leadership? What values do veterans leave their military service with that that makes operationalizing a team so easy?

A business’s success really boils down to the way the team works together. Here are some pointers that will serve all businesses well:

  • You’re one team, despite your position. Lead by example. And never be afraid to ask for advice.
  • Listen throughout the chain of command. Communication is key! Share successes and failures. Information clearly transmitted gives them context and a sense of belonging to the company.
  • Embrace diversity. Hire and retain the best of the best. Often times, these employees will be your fellow veterans.
  • Have a strategic vision. Plan where you want your business to be in five years and how you are going to take it there.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate. Leaders can be found at all levels in an organization. Giving your employees more responsibility will help you to identify which ones have what it takes, allowing you the opportunity to help them develop their leadership skills.

Successful CEOs must build a team that are prepared to pitch in and move out of their comfort zones. This is something fundamental in the military, where the teamwork ethic is so strong that they never leave a man behind.

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