Starting a business? Plan carefully and adjust quickly – The Oakland Press

Let’s face it. No matter how well thought out an entrepreneur’s business plan is, during the first 12 to 24 months of a new business, things will happen that are different from what was expected.

Startup owners must be able to pivot or tweak their businesses in order to survive changes in the market or their customer base. Most importantly, entrepreneurs of small- to medium-sized startups must be strategic as they modify their plans, so they can use their limited resources to their best advantage.

When it comes to services that a company offers clients, Kimberly A. Eddleston, the Schulze Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business in Boston, says, “If something doesn’t make you money, but leads to what is making you money, then you keep it.”

Eddleston, who is also a senior editor of EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange, which is a funder of Next Avenue, says “Entrepreneurs don’t want to spend time on something if it doesn’t bring in business. They have to make strategic decisions on what will bring people in the door.”

Adjusting to a Different Demographic

Those strategic decisions cover not only what services a business might offer, but who it sees as its primary clientele. When Patricia Wynn, owner of Patricia Services, LLC, in Hillsborough, North Carolina, started her lifestyle-assistant business in April 2021, she thought her customer base would be comprised mostly of clients who were 65+.

In the past year, she has seen her customer base evolve to include Gen Xers and even a busy mom and PhD candidate with young children who needed help cooking for her family while she worked on her dissertation.

“Originally on my website, it seemed like I was aiming more towards the elderly,” Wynn says. “Now I want to reach whoever needs assistance with their daily activities,” no matter what age they are.

Broadening her target market has been fruitful, but not without challenges. One difficulty has been adding one or two staff members — even on a part-time basis. “The hiring part has been more difficult than I expected,” Wynn says. “There’s a labor shortage nationwide. People are all doing their own thing and don’t want to work for others, even part-time.”

Entrepreneurs of small- to medium-sized startups must be strategic as they modify their plans, so they can use their limited resources to their best advantage. (Photo courtesy of Metro Creative Connection)

“I also have to make sure I have enough hours with clients to offer someone to work with me,” she adds.

Being flexible also means growing a startup gradually, notes David Deeds, Schulze Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business in Minneapolis and EIX editor-in-chief.

Tips for Growing Slowly

“When starting a business, buy only what you need,” he advises. “If possible, when it comes to equipment and other items, buy something that is used or second-hand and less expensive. Don’t get an office before you need one. This is the difference between slowly building a business and being able to succeed and having a big ego and doing too much too soon and failing.”

Making strategic decisions has been key for Wynn as she has maneuvered her startup business around the pandemic, inflation and higher gas prices over the past year.

“I’m taking it one day at a time,” she says. “You’ve got to do what you need to do to feed yourself and pay bills. If you see something is not working, you have to let it go. You might have to go about it a different way.”

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