CMC classes aim at helping small businesses succeed
CARBONDALE Have a good plan. A really good plan.One of the biggest reasons small businesses fail is theres no plan, said Steve Walters. A lot of guys and gals start their own business and they really havent sat down and written the business plan about what theyre going to do and how theyre going to do it.For example, planning for small businesses often goes no further than, Im a great plumber and I dont want this guy as my boss anymore. Im going to start a plumbing business, Walters said.Thorough planning was one message Walters highlighted Wednesday during the first of three classes in a Colorado Mountain College series on running small businesses. Walters has over 24 years of management, business development and finance experience in both large and small businesses. Hes on the Board of Directors for the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.The plumber would probably succeed at first, then fail later when trying to expand the business, Walters said, because people who are passionate and good at what they do often have initial success but run into problems later because running a business requires its own set of skills. Those skills are what the classes address.A business owner needs to work on his business as much as he works in it, Walters said in an interview.Walters talked with students about how to create a solid business plan. The first thing to do is a situation analysis. Identify demand for services and competition in detail. He described how to figure out who the target customers are and reach them.Nobody can be everything to everybody successfully, Walters said.Fledgling businesses must identify their mission and goals specifically how to get there. Is it to be number one in the valley or just find enough customers to make $100,000 a year? Small businesses need to specify whos going to do the marketing, how much it will cost, and when theyll start seeing the customers it produces, Walters said.Inexperienced and eager entrepreneurs often overlook sound financial planning. Walters told his students to build contingencies and err on the side of caution.It usually takes you twice as long to get the thing going and the revenue coming in and twice as much money as you planned, Walters said.The simple answer for someone without the necessary experience, he said, is to find an expert and get quality advice.Walters also delved into details on how to use financial statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements as tools to better understand a business and plan for its future. All expenses and revenues must be carefully documented from paper clips to big sales.Most just turn in a bunch of receipts and information to an accountant so they can meet the IRS requirement, which is a big mistake, Walters said. They should be looking at their profit and loss statements at least once a quarter if not every month.Its important, for example, to avoid a situation where a business goes under because it appears very profitable on paper but has no actual cash because of service expenses and delays collecting payment, Walters said.The more you understand your income statement the more you can understand your business and do better planning for the future, Walters said.Some of the advice sounds simple, but the Carbondale chamber has seen its share of small businesses fail. Thats where the idea for the series of classes came from. Bill McGreevy, CMCs Roaring Fork Campus assistant dean for continuing education, said he and chamber representatives discussed the problem and how to help it over a year ago.We were talking about how a lot of small businesses come and go around here, McGreevy said. People often have the passion, but a lack of background or education in business. We saw a need for some basic information for small business owners.The next class will be held Feb. 20 and focuses more on how to successfully operate and grow a small business. The final class is March 19 and looks at how to sell a business for its maximum value, something Walters said small business owners dont often do. Both are four hours long and are held at CMCs Lappala Center in Carbondale. They cost $50 each. Contact CMC at 963-2172 or 945-7486 to register or for more information.Contact Pete Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org
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