Last time, we discussed working on your business plan. We also talked about a good resource for helping you build your business plan, the SBA. Depending on your timeline, you might need to go ahead and move forward with some parts of developing your business while you work on the plan.
Today I’m going to list a few things that you can do without a business plan in hand, and then next week we will discuss FINANCING.
Design your Brand: The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers”. I, however, think of branding as the full package. Your brand involves several things: the image you decide on to represent your business, your service, and how you do what you do. Talk to a graphic designer, or play around with logos yourself. Decide if you are going to have any policies about who to accept as clients, what population you are going to work with, and what rules will govern how you do business. You want people to see your image or logo or name, and automatically associate it with quality services!
Design Forms: At the end of next week, I’m going to talk more about paperwork, but you can go ahead and design any paperwork you might need, like progress notes, assessments, contracts, or referral forms. I keep most of mine digital (hard copy back up, of course), and send them to my client’s as a PDF. Save the trees, and me money. Don’t get too carried away making forms for various purposes. Make only what you are sure to need. You can always design more later.
Advertising: The most important advertisement is the praise of a well satisfied customer. So why not, when you’re still incubating ideas, make a presentation at a local support group? Offer to do a free 30 minute group session at a local toy store. Start calling schools and organizations to see if they will advertise for you. Other than my business cards and the exhibition fee at a local conference, I have not paid a penny to advertise thus far. While my plate isn’t full yet, I hear from a lot of people that I am ding wonderfully at 5 weeks old! This will also be something you will be doing constantly, so go ahead in get in good practice of selling yourself.
The Emotions: You are starting to have fun. You’re doing the fun details things that create the image of your business. While you still have your business plan in the back of your mind, doing some of the things above will make you feel like you are making progress and relieve any anxiety you might be experiencing (if you are anything like me, that is). If you aren’t like me, you might be feeling overwhelmed at the list of small things that is before you to do. Creating a business is all about a big picture, but then also the details that match it. If you need to, make a list of all the things that you need to do, and write out the steps to do them. And good luck!