Small Business 101: Deadly Ignorance

American small business is again in transition. Many employees, now working from home, are no longer tied to a geographic office and the woes of commuting. This is a relatively new phenomenon with hints of explosive sector growth in the days ahead. As this turbulent economy has forced downsizing, offshore restructuring and closures in large companies, many new entrepreneurs have been born. These are people, who instead of tirelessly attempting to find new employment and possibly enduring the same fate as previously experienced, are now starting small businesses and enjoying the benefits and perils of self-employment.

There's an old story telling of an Admiral's decision to fight a battle against overwhelming odds. It seems that he was approaching the coast of an enemy land, with a larger naval force closing in from behind and a great army approaching from the land ahead. He prayed and then addressed his men. He announced that their battle weary forces would land on the beach ahead, dig in and prepare for the upcoming battle. There was no turning back and no other alternative. He ordered their ships burned after they landed. Their only choice was to fight to win or perish. They defeated their enemy because he eliminated any other escape route. They were fixed on the goal of survival and none other.

That is the same attitude we as entrepreneurs must take. We can not afford to be denied. We must grow and prosper or our business will surely perish. We must constantly be looking for ways to cost-effectively market our business and increase sales. We must control costs and have sufficient cash flow for daily operations. Each of us must be persistent, relentless and vigilant. As CEO, we are the manufacturer, the sales team, the marketing department, legal office, accounting office, human resources manager, IT manager, the webmaster and so on. We can't afford to be all these positions. Our job is to sell! We must locate cost effective resources to help us grow and protect our investment in our business.

The growth of the internet has changed our marketplace as well. Years ago, a small business owner decided upon a geographic chunk of the market and set up shop. Today, that shop is typically located in an office at the entrepreneur's home. The marketplace is now the world. The costs of marketing products and communicating worldwide are so low that almost anyone can take part in this revolution. Sophisticated voice mail, cell phones, email and effective ecommerce web sites now provide the illusion of size and grandeur for even the smallest home-based business. The end customer typically has no idea whether their supplier is local or across the world. He may be dressed in a shirt and tie or in his pajamas! All that typically matters is that the exchange of product and services is successfully made for a profit.

It is critically important for the small, home-based entrepreneur to be aware of resources available to her as she makes this great leap. Too many people leap prematurely into business only to fail because of poor planning and insufficient financial resources. Do not get caught in this trap. Don't quit your day job until you have enough cash on hand to pay the bills for at least a year into your new venture. Become aware of and develop the resources available to you. You want everything possible going for you as you make this leap of faith into the entrepreneurial world.

Here in South Carolina, we have the outstanding Women's Business Center (http://www.scwbc.org), a division of the SCMEP, South Carolina Manufacturers Extension Partnership (http://www.scmep.org), one of the best kept secrets available to businesses at all levels in our State. Other States have similar programs modeled after ours. These are incredible resources, partially funded by the State and private resources, available at little to no cost to entrepreneurs, with the purpose of aiding the successful growth of small business. Some additional national resources are:

http://www.nationalbusiness.org

http://www.nase.org

http://www.gosmallbiz.com

http://www.empoweringbiz.com

http://www.nfib.org

http://www.qualitybusinessdirect ory.com

There are also numerous magazines devoted to small business, home-based business, marketing, sales, accounting, etc? Get tuned in to these and other resources available to you. Read your industry publications to stay abreast of competition and other facets of your business interests.

A single legal issue, FACTA problem, accounting error or marketing miscue can put you out of business. In the case of FACTA, insufficient security or poor record-keeping these days could find you legally responsible for a single employee's identity fraud issue, which may end up being very costly. A single lawsuit or vendor dispute can shut you down. Many entrepreneurs are ignorant, ill-prepared and under-schooled with regard to these and other issues. Do not get caught in the deadly ignorance trap.

There is more opportunity available today than ever before for the wise entrepreneur. Get all you ducks in a row before you make the fateful leap into the new world marketplace. Be smart, learn all you can as quickly as possible and take action on your ideas. Like the Admiral, be determined to win in the face of what may appear to be overwhelming adversity.

Daniel Sitter is the author of the breakthrough e-book, Learning For Profit, the revolutionary how-to book providing simple, step-by-step instructions to teach people exactly how to learn new skills faster than ever before. It's currently available from c|net's download.com, the author's web site http://www.learningforprofit.com/ and a variety of online book merchants. Mr. Sitter is a contributing writer for several online and traditional publications. His expertise include sales, marketing, effective learning techniques, self-improvement and general business interests.

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