What You Need to Know When Starting a Business

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Roland Bates, NPI/GPI President

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times to review business plans. Starting a business is exciting, and I have always been flattered when someone asks for my help.

As companies that sell franchises, NPI and GPI have a business model that covers all of the bases, and most of our franchisees are successful. When you are starting either on your own or with a franchise, don’t leave anything out. Let me give you an example.

Let’s call this gentleman Bob. Bob’s education and work experience classify him as a “professional.” Bob was tired of working for someone else and wanted to start his own business. He dropped off his business plan a couple of days before we were to have lunch.

Bob knew where he wanted to office, how many square feet he would need, what his rent, utilities, insurance and the like would cost. He knew the kind of business-related software he needed and its cost. He backed it all up with Excel spreadsheets. For what he did, it was impressive. However, he was so focused on the operational side of his planned business that he overlooked two of the most important aspects and any business: sales and marketing.

When I met Bob for lunch, I complimented him on what he had done but when I asked him, “How are you going to make the phone ring?” he just gave me a blank stare. Bob had always done the work placed in front of him, but he’d never been involved in bringing any of that work in the door. Ultimately, Bob decided against starting his own business, which was too bad; he just needed help with sales and marketing.

In business, you must deliver a good product or service — that is a given. But first, you must have a strong grasp of both sales and marketing.

In conversation, we use sales and marketing interchangeably. Though intertwined, they are two very different things. Marketing is an understanding of when, where and how to promote your business. In sales, it’s about knowing where and how to find customers and closing the sale, which is not always easy.

You probably don’t love everyone, and not everyone is going to love you. OK. Some potential customers are going to prefer a competitor. OK. Accept that for the present and move on. However, don’t give up on these prospects. Periodically touch base with them and let them know you are still interested in earning their business. With low pressure and effective follow-up, some of them can be won over. Good luck in your ventures.

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